Adam Idah’s first goals in professional football helped Norwich City beat Preston North End and book their place in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup.
City academy graduate Idah scored either of an Onel Hernandez strike in the first half, as City cruised into a comfortable first-half lead at Deepdale.
The home side reduced the deficit immediately after half time, but Norwich comfortably navigated the second period.
Idah bagged his hat-trick goal, converting from the penalty spot, to help extend the Canaries’ unbeaten run to three games and book a place in the next round of the competition by a 4-2 scoreline.
On the back of a packed festive schedule, Daniel Farke made a total of eight changes to the Canaries starting line-up.
The headline team news saw Idah in for just his second start in professional football, whilst Moritz Leitner was also in from the off for the first time since the end of October.
Much of the pre-match talk had been of Idah’s potential inclusion in the starting XI and he took just five minutes to add his name to the scoresheet and ensure a flying start for the Canaries.
Marco Stiepermann collected possession in a clever pocket of space before slipping a clever ball into the path of Idah. In on goal, the Republic of Ireland U21 striker took a touch to steady himself before coolly slotting beyond the goalkeeper.
It was the perfect start for City, who for the next period looked assured and confident when in possession.
That said, chances did fall the way of the home side. Darnell Fisher fired a tame effort straight at City stopper Michael McGovern before Jayden Stockley nodded wide from a swirling left-wing cross from Joe Rafferty.
On 15 minutes Onel Hernandez jinked his way infield from the left, slaloming around a couple of Preston markers, before firing wide from the edge of the area.
And it was from a similar area on the half-hour where Hernandez doubled City’s lead.
After Stiepermann and Idah had once again combined, with the latter seeing a dinked finish well saved by Preston goalkeeper Connor Ripley, the ball was only half-cleared by the hosts. It fell at the feet of Hernandez, who in a flash cut inside onto his right before arrowing a low drive from the angle of the area through a ruck of defenders and in off the far post.
Norwich were in the ascendancy and just before half time added a spectacular third.
Hernandez’s pursuit of a through ball would lead to a hurried clearance from Ripley. That fell at the feet of Idah, who from all of 40 took a clever first touch before lofting the ball over the stranded North End goalkeeper and into the net.
Immediately after the restart Idah came close to netting what would have been a perfect hat-trick, nodding Stiepermann’s cross marginally wide of the post.
But Preston hit back and reduced the arrears on 47 minutes.
Billy Bodin found space in the area following a corner kick and diverted the ball into the City net from point blank range.
But any hopes of a Preston comeback were dashed on the hour.
For the umpteenth time Stiepermann combined with Idah, who raced clear of the Preston defence before being upended by the onrushing goalkeeper. The young striker dusted himself down before confidently dispatching from the penalty spot for his third of the game.
Comfortable in possession and with the result in no doubt, Norwich popped the ball around comfortable for the remaining 30 minutes.
Leitner looped a volley narrowly over the bar following a slick move down the left flank.
Josh Harrop added a late consolation for North End but it was City who made it through to round four.
Preston North End: Ripley, Fisher, Davies (C), Bayliss, Harrop, Storey, Rafferty, Ledson, Stockley, Bodin, Potts
Unused substitutes: Rudd, Pearson, Clarke, Gallagher, Barkhuizen, O’Reilly, Nugent
Goals: Bodin (48), Harrop (85)
Bookings: Ripley, Fisher, Ledson
Norwich City: McGovern, Byram, Zimmermann (C), Leitner (Hanley 68), Hernandez, Lewis, Cantwell (Aarons, 82), Stiepermann, Trybull, Amadou, Idah (McLean, 86)
Unused substitutes: Krul, Vrancic, Buendia, Tettey
Goals: Idah (2, 38, 61 pen), Hernandez 28
Half time: 0-3
Attendance: 7,616 (833 visiting)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Kick off: 3:01pm