Football: Bravado of Ball rewarded

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The Independent Online
Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Southampton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

YOU expect a team of Alan Ball's to show a bit of passion and some of the dull, defensive stuff with which he has tried to arrest their slide towards relegation has been a horrible disappointment.

All thoughts of caution were cast to the wind at Carrow Road on Saturday, however. Out went the stifling five-man back line; in came an adventurous five-man midfield. Red and white shirts swarmed forward with so little inhibition that Norwich's counter-attacks were often left hugely under-policed. But it paid off, as dramatically as could be imagined, when the final goal of nine - seven in the second half - won the game for them in the last 30 seconds.

It was the only time that Southampton were in front but, from a neutral standpoint, you could not grudge them victory. 'We took a gamble, flooding the midfield, but I felt I had to release people today, to get people forward,' Ball said. 'There were some daft goals, some unprofessional things happening. Both managers were tearing their hair out but it must have been great for the spectators.'

Great for his team, too, who have a lifeline. Had they not still to meet Blackburn, at home, and Manchester United, away, you would fancy them strongly to stay up.

Moral fibre will be required to survive those games but there was plenty of that in evidence on Saturday, not least from Matthew Le Tissier, who was always the central figure, as much an inspiration as was Jim Magilton in midfield.

The first two goals of Le Tissier's 15-minute hat-trick rescued Southampton from 3-1 down, the last - a rare header - from 4-3 behind. To cap it all, it was his precisely delivered corner on to defender Ken Monkou's head that settled the issue in the game's dying breath.

Norwich - poor old Norwich - are in a mess, causing John Deehan, after one win in 16 League games since inheriting Mike Walker's office, no little anxiety. Ian Crook, dispatching Hoddle-like passes from the back of midfield, was superb; Chris Sutton, raising his tally to 25, took away Ted McDougall's club record for goals in a top-flight season; Mark Robins, bedevilled by injury, scored a brilliant goal, his first for a year. At the back, however, confusion and indiscipline reign.

Goals: Robins (37) 1-0; Ullathorne og (44) 1-1; Goss (48) 2-1; Sutton (55) 3-1; Le Tissier (57) 3-2; Le Tissier pen (63) 3-3; Sutton (64) 4-3; Le Tissier (72) 4-4; Monkou (90) 4-5.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Gunn; Bowen, Culverhouse, Prior, Ullathorne; Adams, Megson (Robins, 25), Crook, Goss; Sutton, Eadie (Woodthorpe, 67). Substitute not used: Howie (gk).

Southampton (3-5-2): Beasant; Monkou, Benali, Bound; Kenna, Allen, Magilton, Maddison, Charlton; Dowie, Le Tissier. Substitutes not used: Maskell, Widdrington, Andrews (gk).

Referee: K Cooper (Pontypridd).