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Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Monday, July 21, 2014
Neil Adams will learn precious little from this exercise regarding whether his men can handle the Championship grind.
The Canaries’ chief made no attempt to sugarcoat the one-sided nature of a contest in name only after the late call-off of scheduled Serie C opponents Novara.
Norwich would still have expected to have too much class and guile for Novara, but Adams would have rightly expected more of a test of his side’s overall capabilities.
Once Gary Hooper opened the floodgates the only imponderable was how many? City carved through at will with the impudence of cheeky dinked finishes from both Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington in either half indicative of this mis-match to begin their three-date tour of the continent.
Pilkington’s return to the fold was a welcome sight after his bout of sickness at Braintree and his summer commitments with the Republic of Ireland. The left-sided midfielder is a creative operator at his best and a man certainly capable of leaving a lasting imprint on the second tier if he can enjoy an injury-free campaign.
Adams was impressed again by Hoolahan’s promptings at the point of a diamond which increasingly appears the manager’s favoured template. City look well-stocked in that key area of the field with the artisty and industry provided by the likes of Alex Tettey and Bradley Johnson. But there will have been few clues to the possible line up fo the starting day trip to Wolves in the beautiful setting of the Canaries’ Chatillon Saint Vincent training base nestled in the Aosta Valley.
Nathan Redmond partnered Hooper up top with Kyle Lafferty sat next to Lewis Grabban in the stand as precautionary injury absentees. Adams confirmed afterwards Lafferty was nursing a dead leg whilst Grabban felt some soreness in his Achilles.
Tettey was deployed in the anchor role with Jonny Howson operating down the right ahead of Steven Whittaker. Captain Russell Martin partnered Ryan Bennett in central defence.
Hooper had already been denied by the assistant’s offside flag prior to opening his goal account in the ninth minute with a simple close range finish from Martin Olsson’s low cross.
Redmond thumped a 20-yard strike against the bar as City continued to dictate at will and the only surprise was it took another six minutes for Pilkington to double the Canaries’ lead with a first time sweeping finish from 10 yards after Olsson had made another overlapping foray.
Hooper then saw his stabbed effort cleared off the line before Hoolahan clipped over from eight yards out with SC Valle d’Aoste’s midfield leaving gaping holes for the visitors to exploit. Howson was the latest to roam free but his right-footed effort clipped the base of Alex Erba’s far post before Redmond slammed the follow up against the keeper.
Pilkington tried his luck with a right footer from 20 yards in the 27th minute following a period of greater resistance from the Italians and Erba produced a superb stop to deny Redmond with an angled left-foot attempt before a sharp encore saw him claw away his next effort around the opposite upright.
Hoolahan made it three in the 35th minute when he drew Erba and conjured a cheeky finish from 16 yards after Hooper’s throughball left the keeper exposed.
Erba fared better when faced with another duel, this time against Hooper, but he had little chance with Martin’s point blank finish from a Norwich corner to spark a flurry of goals.
Whittaker joined the party in the 38th minute when he cut in off the right to unleash a fine left-footed strike past the sprawling Erba and Norwich made it six in the final minute of what had long since become a training exercise when Martin sidefooted home a well-worked free kick routine at the far post from Pilkington’s free kick.
Johnson replaced Tettey at the interval and Andrea Amato did force John Ruddy into a low stop in the 49th minute but the England international’s handling was sound despite his prior inactivity.
Redmond slammed a seventh with a powerful left-foot strike from just inside the area before mass changes from the Canaries left Pilkington as the sole survivor from the starting line up. Jamar Loza rifled an eighth after Jacob Murphy’s spot and twin brother Josh added a ninth.
Emanuele Canalini then denied Loza his second after bursting onto a perfectly weighted pass from Andrew Surman but it proved a temporary reprieve when the striker coolly rounded Canalini to roll home a tenth.
Ruthless City refused to show any mercy towards the part-timers even at this late stage despite the barrage of goals and Pilkington waltzed through unopposed before waiting for the keeper to go to ground and lift it over him.
Jacob Murphy joined his brother on the scoresheet when he cut in from the left and slid home a 12th. Canalini produced three fine stops, but he was beaten again three minutes from the end when Jacob Murphy despatched his brother’s cross.