MILLWALL were blown away by Norwich on a humbling and difficult afternoon in Norfolk.
The Lions were second-best all day and failed to fend off the fluid and dynamic attack of the hosts for most of the game as Jonathan Rowe made it four goals in four games before Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes also scored.
The only consolation was that, unlike the home defeats to Reading in the Carabao Cup and Bristol City in the league, Norwich were the clear favourites heading into the game and are likely to be battling towards the top-end of the Championship.
Millwall also hadn’t won at Carrow Road since 1968, nor had they beaten Norwich in any of their previous seven meetings.
But travelling fans would have still expected more fight and attacking threat from a team that lined up in a 4-2-3-1 and contained Romain Esse from the start, two things that supporters had been calling for.
But despite the change Norwich keeper Angus Gunn still had little to do while his new deputy, former Millwall goalie George Long, watched on from the bench.
The travelling support made their feelings clear in the final 20 minutes of the game as they chanted openly and critically about manager Gary Rowett on multiple occasions, with only a late goal by Aidomo Emakhu lifting the mood slightly.
Fans inside Carrow Road had been enjoying the first-half of the Women’s World Cup final before they headed for their seats for the midday kick-off.
Plenty are backing Norwich to be among the promotion contenders under David Wagner and the first-half gave a demonstration as to why.
Gabriel Sara ran the show, Rowe repeatedly caused havoc with his movement, Barnes kept defenders busy and Christian Fassnacht and Jack Stacey combined to overwhelm Murray Wallace, back at left-back.
The warning signs came after 19 minutes as a wonderful curling free-kick by Sara from 20 yards out was denied by an excellent save by Matija Sarkic.
The goal would eventually come from open play and some wonderful football from the hosts five minutes later.
Rowe drove inside, played it to Sara, he found Barnes inside the box, before the former Burnley striker left it to the onrushing Rowe to steer into the corner.
Millwall woke up somewhat after the goal with their best effort coming 10 minutes from the break. A cross by Esse, who was having a feisty afternoon battling with Norwich defenders, fell to the back post.
Wallace had an effort blocked from an awkward angle before the ball fell perfectly for Kevin Nisbet from eight yards out, but he also had his effort deflected away by a scrambling Norwich defender.
But ultimately the home side had the much better of the half and Rowe should have made it two before the break.
The 20-year-old arrived late in the box to throw himself above Danny McNamara and meet a perfect Fassnacht cross but he put it wide.
The half ended in heated scenes as Billy Mitchell and Barnes clashed as both tried to retrieve a ball that had gone out of play. Rowe got involved and he and Mitchell would be booked.
Any hope that the confrontation would give the Lions some fire for the second-half was quickly snuffed out by Norwich’s two goals in the opening 11 minutes.
First a free-kick from out wide was swept in by Sara which Sargent headed home while Sarkic got lost in the crowd of bodies.
And then Fassnacht and Stacey, again combining on the flanks, worked the ball in for Barnes who swivelled and struck the ball into the bottom corner.
From here Millwall’s only task was to stop the scoreline from becoming embarrassing and with Norwich in full flow, that task did not initially prove easy.
Sargent had an effort deflected over from close range while Shaun Hutchinson managed to get in the way of the American’s overhead kick from inside the six-yard box.
Eventually the hosts calmed down, Millwall went into damage limitation mode and the crowd took over the entertainment for the final 25 minutes.
Travelling fans loudly chanted some X-rated critique of Rowett’s style of play, with the home supporters taking pleasure at the internal conflict and getting involved with some songs of their own.
You could have almost been forgiven for forgetting that a football match was still taking place when substitute Tom Bradshaw nodded into the path of fellow replacement Emakhu, who steered home from just inside the box.
It’s Emakhu’s first senior goal for the club and it is interesting that he and Esse, the two youngsters, are the only ones to register in Millwall’s four games in all competitions so far.
But that niche stat was the furthest thing from anybody’s minds at full-time. Norwich fans were too busy reflecting on their team’s most complete performance of the season so far while Millwall were left feeling incredibly deflated.
Millwall: 4-2-3-1: Sarkic; McNamara (Harding 86′), Hutchinson, Cooper, Wallace; Mitchell (Evans 77′), Saville; Esse (Emakhu 68′), Flemming, Watmore (Voglsammer 68′); Nisbet (Bradshaw 77′).
Norwich: 4-2-3-1: Gunn; Stacey, Duffy, Gibson (Omobamidele 88′), Giannoulis (Nunez 89′); Sara, McLean; Fassnacht (McCallum 80′), Barnes, Rowe (Springett 68′); Sargent (Idah 80′)
Referee: Tony Harrington
Attendance: 26,218 (including 1,720 Millwall fans)