Plymouth 6-2 Norwich: Whittaker nets hat-trick for rampant Pilgrims
Morgan Whittaker scored his first Championship hat-trick as Plymouth stormed to a 6-2 mauling of Norwich at Home Park.
Promoted Argyle had the points all-but wrapped up by half-time after racing into a 4-0 lead through a brace from Whittaker and further goals from Dan Scarr and Finn Azaz – two of them coming in stoppage time.
Whittaker then added his third of the afternoon just before the hour and, although Norwich pulled two goals back through Adam Idah, Plymouth wrapped up a comprehensive win late on through Luke Cundle.
Attacking midfielder Whittaker got the ball rolling in the 15th minute when he latched on to an incisive through-ball from Adam Randell on the edge of the box. The 22-year-old beat his marker and swept the ball home past keeper Angus Gunn from close range.
Central-back Scarr profited with Argyle’s second goal in the 35th minute, firing home as City failed to clear a dangerous Azaz cross from the right.
Scarr’s fellow defender Lewis Gibson met the ball with a thumping shot that crashed off the Canaries bar and Scarr was first to react, netting with a thumping close-range strike which gave Gunn no chance.
Argyle doubled their lead in the five minutes of first-half stoppage time, with top scorer Ryan Hardie providing both assists.
First the Scottish striker teed up Whittaker on the edge of the box and he made no mistake with a measured finish from 20 yards.
Two minutes later Hardie again proved provider with Azaz benefitting, finishing off a mazy twisting and turning run into the penalty area with another sweet strike, curling the ball around the diving Gunn.
Whittaker could have completed his hat-trick in the opening minutes of the second half as Argyle countered but after being teed up by the unselfish Azaz, the two-goal forward’s shot was saved by Gunn’s outstretched leg.
Norwich looked for a lifeline and Conor Hazard made a superb save in the 58th minute, getting down well to keep out Idah’s first-time shot from a cross from the right.
It proved a double blow for the visitors as a minute later Argyle swept up the other end of the pitch and made it 5-0.
With Norwich committed, Hardie collected the ball midway in the opposition half, beat two defenders and then set Azaz on his way down the left.
His ball into the on-running Whittaker enabled the £1milllion summer signing from Swansea to complete his first Argyle hat-trick with a side-footed finish past Gunn.
Norwich gained late consolation when Gabriel Sara put Idah in on goal and he finished clinically in the 72nd minute, and soon after the Republic of Ireland forward doubled his tally from the spot after Argyle’s former City player Bali Mumba fouled substitute Onel Hernandez.
That made it 5-2 but Azaz and Argyle were not finished.
The playmaker’s cross-field ball set Mustapha Bundu away and he put fellow substitute Cundle in on goal for a close-range finish.