Norwich City. . . . . 1
NOW that really must be it. Surely there will be no coming back from this for Norwich, whose aspirations as unlikely champions were put in perspective by Tottenham in even more clinical fashion than the north London side had dismissed their opponents' FA Cup prospects in January.
The dark horses, two points behind the leaders and two games further down the finishing straight, are beginning to pull up lame, conceding eight goals in two games and hardly in the right frame of mind to capitalise should Aston Villa and Manchester United falter this weekend.
The manner of their weak-kneed resistance at White Hart Lane yesterday roused their manager, Mike Walker, to a fury. 'We were just not up for the game and I was not happy with our attitude,' he said. 'I'm not interested in whether we are out of it or not, all that concerns me is getting the performance right because if we play like that in our last four games we won't even finish in the top 10.'
Tottenham's desire to bounce back from a shattering FA Cup semi-final defeat proved far more powerful a force than the need to recover from a shattering championship stumble.
Tottenham put two eggs in their basket in a three-minute spell just before the half-hour, brilliant goals both, which killed the game as a contest and ensured their climb to fifth place in the table. Norwich employed a sweeper to try and correct the errors so glaringly evident against Manchester United but it did nothing for their resistance and at times you felt it could be Blackburn revisited.
They were undone first by a thunderous shot from Neil Ruddock following a free-kick after an opening 27 minutes in which Spurs' commitment to deny the visitors room to work their passing patterns had been effective. In their non-creative moods, Norwich are always vulnerable to the brand of aggression and verve which Spurs exhibit in abundance on their good days and in 1993 there have been plenty of those.
'There were a lot of bitterly disappointed people in the club after the semi-final and they showed their spirit today,' said the Tottenham coach, Doug Livermore.
From 30 yards Ruddock cleared the defensive wall and, unsighted, Bryan Gunn was powerless to react. Spurs' second owed everything to quick, incisive distribution, the ball moving from deep through Dean Austin and Darren Anderton, who cut it back into Teddy Sheringham's path.
They had quickly run out of ideas at Wembley but with Nick Barmby restored they are a more fluid proposition and he made it three after 55 minutes. Sheringham then raised his season's goal tally to 24, with Barmby and Anderton again involved.
Number five came from Nayim, who next week is expected to complete a pounds 500,000 transfer which will take him home to Spain and to Real Zaragoza in the summer. The tricky midfielder signed off in style with an 83rd-minute chip which he later admitted was intended as a pass.
After the Norwich substitute Efan Ekoku had scored his first goal after a pounds 750,000 move from Bournemouth, the away fans sang 'We're going to win the League'. Their humour is intact, which is more than can be said for their team, who otherwise have done them proud.
Tottenham Hotspur: Thorstvedt; Austin, Edinburgh, Barmby (Turner, 81), Mabbutt, Ruddock, Sedgley, Nayim, Anderton (Nethercott, 81), Sheringham, Allen. Substitute not used: Dearden (gk).
Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Sutton, Polston, Megson, Crook, Goss, Robins, Fox, Phillips (Ekoku, h/t). Substitutes not used: Butterworth, Walton (gk).
Referee: K Barratt (West Midlands).
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