Southend 0, Norwich City 3
SLIDESHOW: Grant Holt took his goal tally to 18 for the season at Roots Hall as Norwich City recorded their eighth win in 10 League One games.
Southend United 0, Norwich City 3
Grant Holt took his goal tally to 18 for the season at Roots Hall as Norwich City recorded their eighth win in 10 League One games.
Holt broke the deadlock after 68 minutes against Southend United and wrapped up victory with a stoppage-time penalty.
Between those two goals, Korey Smith struck his second of the season, after 77 minutes, from Chris Martin's pass.
It took City three quarters of the match to get on top of Southend but they ended up comfortable winners to move into third place and step up the pressure on the leading pair in the division.
Jens Berthel Askou returned to the centre of defence at the expense of Michael Nelson after missing the FA Cup defeat at Carlisle because of his wife's illness.
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Russell Martin, on loan from Peterborough, was handed his debut at right-back with Jon Otsemobor left out of the 18.
And there was a recall for Stephen Hughes in midfield because Darel Russell was sidelined by a thigh injury.
Loan signing Anthony McNamee, from Swindon, was included among the substitutes, along with 17-year-old goalkeeper Jed Steer and 19-year-old Luke Daley.
Southend threatened first when, in the third minute, Lee Barnard curled a right-foot shot narrowly over the top following a pass from Ibehre, making his first appearance on loan from MK Dons.
Barnard was more off target two minutes later with a header from a cross by Simon Francis.
City won a free-kick on the left when Damian Scannell fouled Simon Lappin, but Hughes' kick was headed clear by Scott Malone.
A miskick by Jean-Francois Christophe from Holt's through-ball conceded a needless corner but Malone cleared from Askou's near-post flick.
Holt produced City's first shot on target after 13 minutes but it lacked venom and keeper Steve Mildenhall was right behind it.
Lappin tried his luck from long range after 22 minutes but his left-foot shot was the wrong side of the post.
Chris Martin was next to let fly with a rising left-foot shot after turning Adam Barrett but it cleared the bar.
The best effort of the half came in the 32nd minute when Ibehre struck a fine half-volley that Forster had to dive to his right to push round the post.
Adam Drury required treatment two minutes later for a challenge by Scannell that earned the Southend man the first yellow card of the night.
In the final minute of the half, Lappin brought Mildenhall into action but his shot from the edge of the area was a tame one.
The effects of that tackle may have taken their toll on Drury, who failed to reappear for the second half, Tom Adeyemi was introduced with Lappin dropping to left-back.
A fine interception by Korey Smith enabled City to break four minutes into the second half, and the midfielder picked out Hoolahan, who cut inside on to his left foot and struck a low drive that Mildenhall smothered.
Ten minutes into the half, Scannell wasted a good chance to break the deadlock. With Gary Doherty having a shot charged down following a Hughes corner, Southend counter-attacked and Barnard picked out Scannell with a perfect crossfield ball, but he blazed his shot over the top.
Holt earned City's first yellow card of the night after shoving Scannell to the ground
But the skipper was celebrating in the 68th minute when Smith delivered the perfect pass into Holt on the right-hand corner of the penalty area and he drilled a low shot past Mildenhall and inside the post for his 17th goal of the season.
Barnard could have levelled three minutes later but his near-post header from a Francis cross went the wrong side of the post.
With 15 minutes to go, Askou was close to adding a second with a powerful header from a corner, but Mildenhall tipped it over the top.
It was 2-0 after 77 minutes when Smith the provider turned goalscorer, grabbing his second of the season. Chris Martin found him in almost the identical position to Holt when he scored, and Smith fired in a low drive that took a slight deflection off the sliding Malone on its way past Mildenhall.
Southend made a double change before play re-started, introducing James Walker and Dougie Freedman, then City replaced Hoolahan with Daley with 10 minutes left.
With five minutes left, Barnard brought Forster into action with a shot from just outside the area.
Ibehre had the ball in the net for Southend with three minutes left, but he was penalised for handball.
In stoppage time, Holt scored the third from the penalty spot after Daley was upended by Alan McCormack.
Southend United: Mildenhall; Francis, Morrison, Barrett, Malone; Scannell (Walker, 78 min), McCormack, Christophe, Moussa (Freedman, 78 min); Barnard, Ibehre. Subs (not used): O'Keefe, Asante, Bentley.
Norwich City: Forster; Russell Martin, Doherty, Askou, Drury (Adeyemi, 45 min); Hughes; Smith (Nelson, 90 min), Lappin; Hoolahan (Daley, 80 min); Holt, Chris Martin. Subs (not used): Steer, McVeigh, McNamee, McDonald.
Referee: Phil Crossley (Kent).
Goals. City: Holt (68 min, 90 min pen), Smith (77 min).
Bookings. Southend: Scannell (34 min), Christophe (73 min). City: Holt (57 min)