City 3, Notts County 0

Dean Windass was only half-joking when he claimed that City's number ten was a big shirt to fill.

It's fair to say the shadow of Deano looms large over every striker that walks into the Valley Parade dressing room.

So step forward Peter Thorne to show that the coveted jersey fits quite snugly.

City fans have been keeping their fingers crossed that Thorne could be the one to properly succeed you know who.

But the injury setbacks earlier in the season left many fearing that Stuart McCall had recruited a dud whose best was behind him.

There was no doubting Thorne's goal-scoring pedigree - a glance at his previous record for the likes of Stoke and Cardiff demonstrated a striker who clearly knows where the net is.

The worry was that two tortuous seasons at Norwich may have knocked that out of him and the doubts grew when he missed much of the first couple of months of the campaign.

But since opening his account against Chester two months ago, Thorne has looked a class act.

Now you can see why McCall was so chuffed to nick him from under the noses of League One neighbours Oldham.

On Saturday, Thorne reminded everyone that his scoring boots are still very much in working order.

It wasn't just the fact he scored City's first hat-trick since the previous number ten smacked three past Scunthorpe two seasons ago; it was the sheer quality of the goals.

All right, the first was only from a couple of yards but it showed the importance of taking advantage of set-pieces - something McCall has become acutely aware of as the season has gone on.

David Wetherall's header was blocked in front of the line by Lawrie Dudfield but Lee Bullock kept the danger alive and Thorne was in the right spot to cash in.

His second goal also came from a corner - and an exquisite piece of individual skill. The pass from Paul Evans was on the button and met with a cushioned side-foot volley that guided the ball across keeper Kevin Pilkington and inside the unguarded far post.

Thorne rounded off a memorable afternoon with the best goal of the lot. Darren Williams worked a ball up the right touchline, Joe Colbeck moved it on and Thorne took the pass first time in his stride and dispatched a lethal drive into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.

"He's a clever striker and his all-round play has merited more goals than he's got," beamed McCall.

"Even when he's not scoring, Thorney's worth to the team is tremendous because he's an excellent footballer.

"It's just a shame that for the early part of the season he was out injured. It's always good when your main goal-scorer is banging them in."

McCall's wish for a more relaxing afternoon was granted, the timing of Thorne's second goal just before the hour ensuring there was no nail-biting finale this time.

For too long now, City home games have been grim affairs to be endured rather than enjoyed. This was the biggest league win at Valley Parade since Brentford were drubbed 4-1 in April 2005.

The noise from the crowd was rightly praised by the manager, who was delighted to send them home happy, but then there had been plenty to be pleased about.

Notts County were awful and City looked superior from start to finish. Apart from a five-minute spell straight after half-time, the visitors created very little up to Richard Butcher's injury-time thump which Donovan Ricketts comfortably pushed away.

City carried on where they left off in the second half at Accrington. The 11-day break had served to recharge the batteries and, in Thorne's case, clear out a winter bug to leave him fit and firing, as County discovered to their cost.

It's on days like these when you look at the league table and wonder why City are still marooned in no-man's land. Then you recall the last-minute horrors at Barnet and Morecambe.

Once City got their noses in front, there was never any danger of a slip-up on this occasion.

But for the agile Pilkington, City would have been out of sight before Thorne eventually broke the deadlock. Omar Daley twice went close and right before half-time Barry Conlon should have had his third goal in claret and amber.

A long punt over the top was cleverly helped on by Thorne and Conlon was clear. Chesting the ball down well, he got a left-foot shot off but Pilkington managed to smother enough of it for a defender to scurry back and finish the clearance.

The Conlon fan club in the Kop were frustrated again, though the Irishman's all-round display again bristled with endeavour.

Conlon's part in City's second goal summed up that hard work. If it wasn't for him chasing down an errant back pass and forcing Pilkington to panic and slice into touch, City would not have won the corner that set up Thorne's match-sealing strike.

It has taken five months for McCall to pair his first two signings together but City boast a 100 per cent record with them up top.

McCall said: "I thought Baz did everything but score; he had a one-on-one, a couple of headers and made chances for other people. I know they enjoy playing together.

"I'm not saying it always works playing two big lads up front but in this division almost 40 per cent of goals are scored from corners and free-kicks. You've got to be strong in the middle of the pitch."

City were pretty strong all over and the three-goal winning margin was not flattering. There could have been more late on, with Joe Colbeck snatching at a chance put on a plate by Bullock and Paul Heckingbottom, whose free-kick delivery was excellent, almost crowning his new contract with a strike from 25 yards.

But this was a good day to be a City fan, manager and particularly a number ten. Thorne will score plenty more this season - you can put your shirt on it.

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