Football: Norwich on a high

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough. 3

Norwich City. .3

IN THE END the result from Ewood Park did not matter. By hanging on nervously for a draw in the face of Middlesbrough's last Premier League fling, Norwich confirmed the best League position of their 91-year history, third place, with a single-point margin over Blackburn.

Their travelling fans could even be looking up the Felixstowe ferry times next weekend if Arsenal win the FA Cup and so vacate their Uefa Cup spot for City.

Yet it was hardly a convincing display by the Canaries who exhibited only flashes of their neat passing game and who were far too easily ruffled by Boro. Norwich had taken the lead in the 14th minute when Chris Sutton's through ball enabled Efan Ekoku to drift in unmarked and wallop home the rebound after his first effort had been blocked.

Middlesbrough, already relegated, but in no mood to allow their opponents an easy passage, responded by carving out three good chances in a fraught spell for City's anxious back four.

Willie Falconer twanged the bar with a header, Paul Wilkinson's volley was deflected wide and Andy Peake saw his low shot saved.

The inevitable equaliser, however, was down to an uncharacteristic error by the Norwich goalkeeper, who, under pressure from Craig Hignett, dropped the ball, allowing Falconer a straightforward volley into the net.

Not surprisingly, two porous defences leaked a flood of goals in a nine-minute period midway through the second half.

Wilkinson's diving header made it 2-1 to Middlesbrough, Ekoku rose to plant the equaliser a minute later before Andy Johnson, timing his run to perfection, seized the advantage for City with a drive from Ian Crook's pass.

It was perhaps fitting that the best player on view, John Hendrie, should level the match with a glorious run and shot 16 minutes from time.

Middlesbrough: A Collett; C Fleming, J Phillips (A Moore, 67 min), A Kernaghan, D Whyte, A Peake, J Hendrie, W Falconer, P Wilkinson , C Hignett (D Marshall, 71 min), R Mustoe. Sub not used: B Roberts (gk). Manager: L Lawrence.

Norwich City: B Gunn; I Culverhouse, M Bowen, R Newman, J Polston, A Johnson, I Crook, C Sutton, E Ekoku, R Fox, D Phillips. Subs not used: M Robins, C Woodthorpe, A Marshall (gk). Manager: M Walker.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester),

Goals: Ekoku (1-0, 14 min); Falconer (1-1, 33 min); Wilkinson (2-1, 65 min); Ekoku (2-2, 66 min); Johnson (2-3, 68 min); Hendrie (3-3, 74 min).