Football: Ipswich usurp the local gentry

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Ipswich Town. . . . . .2

Wark pen 8, Megson og 90

Norwich City. . . . . .1

Bowen 40

Attendance: 19,498

FOR a while, the delightful passing game that has won such admiration for Norwich City illuminated a rain-swept Portman Road. Calm assurance exuded from every player and Ipswich, once known as sophisticates themselves, at times looked like country bumpkins as the new champions of cultured football did as they pleased.

Norwich should have gone home with a comfortable victory, reflecting how the balance of power in these parts has shifted so emphatically. Instead, Ipswich, finally believing that their role was not merely that of on-lookers, pinched victory with a handful of seconds remaining.

The Suffolk side finished the stronger, especially after Lee Power, the Norwich substitute, was sent off with three minutes left. But in the end they had a Norwich man to thank, Gary Megson heading Stuart Slater's right-wing corner past his own goalkeeper with unstoppable force.

After anchoring Norwich's midfield with considerable authority, Megson must have felt wretched that he had undone so much good in a moment and sank to his knees with his head in his hands. But his colleagues should share the blame. They ought not to have left themselves so vulnerable. Their fate, however, emphasised their most worrying shortcoming, namely that they failed too often to turn possession into goals.

Ipswich, leading through an eighth-minute John Wark penalty conceded when Ian Butterworth, the Norwich captain, tripped Chris Kiwomya, had three chances to extend their lead in the first half. Kiwomya hit the side-netting with Bryan Gunn on the floor, Neil Thompson mis-kicked horribly when Gunn, deceived by the wind, pushed Kiwomya's low cross to the defender's feet and Kiwomya again sent another attempt inches outside a post.

Norwich, despite having more of the play, could point only to a swerving free-kick by Chris Sutton, pushed over the crossbar adroitly by Craig Forrest, and a goal-line clearance from the resulting corner, as evidence of a genuine threat to the home goal before Mark Bowen, pouncing on a ball running loose outside the penalty area, lashed in an equaliser.

Ruel Fox, with an athletic attempt to convert Rob Newman's cross, brought another valuable save from Forrest and wasted a later opportunity by shooting over the bar after jinking past David Linighan.

The dismissal of Power, on the field only seven minutes, for a challenge on Phil Whelan interpreted by the referee as serious foul play, showed Norwich's frustration coming to the surface and Ipswich perhaps sensed this in mounting their late surge, Eddie Youds hitting the foot of Gunn's left-hand post in the moments before the decisive final action.

(Photograph omitted)