Norwich City start to blow away the pre-season cobwebs
Coventry City 0, Norwich City 3: Norwich City fans enjoying their summer holidays have the option of parting with a pound or three for the chance to watch their team train at Carrow Road on Tuesday.
But the most dedicated of their travelling supporters may have felt they were already doing just that at rather greater expense after hitting the road for Selhurst Park, Roots Hall and the Ricoh Arena.
The three domestic friendlies arranged by the Canaries in the space of five days at times looked little more than public training sessions as more than 20 players were wheeled out against Crystal Palace, Southend United and Coventry City to top up their game time for the Premier League season that awaits.
Even manager Paul Lambert admitted that fitness and familiarity were the object of the exercise and that the results were irrelevant.
But the yellow army, or in this case small battalion, enjoying the sunshine at Coventry were at least treated to a couple of moments that lifted a one-sided pre-season workout to a higher level.
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They were provided by winger Elliott Bennett in the closing stages of the game, when he scored one stunning goal and made another.
Aaron Wilbraham gave Lambert’s men the lead after little more than a minute, and it was midway through the second half when Bennett supplied the perfect cross for fellow substitute Steve Morison to head the second.
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Bennett saved the best until last when he struck City’s third goal, three minutes from time, with a 30-yard drive that drew a burst of applause from the travelling fans.
The Canaries were well on top in that second period as the Sky Blues wilted in warm and sunny conditions that were in marked contrast to the two sides’ last meeting on the ground in December’s sub-zero temperatures.
So comfortable were City after the break that Coventry’s �100,000 new arrival, the statue of Jimmy Hill, might almost have taken over from goalkeeper John Ruddy without undue alarm.
After two games without a goal, it had taken just 71 seconds for the Canaries to move ahead as Wilbraham struck. At first it appeared they may have a penalty shout as Grant Holt looked to have been shoved over but as the ball ran loose, Wilbraham confidently drilled it past goalkeeper Joe Murphy.
Coventry got in their stride as the half progressed. Gary McSheffrey had a powerful shot deflected wide and, as the Sky Blues threatened again, Cyrus Christie headed over from a Lukas Jutkiewicz cross.
With 33 minutes gone, ex-Canary Sammy Clingan let fly with a powerful drive that was diverted wide off a yellow shirt. Ruddy then had to punch away a Clingan free-kick, leaving Wilbraham to clear the danger.
At the other end, Korey Smith fired over from 20 yards after Holt had knocked down Marc Tierney’s free-kick.
The second half brought the usual flurry of substitutions with Adam Drury given a central defensive role when he replaced Zak Whitbread.
With 25 minutes to go, the visitors had replaced all 10 outfield players, and that was when Bennett arrived.
He had been on the field only two minutes when he delivered a delightful cross to the far post and Morison rose unchallenged to power a header past Murphy.
Leon Barnett headed over from an Andrew Surman corner and, at the other end, Ruddy was beaten in the 78th minute, only for the linesman’s flag to rule out the goal. Ruddy beat away a powerful drive by Clingan, substitute Roy O’Donovan tucking home the rebound, but from an offside position.
O’Donovan then went close with a clever chip that just cleared the bar. Simeon Jackson was denied a third for the Canaries four minutes from time by a splendid block by Martin Cranie.
But Bennett found the net with a superb long-range effort three minutes from time, and it should have been 4-0 when Morison struck the post and then put the rebound wide.
• Coventry City: Murphy; Christie (Wood, 72), Keogh, Cranie, Hussey; Bigirimana, Clingan, Baker (Thomas, 55); McSheffrey; Jutkiewicz (Wilson, 67), Eastwood (O’Donovan, 48). Subs (not used): Dunn, McPake, Cameron, Jeffers.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; R Martin (Francomb, 63), De Laet (Barnett, 63), Whitbread (Drury, 53), Tierney (Naughton, 63); Crofts (B Johnson, 47); K Smith (Bennett, 65), Lappin (Surman, 65); C Martin (Hoolahan, 60); Holt (Morison, 60), Wilbraham (Jackson, 60). Subs (not used): Rudd, Fox, Adeyemi.
• Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands)
• Goals: Norwich: Wilbraham (2), Morison (67), Bennett (87)