Football: Blake has blade

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

Sheffield United. . . . . . . . . . . .1

Blake 31

Attendance: 18,474

SOMEONE ought to have a quiet word with Norwich. Being a friendly club is all very well, dishing out points to all and sundry quite another matter. Only four teams have left Carrow Road with nothing this season, and yesterday Sheffield United came away with three points and a possible route to Premiership survival.

The result means that Norwich will set a new mark for the fewest home league wins in a season. Even if they beat Oldham on 7 May, they cannot even equal their Third Division South total of six in 1947.

Everything has fallen apart for them since Mike Walker left. One win in 17 league games tells the story. Not that Sheffield United care. All that concerns them is that the most desperate of the last four years' annual escape acts may yet end in bows and applause.

The last 13 minutes of the first half were decisive, containing not only Sheffield's goal but a couple of vital saves from Simon Tracey and two important misses by Norwich.

There were grounds for complaint by the home side in the lead-up to Nathan Blake's goal, John Gannon clearly handling in the centre circle. That apart, it was the best move by either team, Dane Whitehouse exchanging passes with Jostein Flo on a 40-yard run into the Norwich box before sweeping across a low pass along the ground which Blake slid home.

Norwich instantly responded, but Tracey bravely charged down Neil Adams's attempt to equalise and saved again from Chris Sutton before Mark Robins failed to profit from Roger Nilsen's weak clearance. Ian Crook then swung a free-kick over the bar from a promising position a yard outside the area.

Norwich could claim unfair treatment by the officials again in the 53rd minute when Robins put the ball in the net, in spite of some unsubtle shirt- pulling by Brian Gayle, only to be foiled by the linesman's flag.

But United deserved a reward for their defence, which held firm even when Norwich threw on Efan Ekoku. Blake, meanwhile, had a hat-trick of chances to make safe United's second away win of the season. Two attempts were saved and the other hit the bar, before Tracey rescued his team again, defying Jeremy Goss with a minute left.