Football / FA Premiership: Ekoku saves day for Deehan

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The Independent Online
Norwich City. . . . . 1

Ekoku 59

Chelsea. . . . . . . .1

Stein 42

Attendance: 19,472

NOT quite the start that John Deehan, Norwich's new manager, had hoped for - certainly not the dream debut his white-haired predecessor enjoyed at Everton yesterday. Deehan dabbled with the formation he inherited, and he even dabbled with defeat until Efan Ekoku got him off the hook in the 60th minute.

Norwich eventually emerged the stronger side and could have sewn up victory with any of three half-chances in the closing minutes. Indeed, they should have completed the formalities much earlier when Ekoku twice had the goal gaping, though ironically Mark Stein, the other goalscorer, matched Ekoku's misses with a similarly poor patch of profligacy.

Certainly there were chances aplenty for both sides - a 3-3 draw would have been a better reflection of the hot-pot these sides served up - and Deehan had announced in his programme notes that the creation of more goalscoring chances would be the way forward at Carrow Road. His inclination to 'tinker slightly' was reflected in a line-up that dispensed with the old sweeper system and moved Ian Culverhouse up to full-back to complete a 4-4-2 formation.

The result was that though the ball was certainly no stranger to Chelsea's penalty box, Eddy Newton, Chelsea's left midfielder, was allowed a sea of room with neither Culverhouse nor Ruel Fox picking him up. Gavin Peacock, who admirably shouldered the midfield distribution responsibilities in the absence of the injured Dennis Wise, fed Newton a wealth of opportunities which finally paid off with a 33rd-minute goal.

Newton evaded a number of tackles and finally released the excellent Craig Burley for a shot which was deflected off Colin Woodthorpe and into Stein's path at the far post.

Newton continued to threaten on the left until the 56th minute when he was stretchered off with a knee injury. Four minutes after his departure, Norwich's equaliser arrived - Ian Crook's free-kick was headed in by Ekoku with Chris Sutton providing a headed assist.

From then on, it could have gone either way. Ekoku scored again minutes later but had his tap in disallowed for offside, though many, Glenn Hoddle included, believed the winner should then have gone to Peacock. Sprinting through on goal, just outside the box, he was brought to the ground by Crook. The referee put his whistle to his lips but failed to blow.

Norwich rode their luck on that occasion and their 11 men saw out the draw. Manchester United come to Carrow Road in the FA Cup in two weeks' time - a rather more awesome examination of the Deehan era.

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