Football: Johnson fails to add the finishing touch

Norwich City 0 Ipswich Town 0
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The Independent Online
DELIA SMITH, a Norwich director, appeared in a list of the nation's richest people yesterday - and the nation's favourite chef was on hand to watch her team frustrate Ipswich's own attempts to gain a firm grip on second place in the First Division and increase their chances of joining the fat cats in the Premiership next season.

Through a combination of Ipswich's own wayward finishing, particularly from David Johnson, and inspired goalkeeping from Norwich's 19-year-old debutant Robert Green, this East Anglian derby never sparked into life and was proof, if any were needed, that derbies usually result in the form book being torn up and thrown away.

Norwich, whose season is effectively dead after a run of only two wins in their last 18 games, nevertheless dealt comfortably with their rivals, who have suffered only one defeat in their last 13 games. If anything, Bruce Rioch's Norwich had earned the tag of favourites to win this particular game, having won at Ipswich earlier this season and won this corresponding fixture in each of the past five years.

However, this draw was enough to put the visitors in the second automatic promotion place, one point ahead of Bradford City, and, as their manager George Burley said: "We're in second place on merit and at times we looked like the home team. Derby games are always fiercely contested."

Bearing in mind there is no love lost between these two teams, the slogan "Shake Hands on Derby Day" was adopted to pre-empt any unsavoury violence on or off the pitch. But such fears were never truly realised, with any flare-ups few and far between.

Such incidents which did crop up usually involved Johnson, both the good and bad. With six minutes in the first half remaining, Fabian Wilnis slipped a pass through the Norwich defence but Johnson, with time and space, spurned his side's first and best chance of the game, thrashing his shot over Green's crossbar from eight yards. Johnson, on hostile ground anyway, had blotted his copybook earlier by charging Green and then diving on the edge of the area in a vain attempt to win a penalty.

That was not all for the lively striker, as seven minutes into the second half he pushed Norwich's Matt Jackson into Green as they chased a ball, leading to Jackson suffering a bloodied nose and being replaced, while Johnson escaped censure.

Norwich were not without their own chances, and with 34 minutes gone Wilnis rescued Ipswich with a sliding tackle as Philip Mulryne, brought in from Manchester United last month, shaped to shoot from close range. But Rioch's tactics, designed to stifle Ipswich in midfield, duly deprived his strikers of sufficient supply.

Green, in a nerveless first game, then saved his best for last. As Ipswich piled forward in injury time, Jamie Scowcroft headed across the penalty box to Johnson, whose downward header was punched away by the teenager, a save that led Rioch to say: "Green could have a good future," but left Burley ruing the miss as he remarked: "We sadly didn't take our chances."

Norwich City: Green; Mackay, Fleming, Jackson (Marshall, 55); Fuglestad, Anselin, Carey, Mulryne, Sutch; Dalglish (Roberts, 76), Bellamy. Substitute not used: Hughes.

Ipswich Town: Wright; Mowbray, Venus, Tanner (Cundy, 53); Clapham, Stockwell, Holland, Magilton, Wilnis; Scowcroft, Johnson. Substitutes not used: Naylor, Petta.

Referee: P Taylor (Waltham Cross).

Man of the match: Green.

Attendance: 19,511.