Football: Graham rues lack of thrust

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Norwich City 0

Arsenal 0

Attendance: 17,768

IT IS NO secret what has happened to Norwich's cutting edge: it departed to Blackburn with Chris Sutton and Newcastle with Ruel Fox. Where Arsenal have mislaid theirs is more puzzling, so a goalless 90 minutes at Carrow Road came as no surprise.

George Graham, the Arsenal manager, admitted ruefully: 'We're not exciting enough in the last third of the field,' after he had dropped Paul Merson, the spark that many feel necessary to relight the damped-down fires at High


Arsenal's brisk start - a Kevin Campbell thrust narrowly thwarted and goalkeeper Bryan Gunn getting a fingertip to stop Tony Adams's header reaching the lurking Ian Wright - soon fizzled out in a first half of kick-and-rush.

Apart from sporadic support from Ray Parlour on the right, Campbell and Wright were virtually left to their own devices to pierce the home defence, as their midfield concentrated on denying space and time to their hosts.

Parlour caused a flurry in the 26th minute when defender Carl Bradshaw showed that old habits die hard, waiting in vain for the linesman to flag offside as the Arsenal attacker got on the end of a cross to head narrowly wide.

John Polston had the yellow card brandished in the 22nd minute and 10 minutes later Rob Newman joined him, after throwing the ball in the face of Martin Keown. Just before half-time, Eddie McGoldrick was booked for a spectacular piece of obstruction on the flying Neil Adams.

Mark Robins replaced Efan Ekoku as the Norwich spearhead in the 73rd minute, shortly after the Nigerian had fluffed the game's best chance, laid on by Ian Crook. Six minutes later, Graham replaced McGoldrick with Alan Smith, giving the game the shot in the arm it badly needed.

Stefan Schwarz finally ventured into the Norwich penalty area and almost provided a bizarre opening goal, with a tantalising cross from the byline that bounced off the knees of a bemused Polston, only to be saved by the knees of an equally surprised Gunn.

Robins' fresh legs began to pull Keown and Adams out of position, and took him clear on the right to deliver the perfect cross for Newman, only to see the header fly just inches past David Seaman's left-hand post.