Football: Blackburn in a blockade

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The Independent Online
Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

WHEN Blackburn Rovers had Alan Shearer leading the line, every move seemed to turn to gold, and their championship challenge has faltered since his injury seven weeks ago. Yesterday they dominated Norwich City on the snow-covered Carrow Road pitch but were unable to make the pressure tell.

When Kenny Dalglish was asked afterwards about the health of his England striker he bristled with indignation. 'It's a bit of an insult to our other players that every time I talk to you, you ask me about Shearer.' But in truth, they did need him in attack, as Jason Wilcox proved with the first real chance of the match, on the half- hour. A Mike Newell chip from his own half put through the winger who fought off the attentions of Mark Bowen but rolled the ball wide of Bryan Gunn's left-hand post.

Working from a solid defensive base constructed around Kevin Moran and Colin Hendry, they made it difficult for Norwich to string together the chains of passes which have served them so well this season, and only Ruel Rox, with his pace and control, gave them much cause for concern.

It was Fox who had Norwich's best chance of the game, after 31 minutes, when he negotiated his way from the left flank through a thicket of defenders, but shot lamely from six yards rather than pulling the ball back.

From then on Blackburn had most of the initiative, and the match only occasionally broke out into urgent football, Norwich's attacks continually foundering on the nine or 10 men Rovers pulled back behind the ball.

Stuart Ripley's raids down the right, and Roy Wegerle's dribbles made more than enough trouble for the Norwich defence, for whom Chris Sutton, moved back from the forward line for this game, was outstanding.

As the game became increasingly scrappy, Norwich held out with grit and determination, and the Norwich manager, Mike Walker, pronounced himself immensely pleased with the result and with Butterworth, Crook, Goss, Newman and Megson all injured, Megson admitting defeat to a groin strain only an hour before the kick-off, you could see his point: 'We've got Betty Philby, the tea lady, on standby, doing runs up and down stairs.'

Both Dalglish and Walker talked mathematics when asked whether they thought the result put them out of reach of Manchester United and Aston Villa, but Alex Ferguson and Ron Atkinson will have been considerably cheered.

Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Sutton, Polston, Smith, Sutch, Power, Robins, Fox, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Woodthorpe, Ullathorne, Walton (gk).

Blackburn: Mimms; May, Dobson, Sherwood, Hendry, Moran, Ripley, Andersson, Wegerle, Newell, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Atkins, Livingstone, Collier (gk).

Referee: P Don (Hanworth Park).