Norwich Res 7, Stevenage Res 0
Matt Gill took his biggest step back to fitness last night - and admitted he couldn't have chosen a worse time to pick up a long-term injury. The Canaries midfielder made his first appearance since limping out of the League One defeat at Brentford on August 18 with a knee injury - a match that Paul Lambert watched from the stands just hours after being unveiled as the club's new manager.
Matt Gill took his biggest step back to fitness last night - and admitted he couldn't have chosen a worse time to pick up a long-term injury.
The Canaries midfielder made his first appearance since limping out of the League One defeat at Brentford on August 18 with a knee injury - a match that Paul Lambert watched from the stands just hours after being unveiled as the club's new manager.
Now Gill has to impress Lambert in the same way as he impressed his predecessor Bryan Gunn who made the Fakenham-born player his first signing of the summer when he brought him in from Exeter.
Gill started with a 45-minute showing last night, setting up two goals before departing - but knows he has a big job on his hands.
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"The lads are doing very, very well which is a great thing and obviously competition for places is a great thing as well," he said.
"There is never a good time to get injured - it's the worst thing about being a footballer when you're injured, so there is never a good time, but obviously with the changeover of manager it is probably the worst time.
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"But I've just tried to keep my head down and work hard and hopefully show the manager I have something to offer. But there is a lot of competition for places. It's been a long time out and I am really pleased to be back playing again."
Gill was one of the senior figures in an otherwise youthful side that put Stevenage to the sword, although the faces weren't entirely unfamiliar.
"When the first team lads have travelled on a Friday I've done a couple of sessions with all the youth team boys, with (Academy boss) Ricky Martin, who has allowed me to join in and they are a great bunch of lads and very good footballers," he said.
The task for Gill now is to build up his fitness.
"First and foremost I need to get as fit as I possibly can," he said. "There's another reserve team game next week against Northampton so I'd like to step up again and maybe play an hour or 75 then and gradually just get fitter.
"I'm training with the lads now, which has been great, and just working as hard as I can to get as fit as I can. There is no time limit. It's just a pure cardio-vascular thing, the knee is fine now, it's just going to be a gradual thing getting fit again."
It was a smooth re-introduction to playing last night when he was upstaged by Cody McDonald's hat-trick as the Conference visitors' young side proved no match for City, who fielded eight players with first team experience.
The rout began with just over three minutes on the clock, McDonald slotting home after good work on the left flank by Josh Dawkin.
Terrific work by Tom Adeyemi set up Jamie Cureton for a shot which keeper Ashley Bayes saved well before springing quickly to his feet to deny McDonald on the follow-up.
Gill made his mark on 14 minutes when he played the ball through midfield to Cureton who linked with McDonald, who was only denied a second when the keeper palmed his left-foot shot into the path of Dawkin, who put it into an empty net.
Gill was provider again, just three minutes later, when his free-kick from the right found big defender David Stephens. His header was palmed out by the keeper, who also kept out Danny Kelly's follow-up, but Dawkin had the easy task of heading home.
Cureton made it 4-0 on 38 minutes, after more good work by Dawkin, but blasted over moments later and then chipped inches wide.
Gill and keeper Michael Theoklitos departed at half-time, Jed Steer taking over in goal on his return from a broken thumb.
The impressive Dawkin shot just wide while McDonald saw an effort saved by the keeper's legs.
Lambert and reserve boss Ian Crook were left pondering some bizarre decisions by referee Mike Bull, but McDonald earned their applause when he headed in Rhoys Wiggins' corner just after the hour mark to make it 5-0.
Remy Gordon - son of City legend Dale - came on for his reserve team debut before McDonald completed his hat-trick and Cureton grabbed his second and City's seventh.
Norwich City: Theoklitos (Steer 46), Dumic, Kelly, Stephens, Wiggins, Lathrope, Gill (Osemwegie 46), Adeyemi (Gordon 65), Dawkin, Cureton, McDonald. Subs not used: Clarke, Brindley. Goals: McDonald 4, 63, 70, Dawkin 14, 17, Cureton 38, 75.
Stevenage: Bayes, Elakahssi, Birri, Koyama (Cornhill 46), Albrighton, Mayunga (Merenghi 60), Vincenti, Long, Mattos, Smith (Powell 46), Greene. Subs: Rayner, Moss.
Referee: M Bull (Chelmsford).