Norwich City . . . . . . . .1
MANCHESTER CITY were slowed in their scamper towards Premiership safety yesterday when the formidable barrier of Bryan Gunn stood successfully between them and a fourth win in a row.
There might be more elegant goalkeepers than the Norwich man but few, as City found to their cost, more adept at impersonating a large, red-jerseyed starfish and getting some part of his body in the way of a goal-bound shot.
Paul Walsh, in particular, must have wondered where he was going wrong when he failed to score in the first half. His twists, turns and general ebullience carved out three clear-cut opportunities from close range, but each time Gunn contrived to keep him out.
Walsh also created one equally good chance for David Rocastle, with the same result - another instinctive block by Gunn, helped this time by his defenders getting in the way of Uwe Rosler's follow-up.
While Gunn's defiance was carrying the day at one end, Norwich - with only one league win since John Deehan, the former Maine Road back room man, became manager - grabbed an unlikely lead at the other.
John Polston's free-kick started the trouble, Chris Sutton's head and Mark Robins' chest continued it and Robert Ullathorne was on hand to shoot home crisply from an angle for his first goal of the season.
With an attack so new that its four main constituents carry squad numbers adding up to 121, it was not surprising that a few cracks started to appear in City's composure.
When they made the breakthrough that they deserved, however, there was nothing that Gunn or anyone else could do about it.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Steffen Karl managed to squeeze in a low cross from the byline and Rosler stabbed a foot at the ball to send it unstoppably into the top of the net.
Suspicions that the two Germans were unknown and unproven quantities when they arrived are now behind them. Both are proving their worth, with Rosler's sheer energy and persistence making him an instant Maine Road favourite. His popularity would have moved up another couple of notches if he had won the match with three minutes remaining, as he would have done but for the inspired Gunn.
Peter Beagrie's free-kick was flighted invitingly and Rosler met it perfectly with his head, but the Scottish international leapt spectacularly to turn it away with a save that put all his others in the shade.
It was the story of City's afternoon - one where their radically improved football was there for all to see but the luck which has accompanied it was conspicuously absent.