Sixth happiness for City slickers

David Cuffley Norwich City 2, Oldham 0: Statistics can be made to say almost anything but if we are to believe the Football League's official website, then yes, there is one team in League One better than Norwich City and one side worse than Oldham Athletic.

David Cuffley

Statistics can be made to say almost anything but if we are to believe the Football League's official website, then yes, there is one team in League One better than Norwich City and one side worse than Oldham Athletic.

Leeds United, top of the real thing and hot favourites to return to the Championship, also lead the current form table on goal difference from the Canaries.

And Stockport County, with seven straight defeats, are the one team currently suffering even more than Saturday's visitors to Carrow Road.


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But those who witnessed City's sixth successive home victory may have found it difficult to believe that any two sides in the division could be further apart, at least in the first 45 minutes, which must have been one of the most one-sided halves seen on the ground, for, oh . . . at least a month.

City's reputation now precedes them to such an extent that most visiting teams arrive with no more ambition than to protect the point they kick off with.

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Swindon, despite having mysteriously moved into the top six in the table at the weekend, certainly took that approach on their October visit. Tranmere's boss admitted containment was their best hope, and Oldham - who once provided Premier League opposition in the playing days of a certain Evening News columnist - had no more to offer than either of those sides until their late show of urgency almost gave the scoreline an absurd look.

In the final 20 minutes, City had to be grateful to otherwise redundant goalkeeper Fraser Forster for three saves - one unorthodox, one straightforward and one positively brilliant - in preventing a footballing travesty. Commendably, he kept his concentration on an otherwise lonely afternoon, but one would expect Huddersfield and Millwall, City's next two visitors, to at least try to give Forster a busier time.

Saturday's result made it nine wins in 11 league games for the Canaries and they signalled their attacking intent from the off.

From a quickly taken free-kick, Wes Hoolahan played Chris Martin through on the right side of the penalty area and he struck a low cross-shot that goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan held at full stretch.

Darel Russell tested Flahavan again after meeting Grant Holt's pass with a powerful drive that deflected off a defender's head on its way to the 'keeper.

Oldham skipper Sean Gregan needed treatment after taking a powerful Adam Drury shot on the forehead, leaving him dazed and confused, and Hoolahan fired over the top from Drury's cross before City broke the deadlock in the 21st minute.

Russell Martin's excellent forward pass found Chris Martin, whose first-time cross bounced in front of Holt at the far post but was directed past Flahavan with a marvellous header by the City skipper, his 19th goal of the season.

A free-kick by Russell almost provided a second goal after 28 minutes when Jens Berthel Askou nodded it into the path of Hoolahan, whose goalbound header deflected wide off Joe Jacobson.

But four minutes later, Hoolahan did make it 2-0 with his 11th of the season in a move he started and finished. An Oldham free-kick broke down and Hoolahan found Chris Martin with a superb diagonal pass to the left flank, where Martin fed Drury. Hoolahan arrived in time to collect Drury's cross, cut inside on his left foot and score with a curling left-foot shot that grazed the head of Gregan on the way in.

City continued to create all the openings after the break and the unfortunate Gregan felt the full force of a Chris Martin volley in an uncomfortable place before the exchanges became a little more rugged.

Keigan Parker, Hoolahan's former Blackpool team-mate, caught Drury with an elbow in the face, and Gregan, like the fancy dress gorilla without the suit, was booked for a late challenge that infuriated the home crowd and left Holt needing treatment.

Oddly, the last three worthwhile efforts of the afternoon came from Oldham. With 20 minutes left, Parker burst clear of the pursing Askou but was denied when his shot struck Forster's legs and rolled wide.

A header by substitute Ryan Brooke forced Forster into action again with five minutes left, then the 'keeper made the best save of all from Danny Whitaker to guarantee another clean sheet. If only Oldham had surfaced earlier, it might have been more of a contest.

As it is, City prepare for their second trip to Yeovil this season in ominous form, looking for a 10th win in 12 league games.

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