Norwich City 3 Coventry City 0
PUBLISHED: 21:23 26 July 2016 | UPDATED: 23:40 26 July 2016
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Alex Neil may be trying to add an injection of youth into Norwich City’s ranks but it was an old favourite who marked his return in style on Tuesday night at Carrow Road.
Wes Hoolahan took just nine minutes of his pre-season return to thump home a goal that underlined he is still very much the main man amongst a growing collection of young talent.
Josh and Jacob Murphy sealed a routine friendly win in the second half on an evening when only Seb Bassong survived from the starting outfield players in yellow.
Neil handed Michael McGovern a Norwich debut after his free transfer move and there was also a rare start for McGovern’s Northern Ireland international team mate Kyle Lafferty. The frontman was flanked by City’s other summer signing, Sergi Canos, with Hoolahan and Martin Olsson making their re-appearance after an extended break following the duo’s exploits at Euro 2016.
Former Coventry City midfielder James Maddison had to settle for a place on the bench against his old club alongside the Murphys twins and Ben Godfrey.
Canos’ deflected effort was gathered by Reice Charles-Cook before Marvin Sordell wasted a chance to test new boy McGovern at the opposite end.
Steven Whittaker then checked inside two Coventry players but his left-footed effort lacked real power to worry Charles-Cook.
Lafferty showed his intent with a rising shot at Charles-Cook before Andy Rose headed a corner onto the top of the net. The early signs were promising on City’s Carrow Road return.
Neil had made it clear after Saturday’s Austrian tour finale win over Rubin Kazan he would use the Sky Blues’ visit and the upcoming summer finale against Hannover 96 to hone his combinations for that opening Championship trip to Blackburn. Graham Dorrans and Jonny Howson were deployed together in a deeper lying midfield role that would not come as a huge surprise to see repeated when the serious stuff begins at Ewood Park. Dorrans’ ability to set the tempo and dictate possession balanced with Howson’s drive and endeavour looked a decent marriage against the League One battlers.
In front of both, Neil opted to have a look at the pace and youth of Canos harnessed with Hoolahan’s experience.
The Dubliner showed few early signs of his delayed return to action and underlined the point emphatically with the opening strike, gliding past two Coventry defenders to unleash a left-footed strike into the far corner from 20 yards.
The Sky Blues tried to offer some resistance with Norwich threatening to slip into a comfortable rhythm. George Thomas and Sordell combined before Kyle Spence’s shot spiralled away off Martin Olsson.
Lafferty miscued to groans from the home fans midway through the opening period following some intricate initial play sparked by Dorrans. The big striker looked ruefully at the turf in a rare opportunity to impress Neil.
Norwich’s dominance was in danger of seeing the hosts’ lapse into a bout of complacency until Olsson’s surge forced Charles-Cook to parry the Swede’s low shot and then saved from Lafferty with his legs.
Dorrans’ uncanny knack of spotting a yellow shirt in space freed Hoolahan to link with Howson and Canos but the Spaniard’s tame strike was at Charles-Cook. Nevertheless it was a glimpse of the control and purpose Neil is trying to breed amongst this crop of players. City can expect to dominant many an opponent in the Championship with the quality of their creativity but they must develop that killer instinct to punish inferior rivals.
That and limit defensive lapses. Ryan Bennett was adjudged to have hauled down Sordell, which allowed Vladimir Gadzhev to bend a 20-yard free kick past McGovern but it cannoned off his bar and rebounded to safety in what proved the only genuine moment of alarm prior to the interval.
Neil elected to make four changes at the break, which included the arrival of Maddison along with new full-backs in Ivo Pinto and Harry Toffolo and Carlton Morris getting his first pre-season outing in place of Lafferty.
Norwich’s reshuffle perhaps in part explained the slack marking that allowed Jordan Willis to rise unchallenged but glance a header up rather than at McGovern.
Maddison was clearly desperate to write his own script against the club that nurtured him but a cute turn onto his left was let down by a weak strike that drifted wide in the 57th minute.
Norwich were struggling to find the same latent attacking threat as the opening period following the exit of Hoolahan and Gadzhev was shaping to test McGovern again but his raking shot was deflected for a corner.
The Northern Irishman denied a Coventry trialist with a sharp tip over before Neil introduced another five substitutes which brought an immediate dividend when Jacob Murphy picked out his unmarked brother to guide past Charles-Cook from 14 yards.
Not to be outdone, Jacob then completed the win with a cool finish four minutes from the end against a team he spent last season on loan. Maddison tried to get in on the act in the final seconds but hammered a free kick over.
• Norwich City: McGovern, Whittaker (Pinto 45), Olsson (Toffolo 45), Bassong, Howson (Mulumbu 65), Canos (Jacob Murphy 66), Hoolahan (Maddison 45), Bennett (Godfrey 65), Dorrans (Thompson 65), Lafferty (Morris 45), Ofoe (Josh Murphy 65). Sub (not used): Rudd.
• Goals: Hoolahan (9), Josh Murphy (66), Jacob Murphy (86)
• Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Willis, Haynes, Harries, Leahy, Rose, Dion Kelly-Evans (Devon Kelly-Evans 65), Gadzhev, Thomas (Stephenson 65), Sordell (Maycock 78), Spence (Trailist 52). Subs (not used): Skuza, Shipley, Whitmore, Thompson.
• Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants)
• Attendance: 7,602