Football: City dig way out of Fox hole

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The Independent Online
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Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

ON THE eve of their greatest challenge, Norwich City yesterday may have lost sight of the one that will almost certainly last a lot longer, the Premiership. A draw in a game of no great demands satisfied their manager, Mike Walker, who happens 'to believe English football is not as bad as some people make out'. On Wednesday Norwich have to prove it.

Being runners-up to Manchester United could be their honourable destiny this season but greater things are now at stake. Having beaten Bayern Munich in the Uefa Cup, next come Internazionale. Is this the biggest event in the city since Bishop de Losinga placed the foundation stone of the cathedral? If that sounds like a gross exaggeration of football's importance you should have heard the noise when Bayern were overcome. Since then, though, Norwich had lost 3-0 to Arsenal in the Coca-Cola Cup, and at the same time lost some orderliness in defence.

In theory, Manchester City, who had gone five games without a win, offered the sort of undemanding opposition needed. Ruel Fox, who surely should by now have earned international recognition, took advantage, almost from the kick-off becoming Norwich's magnet, attracting passes and turning them into exciting attacks.

The best of Fox's early offerings was a searching centre deep into the Manchester City area from where Rob Newman headed wide. Chris Sutton benefited from another of Fox's penetrating centres but his header was neatly tipped over the bar by Tony Coton. And so it went on, Coton on a permanent state of alert.

Apart from two forlorn long shots by David White and Niall Quinn, Manchester City's first-half contribution was damage limitation, especially in midfield where they had no one to match Ian Crook and sorely missed Garry Flitcroft.

Norwich were so dominant and Fox so much the outstanding player, that it was almost inevitable that they should take the lead, as they did after 57 minutes when Gary Megson's ball into the penalty area saw Sutton head on and Jeremy Goss beat Alan Kernaghan, the ball dropping kindly for Fox to sidefoot in.

Surprisingly in view of their previous lack of purpose, Manchester City immediately responded when from Steve Lomas's centre, Quinn backheaded over Bryan Gunn. Manchester City felt aggrieved when Quinn released Carl Griffiths who appeared to slip the ball under Gunn and into the net. The referee decided that Gunn had been in possession and Norwich were saved from being penalised for what had become a performance suggesting that, forgivably, minds were elsewhere.