Coventry City. . 0
THIS result probably justified the means, but sometimes you wonder about football clubs. Even efficient, likeable ones like Norwich. In a season when Premiership managers are lining up to lambast the demands on their players, the Norfolk club contrived another one: jet lag.
It was at 5am on Thursday when they returned from their successful Uefa Cup tie in Arnhem which had the body clocks creaking and probably had the players thinking they had been playing in North America rather than the Netherlands. Even so, Ruel Fox's goal in injury time of the first half earned them a victory that pushes them to fourth place.
'I'm delighted with the performance because sometimes it's hard to drag yourself up on the Saturday after a European match,' the Norwich manager, Mike Walker, said.
It was a cock-up rather than a conspiracy that led to Norwich's early-morning travelling - a coach driver could not find Schiphol Airport - but the team have also had problems locating the goal at home this season. Before this match they had scored only once at Carrow Road this season, so when Fox struck the winner the supporters were rubbing their eyes with disbelief as much as their players were rubbing theirs to combat sleeplessness.
Ian Crook hit a long pass from his own half that Coventry's Paul Williams seemed most likely to reach first. Fox has pace to match his skills, however, and he managed to get a touch that seemed to defy the laws of density in getting past the defender. A lot of players would have found the adjustment from a flat-out race to a composed figure in the area beyond them but Fox drew Steve Ogrizovic and then beat him with a low right-foot shot.
It was an excellent goal and it needed to be because the Coventry goalkeeper had a distinguished match. 'We would have been three goals up at half-time without him,' Walker said, which may have undervalued Ogrizovic, as he made excellent saves from Jeremy Goss, Efan Ekoku, Gary Megson and Chris Sutton before the interval and produced several more afterwards.
The price for their midweek work had to be paid some time, and in the last 20 minutes Coventry might have got a point they scarcely deserved. Perhaps the visitors have seen something in training about Mick Quinn that is not evident to others, because they insisted on hitting balls for the prolific if hardly lithe striker to chase - a tactic with chances of success as low as his waist measurement is high. Consequently, their attack hardly showed at all until the Norwich team began to get sluggish.
Roy Wegerle nearly profited but the best chance fell to John Williams, who had the freedom of the penalty area when Leigh Jenkinson crossed to him with four minutes remaining. The Coventry winger headed the ball down but was so wayward that he missed the target by at least two feet. 'The scoreline flattered them,' Walker said. 'but we nearly let it slip.
'It's an important win because we need to stay up there, particularly as Manchester United are racing away.'
Norwich City (4-4-2): B Gunn; I Culverhouse, J Polston, R Newman, M Bowen; R Fox, G Megson, I Crook, J Goss; I Ekoku, C Sutton. Subs not used: M Robins, D Eadie, S Howie (gk). Manager: M Walker.
Coventry City (3-4-1-2): S Ogrizovic; P Atherton, P Babb, S Morgan; J Williams, W Boland, A Sheridan (Z Kruszynski, 69 min), P Williams; R Wegerle; M Quinn (S Flynn, 69 min), L Jenkinson. Sub not used: J Gould (gk). Manager: B Gould.
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).
Goal: Fox (45 min, 1-0).Reuse content