Football: Failure to find finishing touch tarnishes Deehan's managerial debut

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The Independent Online
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A NEW broom sweeps clean, or in this instance it sweeps with authority. No longer is it a case of 'call me Dixie' for John Deehan, instead it has to be 'gaffer', with penalties promised for those who disobey.

If a comical touch colours the new Norwich manager's first dictate, there is little to smile about in the fixture programme he now has to face.

In the first eight weeks of his reign, Norwich entertain Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday at a ground where only one visiting side has gone away empty-handed in three months. Five of the top eight, all due at Carrow Road before February is out. Who said Mike Walker's timing was wrong when he walked away for Everton?

With that lot to come, it would have done Deehan good to have started with a win and, not for the first time this season, Norwich's finishing ability left much to be desired. Efan Ekoku could have had four goals, instead of just one, but he did not make full use of the service provided by Chris Sutton, who has a marvellous appreciation of his supporting striker's positioning.

While Norwich, close marked, were forced to chisel out their opportunities through wit and wiles, Chelsea had more room in which to work their openings, and Glenn Hoddle's team were disappointed not to have continued a reviving sequence of Premiership wins.

It was surprising to see Deehan dispense with Norwich's trusted sweeper system in favour of the traditional back four. Ian Culverhouse looked less comfortable hemmed in at full-back, and without him the heart of the defence displayed a shortage of pace.

A failure to make their tackles count proved the Canaries' undoing as Mark Stein and Eddie Newton carried the ball deeper and deeper, Craig Burley's shot diverting off Colin Woodthorpe and away from Bryan Gunn for Stein to score his sixth in as many games.

Chelsea were disrupted by Newton's departure with a knee injury, and dismayed when the referee let Ian Crook escape after Gavin Peacock was hauled down with only Gunn to beat. No free-kick and no red card. Instead, relief for Crook, who felt 'lucky and grateful'.

Goals: Stein (43) 0-1; Ekoku (60) 1-1.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Gunn; Culverhouse, Newman, Butterworth, Woodthorpe; Fox, Crook, Megson (Johnson, 82), Bowen; Ekoku, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Ullathorne, Howie (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharin; Clarke, Sinclair, Johnsen, Myers; Burley, Spackman, Peacock, Newton (Dow, 56); Shipperley, Stein. Substitutes not used: Spencer, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: K Cooper (Pontypridd).