Football: Robins leads another Norwich fightback

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Chelsea. . . . . . .2

Norwich City. . . . 3

MARK ROBINS and Norwich staged another extraordinary comeback yesterday to steal the points at Stamford Bridge and keep themselves top of the Premier League.

On the first day of the season they found themselves 2-0 down to Arsenal at half-time and won 2-4. At Chelsea they did it again.

Things began badly for Norwich. Indeed they almost did not begin at all. The Norwich coach was delayed in heavy traffic and the team only just made it on to the pitch in time. They found their hosts in an impatient mood.

With the opening formalities barely completed Dave Beasant raced out of his area to intercept a Norwich clearance. Despite a suspicion of handling, he controlled the ball and fired it upfield to Mick Harford. Harford and Dennis Wise combined to release Robert Fleck on the edge of the box. He took the ball round Brian Gunn before laying it back for Harford to rifle home.

Norwich struggled to find any fluency in a midfield dominated by Andy Townsend and Nigel Spackman. Chelsea, however, did receive a warning against complacency in the 26th minute when Ian Crook swept a free-kick over their wall and on to the crossbar.

The Blues took due heed. Barely two minutes later Wise fed the ball out to Townsend running in on the left of the area and the Republic of Ireland's new captain fired it home past Gunn. Townsend nearly scored a second against his old club just before half-time but John Polston got in a saving tackle. It was Chelsea's last gilt- edged chance of the match.

Almost immediately after the restart Norwich began a remarkable recovery. Ian Culverhouse sent a hopeful cross over from the right; Dave Beasant and Mal Donaghy inexplicably left it and there inevitably was Robins, lurking in the shadows, to prod the ball over the line.

The goal fractured Chelsea's confidence, although it took a while for Norwich to take advantage of the situation.

Robins, enjoying a rare place in the starting line-up, crossed well for Gary Megson to head over. And, in the 75th minute, it was Robins who bobbed up to snatch Norwich's equaliser after Rob Newman had powered past Donaghy on the right to provide him with an inviting low cross.

Ten minutes from time, David Phillips (usually a sweet striker of the ball) hit an innocuous low shot from well outside the box. Beasant went down to gather the crawling ball but instead allowed it to bobble through his grasp.

With Townsend off, nursing a back injury, Chelsea never looked like redeeming this howler.

The game ended in boos for the hapless keeper and afterwards a disappointed Ian Porterfield admitted that Beasant 'probably needs a change as much as we do'.

Chelsea: D Beasant; G Hall, A Barness, A Townsend (G Stuart, 75 min), D Lee, M Donaghy, E Newton, R Fleck, M Harford, N Spackman, D Wise. Subs not used: J Spencer, N Colgan (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.

Norwich City: B Gunn; I Culverhouse, M Bowen, J Polston, C Sutton, G Megson, I Crook (D Sutch, 76 min), R Newman, M Robins, J Goss, D Phillips. Subs not used: C Woodthorpe, M Walton (gk). Manager: M Walker.

Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).

Goals: Harford (1-0, 2 min); Townsend (2-0, 28 min); Robins (2-1, 46 min); Robins (2-2, 75 min); Phillips (2-3, 80 min).