Football: Maddison's one-man show

Middlesbrough 3 Norwich City 0
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The Independent Online
By Carl Liddle

Middlesbrough 3 Norwich City 0

NEIL MADDISON stole the show as Middlesbrough cruised to a comfortable victory at the Riverside Stadium yesterday. He fired Boro into a first- half lead and then had a hand in second-half goals from Alun Armstrong and Mikkel Beck to lift Bryan Robson's men above their local rivals Sunderland.

Boro's win leaves them in second place - just two points adrift of the leaders Nottingham Forest - even though it was not one of their better performances, against struggling Norwich, who lacked confidence and hardly troubled the home goalkeeper Marlon Beresford.

Boro badly missed Paul Merson - preparing for England's friendly against Switzerland in Berne on Wednesday - and the suspended Andy Townsend. They still had too much, however, for a Norwich side who are in danger of being dragged into a relegation dogfight.

Robson had made it clear that he expected his players to sign off with a league win before turning their attention to the Coca-Cola-Cup final against Chelsea next Sunday. They failed to make their dominance pay until midway through the first half, when Maddison brought down Gianluca Festa's 40-yard pass and beat Andy Marshall from eight yards. Festa seemed to hurt his hip as he made the pass and did not reappear for the second half.

Maddison's goal inspired Boro to turn up the heat but Armstrong and Marco Branca had penalty appeals waved aside before the break.

Iwan Roberts had a chance to equalise in the 32nd minute but headed straight at Beresford and Hamilton Ricard, their new Colombian international striker, was narrowly wide with a low drive as the home side pressed for a second goal.

Craig Hignett replaced Festa for the second half and he and Branca set up Ricard for a 55th-minute effort which was only inches wide of Marshall's right-hand post.

Hignett was thwarted in the 70th minute by a fine Marshall save but two minutes later Boro went 2-0 up when Armstrong swept home Maddison's right wing cross from 10 yards.

Substitute Beck wrapped up victory at the end when, after Norwich had wasted several chances to clear, he stuck out a boot to deflect Maddison's shot wide of Marshall.

"Playing on Sunday put more pressure on us after Forest and Sunderland won yesterday," Robson said. "We never really had too much trouble and created chances throughout the game." The Middlesbrough manager added that he had kept his players on their toes by asking: "Who wants to play at Wembley?"

Goals: Maddison (22) 1-0; Armstrong (71) 2-0; Beck (90) 3-0.

Middlesbrough: Beresford; Fleming, Harrison, Vickers, Pearson, Maddison, Armstrong, Festa (Hignett, h-t), Branca (Beck, 82), Ricard, Thomas. Substitutes not used: Kinder.

Norwich City: Marshall; Sutch, Kenton (Forbes, 82), Grant, Fleming, Jackson, Adams, Bellamy, Roberts, Carey, Fuglestad. Substitutes not used: Segura, Fleck.

Referee: F G Stretton (Nottingham).

Bookings: Norwich: Grant, Jackson, Fuglestad.

Man of the match: Maddison.

Attendance: 30,040.