A second successive Adams Park hat-trick from Jordan Rhodes helped to send Norwich through to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Wycombe Wanderers.
Despite the Chairboys scoring three times for the first time in any competition this season, the game was really over before it began as the Canaries were two up after fifteen minutes and 4-1 up after fifty. A spirited comeback from Wanderers wasn’t quite enough to give them a third penalty shoot-out in a row in this competition, but there are plenty of positives to take into their crucial League One encounter with Southend on Saturday.
Wycombe made five changes to the side that snatched a late draw at Portsmouth at the weekend as Gareth Ainsworth somewhat bizarrely opted for a 352/532 attacking formation with Paris Cowan-Hall and Nick Freeman as wing-backs. A seemingly strange decision when this relatively untried system has only been used in the Checkatrade Trophy as of yet with a potential money-spinning fourth round tie at stake.
Norwich made nine changes to their eleven from the 1-0 away win at QPR, including Jordan Rhodes who was well-known to Wycombe fans after scoring five for Huddersfield in a 6-0 win for the Terriers at Adams Park in January 2012. The hero from round two, Denis Srbeny, was also handed a start by German boss Daniel Farke.
The visitors came flying out the blocks, slightly helped by a few poor mistakes from Wanderers as Felix Passlack drilled over and Rhodes headed straight at Ryan Allsop. The former Scotland international got his third goal of the season soon enough though as he bundled in from Emi Buendia’s cross. And the Championship outfit made it two when Rhodes picked the ball up on the edge of the area and fired into the top corner. Both goals had a hint of handball about them at some stage of the move, but Wycombe got on with it and restored some hope when Ben Godfrey’s header came off his own bar and Paris Cowan-Hall slid it in for his second of the season.
The end-to-end start continued when Rhodes headed just wide and Nick Freeman’s drilled effort just missed the post. It was almost a hat-trick inside 35 minutes for Rhodes when Allsop palmed the ball back at him and he stuck it into the net, but the referee disallowed for an adjudged handball. Mario Vrančić then curled just over the crossbar, before the Yellows made it three thanks to a Tom Trybull header from a corner.
HALF-TIME: Wycombe Wanderers 1-3 Norwich City
City made it four almost immediately when Ivo Pinto’s low cross was prodded home from close range by Rhodes for his hat-trick. However, Norwich handed Wycombe a route back into the game when there was a mix-up between Godfrey and Michael McGovern, the former bringing down Alex Samuel for a penalty. Sam Saunders sent the ‘keeper the wrong way for 4-2, which sparked the home side into life.
An inch-perfect cross from Craig Mackail-Smith found the head of Alex Samuel, but his header was clawed out by McGovern when seemingly heading for the back of the net. Mackail-Smith then opted to shoot into the side-netting with a cross maybe the better option, but Wanderers made it 4-3 soon after with Adebayo Akinfenwa laying off nicely to Mackail-Smith, who hit the post. It then fell to Samuel, who’s shot was palmed across the face of goal for a combination of Jason McCarthy and Akinfenwa to put it in.
There were bodies on the line from the Canaries in the last few minutes of the game, which culminated in Sam Saunders’ cross-come-shot going agonisingly wide.
FULL-TIME: Wycombe Wanderers 3-4 Norwich City
The damage was already done, so Wycombe couldn’t do the impossible and make it 4-4. Another promising performance for the Chairboys though, who can’t be far away from a first league win with games against Southend, Fleetwood and Burton next up. Norwich now host Wigan on Saturday as they look to extend their six-game unbeaten run.