Norwich City FIVE, Wolves 2
Chris Lakey You wait ages for goals - and then five come all at once. For a side that had scored just one goal from open play in their previous six games and only eight in the first 11 games of the season, a five-goal tally was simply staggering.
You wait ages for goals - and then five come all at once.
For a side that had scored just one goal from open play in their previous six games and only eight in the first 11 games of the season, a five-goal tally was simply staggering.
It was Leroy Lita who took the scoring honours with a hat-trick - the first by a City player since Jamie Cureton's against Colchester last March - but after a performance like this it was hard to fathom why the word “crisis” had been whispered on the terraces.
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To beat any team in this manner is encouraging, to say the least. To do it against the Championship leaders suggests that when management and players talk of the imminent rub of the green, there is actually one on the way.
Yes, City had a touch of luck with goalkeeper Carl Ikeme's gift for Sammy Clingan's opener and two of Lita's goals certainly owed something to the intervention of Wolves players.
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But the improvement throughout the team - in which Clingan was excellent - suggests a corner may well have been turned.
Glenn Roeder made three changes to his side, two expected and one certainly not, with Wes Hoolahan coming in for Matty Pattison on the left side of midfield after not featuring in the last two squads.
Norwich's two injured central defenders, John Kennedy and Adam Drury, were replaced by Gary Doherty and Dejan Stefanovic, back from a two-match suspension. There was no place on the bench for Mark Fotheringham or Omar Koroma, both of whom, along with skipper Darel Russell, celebrate their birthdays today.
His opposite number, Mick McCarthy made two changes to the side which beat Coventry at the weekend, with David Jones and Andy Keogh on the bench and Dave Edwards and on-loan Carlos Edwards coming in.
Stefanovic was forced to make two hasty hoofed clearances in the opening minutes of the game against the giant-sized strike force of Chris Iwelumo and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
All City eyes were on Hoolahan and he responded after just two minutes, with a lovely ball from left midfield to Lita. Ikeme did well to come out of his area and head away, but when Antoine Sibierski picked up the loose ball he pulled down the on-loan Wigan striker - although, much to the crowd's disgust, he escaped a booking.
Clingan stepped up to take the kick from 30 yards and put it just a yard wide of Ikeme's right-hand post.
Wolves midfielder Dave Edwards wasn't as close two minutes later when he hoisted a free-kick from a similar distance well over David Marshall's crossbar.
It wasn't exactly flowing football from either side in the early stages, with a series of misplaced passes by City causing consternation in the dug-out.
But City were the first to show any real attacking threat when Sibierski found Hoolahan on the left on 11 minutes - although Lita got under the cross and Lee Croft was denied a volley by Ward, who put the ball out for a corner.
The flag-kick was cleared only as far as right back Elliott Omozusi and with the crowd urging him to shoot, he did just that, with a stunning right-foot effort that Ikeme did well to tip around the left post.
City had got a head of steam up and Hoolahan found Croft, who cut into the area but shot straight into the arms of the grateful Ikeme.
It was encouraging from the Canaries, no doubt heeding Roeder's comments that teams who score first generally tend to not to lose - something his team could ill afford to do.
Croft was linking up well with Omozusi down the right flank, but Wolves' wide men, Michael Kightly and Carlos Edwards, were struggling to get any sort of foothold in the match.
But there were anxious moments on 22 minutes when Ebanks-Blake found space on the right and took aim from just inside the area only to see his shot deflected. The change of direction troubled Marshall, who was going the wrong way, but the City keeper managed to keep the ball out with his feet.
Lita almost got City off the mark two minutes later with a fine diving header from Croft's early cross from the right, but he was just a foot or two wide of the far post.
But City's pressure finally paid off a minute later when Lita was brought down on the left by Richard Stearman, who went into the referee's notebook. Clingan stepped up and put in a deep cross to the far post. Ikeme appeared to have got his hands around the ball but his momentum took him over the line - and although he pushed the ball out, assistant official Declan Ford's flag confirmed what the Barclay End knew: City were ahead.
City maintained the pressure, with Lita and Sibierksi looking bright up front where City have lacked so much punch in recent games - and when necessary City were getting plenty of men behind the ball when Wolves attacked.
Hoolahan ended a quiet spell by sending in a rasping 25-yard shot which just cleared Ikeme's crossbar in the 35th minute.
Lita went into the notebook for a foul on Dave Edwards a minute later.
Wolves had to wait until the 38th minute for their first corner - and Ryan Bertrand's clearance typified the Canaries resistance. Wolves couldn't regain possession from the clearance and City broke with a vengeance, Clingan brilliantly setting Lita free down the right. Lita teased Stephen Ward on the right of the area before firing in a low shot which Kevin Foley, on the line, could only help into the net.
Carlos Edwards came close with a free kick that Marshall did well to tip aside for a corner, but then disaster struck for City, with the same player taking the corner and Neil Collins rising well to head the ball down between the keeper's legs and over the line.
Two goals in as many minutes and a game which had been very definitely going City's way was now back in the balance.
That could have changed again a minute before the break when Croft found Lita on the right again, but Ikeme did very well to save with his feet.
Roeder's half-time team talk would have been crucial: could City forget the loss of a sloppy goal and continue to be the more dominant of the two teams?
It could all have been different within three minutes of the restart, when City lost possession down the right and Kightly broke into the area - but Iwelumo shot wide of an open goal from 18 yards.
Doherty did well to block Kightly's shot minutes later and Ebanks-Blake shot well on the turn as Wolves pushed for an equaliser - although, the goal aside, City's defence looked solid as a rock.
Lita was close with a header after terrific work by Sibierski and Croft while Clingan's follow-up shot was blocked.
But then, all thanks to Wolves, it came good for City again, two minutes before the hour mark.
Marshall's long boot forward looked top have been dealt with when Collins headed it out, but Carlos Edwards inexplicably headed it the wrong way - and straight into the path of Lita who waited for Ikeme to come and then deftly lobbed it over his head.
The ball was definitely in City's court now - until Hoolahan was fooled by the quick footwork of Ebanks-Blake on 67 minutes and the former Plymouth man stepped up to slam home the spot kick and bring it back to 3-2.
Stearman was given his marching orders for his second yellow - again for a foul on Lita - and the City striker rubbed salt in the wound on 69 minutes with his third goal - although his header from Clingan's free-kick from the left appeared to touch a Wolves head before it went in.
Amazingly, City had another goal in them, when Lita's shot came back off the bar and Croft put in the rebound in the 74th minute - just reward for having started the move.
The scoreboard read 5-2, which was hard to take in considering the events of the previous 11 games.
Lita went off to a deserved standing ovation, replaced by Arturo Lupoli with 11 minutes remaining - but City could have had a sixth when Ikeme denied Sibierksi.