Preston North End 2-4 Norwich City: Teenage treble sends Canaries into Fourth Round
There were contrasting fortunes for the two players pictured (Photo: Getty Images)

Dwindling at the bottom of the league on a terrible spell of form and the side's key player is out injured going into a potential FA Cup upset. Who do you call upon to be a hero? 18-year old Adam Idah, despite playing just a handful of minutes against Crystal Palace during the week after his only previous senior competitive appearance came against Crawley Town back in August.

But the Republic of Ireland youth international has netted regularly at junior levels, earning his first professional contract last summer after scoring 12 goals in 19 Under-23 games, adding to his 22 strikes in 45 matches at youth level for his country.

Idah netted three of his five shots against Championship side Preston North End to propel Norwich into the FA Cup Fourth Round after his second-minute strike helped the visitors open up a 3-0 half-time advantage, before rounding off his hat-trick by winning and converting a second half penalty to effectively kill the contest at 4-1.

Marco's magic

The opening salvo was one of high class. Norwich won the ball back in their own half before a star of last season, Marco Stiepermann, burst into space before releasing Idah between the two Preston central defenders. The striker raced onto the ball and slotted neatly into the bottom corner with barely 90 seconds on the clock.

Former Norwich manager, Alex Neil, looked for his side to respond and an inch-perfect cross from Joe Rafferty picked out Jayden Stockley but the striker, who has failed to score this season, nodded wide after peeling away from Ibrahim Amadou.

Down the other end, Stiepermann and Idah continued to link effectively and the latter was thwarted a second by a brave onrushing stop by Connor Ripley.

However, the visitors recycled and Onel Hernadez was allowed to cut inside before firing a low effort that slipped straight through the grasp of Ripley and into the bottom corner. From hero to zero.

And things went from bad to worse for Ripley just ten minutes later. Again, Stipermann was afforded space to burst forward into central midfield but his through ball to Hernandez was read by Ripley, only for the goalkeeper to pick out Idah with his clearance as the teenager lofted the ball over Ripley and into the back of the net from all of 40 yards.

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Hosts fight back

Preston could have easily thrown in the towel after finding themselves 3-0 down at the break but they gave themselves hope just three minutes after the restart.

Stockley might have only scored five goals since arriving at Preston last January but his cushioned header from Josh Harrop's header was guided perfectly into the path of Billy Bodin for the hosts' first.

Corners were providing a positive outlet for Preston and captain Ben Davies perhaps should have scored another just two minutes later after using his strength to shrug off two defenders.

Veteran goalkeeper Michael McGovern had barely been stretched in the Norwich goal but he showed his athleticism to keep out Ryan Ledson after a spiralling run through the Norwich midfield.

VAR?

With Preston cranking through the gears, the next goal was going to be pivotal...and proved to be controversial.

A fine flick from Stiepermann played Idah through on goal and he was brought down by Ripley in the penalty area to mark a trio of vital errors.

But VAR isn't used in the FA Cup away from Premier League grounds and Norwich, who seem to be involved in VAR controversy at every home game, got lucky with replays suggesting Idah was in an offside position. But the youngster picked himself up to complete his hat-trick with a slotted effort into Ripley's left corner.

The home side continued to persist with their hopes of a place in the draw but a second goal in the 84th minute was too little, too late. Bodin guided a Stiepermann-esqe pass to Harrop who netted what proved to be just a consolation.

But McGovern was kept busy with three saves in and around injury time as the nerves of just a trio of wins all season threatened to derail Norwich at the end.

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