Six-shooting Norwich City are bang on target
NORWICH CITY 6, SCUNTHORPE UNITED 0: It has been a mixed weekend for the Jacksons. The statue of pop idol Michael unveiled outside Craven Cottage by Mohamed Al Fayed has caused something of a stir, given that the late superstar made just one visit to Fulham’s ground more than a decade ago.
It makes one wonder who, using the same criteria, would be commemorated in stone at Carrow Road on the basis of a single appearance at the stadium? King George VI, perhaps, in honour of his visit in 1938, not to mention his recent resurgence as a movie hero? Gracie Fields, maybe. Perhaps Mario Andretti, John Major, Jamelia or even Rod Stewart?
That other Jackson, striker Simeon, might have been some way down the list of candidates to be immortalised by the sculptor’s hand, but after his dramatic contribution to Norwich City’s biggest league win for more than 40 years, he perhaps has a more relevant claim than all of the above.
The Canadian international had not found the net for the Canaries since scoring the only goal against Middlesbrough at the end of October, but taking inspiration from captain Grant Holt’s example, he rattled in a rapid hat-trick to turn what was already a comfortable victory over struggling Scunthorpe United into a total thrashing.
All Jackson’s goals have contributed to crucial victories and if he should conjure up one or two more in the remaining seven games to help Paul Lambert’s team into the Premier League, that mid-season goal drought will be well and truly forgotten – though if that happens he may not be the number one candidate to be cast in bronze.
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Lambert, sensibly, is not looking beyond the next fixture, for he will be only too aware that none of City’s final seven opponents will offer as feeble a challenge as Scunthorpe, whose complete demolition dumped them at the bottle of the table, where, on this showing, they are likely to stay.
But if the Iron lacked steel, it took little away from the quality of City’s performance as they scored six times in a league match for the first time since 1985 and chalked up their first 6-0 win since Birmingham were hammered at Carrow Road 41 years ago this month.
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Better sides than Scunthorpe would have been swept away by such an imperious display, and one only hopes they will be between now and May 7.
With the introduction of Spanish loan signing Dani Pacheco into his attacking armoury, Lambert had such an abundance of talent at his disposal that he was able to leave another of his loanees, proven matchwinner Henri Lansbury, on the bench.
Pacheco was quickly involved as his cross forced ex-Canary Michael Nelson to clear at full stretch, and Nelson intervened again to stop Holt cashing in on Wes Hoolahan’s clever footwork before the skipper tucked away the opening goal in the 10th minute.
Pacheco played a key role in a one-two with Andrew Surman before pulling back the cross for Holt to toe-poke his shot past goalkeeper Joe Murphy.
Another one-two with Surman almost gave Pacheco goal number two but he rolled his shot just wide.
Scunthorpe’s one lively performer, loan signing Ramon Nunez, was close to levelling in the 19th minute when his powerful drive took a faint touch off Elliott Ward and just cleared the bar.
But with Surman firing just wide and Hoolahan forcing Murphy to dive to his left to save, a second goal looked inevitable.
On the half-hour, an eight-man move ended when Pacheco played Holt into a scoring position and he was unceremoniously chopped down by Paul Reid. Referee Langford pointed straight to the spot and produced the red card for Reid. Holt blasted home the penalty, his third spot-kick in four games, his 20th goal of the season and his 50th for the Canaries.
Down to 10 men, Scunthorpe’s afternoon was effectively over when new boss Alan Knill responded by withdrawing Nunez, and replacing him with midfielder Sam Togwell.
Seldom can City have opted to shoot on sight so readily and Hoolahan and Holt were not too far from stretching their lead before the break.
After the interval, the luckless Hoolahan struck another powerful effort against the post, but in the 61st minute, Holt completed his hat-trick. The impressive David Fox and Russell Martin combined to set up Andrew Crofts, and Holt managed to elude Nelson to score with the simplest of headers from the midfielder’s cross.
Hoolahan went down with hamstring trouble to be replaced by Lansbury and, after Pacheco curled a marvellous attempt just wide, Holt made way for another debutant, Sam Vokes, before the Spaniard departed to a huge ova-tion, to be replaced by Jackson.
It was one-way traffic by now and full-back Marc Tierney almost made it 4-0 with a shot that rattled the post, but it was left to Jackson to complete the demolition job.
The substitute struck first after 75 minutes when he caught Michael Raynes in possession as he tried to control Togwell’s pass and the striker beat Murphy to the ball to nudge it home.
Two minutes later, Jackson scored again when he rapped home the irrepressible Lansbury’s cross at the near post.
Lansbury’s curling shot brought Murphy into action again, and there was a rare scare two minutes from time for City ’keeper John Ruddy – who might otherwise have brought a deckchair and a good book – when he tipped Michael O’Connor’s effort, from almost the halfway line, over the top to guarantee City’s first clean sheet at home since New Year’s Day.
Jackson missed one chance of a hat-trick in stoppage time when he headed wide from Lansbury’s cross, but he made amends on the stroke of time when he diverted a Surman cross-shot into the net for his treble.