Football: Norwich drawn back to pack

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The Independent Online
Norwich City. . . . . . .0

Tottenham Hotspur. . . . 0

TOP of the league still, so there is still many a merry gentleman in Norwich today; but many, also, will rest very dismayed. This was their third game without scoring, and their first point in three weeks came only thanks to a Spurs goal being disallowed by the referee.

The goal arrived early in the second half when the bustling Nick Barmby was brought down on the edge of the box by Ian Culverhouse. Norwich were busy arranging their wall when Neil Ruddock stepped up to stroke home a perfectly-flighted free- kick, catching the opposition totally off guard. The referee, however, ordered a retake and Teddy Sheringham was not so successful with take two.

Norwich will rue the lost chances that came their way in long periods of dominance, but after the disallowed goal and then seeing Vinny Samways shoot narrowly wide in the dying minutes, a single point was their just reward.

Spurs moved into an early passing rhythm with Darren Anderton and Samways reading the game particularly well, and soon creating the best chance of the first half. Samways headed a high ball through that allowed Anderton to run on, beat the opposing keeper, only to see his soft shot cleared off the line by Mark Bowen.

Spurs had started the better, but it did not take long for Norwich's well-oiled machine to start producing a series of graceful moves and fasten a grip on the first half. Ruel Fox, particularly, tormented the Spurs defence with his marker, Dean Austin, coming in for particular treatment and soon seeing a yellow card as reward for his foul, frustrated tackling.

Ian Crook was back from injury into his familiar role as midfield general and general genius of Norwich's approach, spraying passes wide to Fox and David Phillips where the attacks were built. The two wingers were often guilty of loose crosses, though one such move produced a hectic goalmouth melee from which Chris Sutton very nearly managed to head home a winner.

Ruddock's disallowed goal followed hard on but the Spurs defender was not dismayed. Driving forward, he supplied Paul Allen on the wing and ran on to the return cross, his header bouncing narrowly over the bar.

At the other end, Fox and Phillips served up a hectic last quarter for the Spurs defence, but still no goal. The question presses harder: have the league leaders lost their way? Leeds, tomorrow, may provide an answer.

Norwich: B Gunn; I Culverhouse, M Bowen, R Newman, J Polston, G Megson, I Crook, C Sutton, M Robins, R Fox, D Phillips. Subs not used: D Beckford, D Sutch, M Walton (gk). Manager: M Walker.

Tottenham: E Thorstvedt; D Austin, J Edinburgh, V Samways, G Mabbutt, N Ruddock, D Howells, N Barmby (P Moran, 82 min), D Anderton, T Sheringham, P Allen. Subs not used: G Bergsson, I Walker (gk). Coach: D Livermore.

Referee: J Martin (Alton).