Football: Ron sounds off

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa. . 1

Saunders 62

Norwich City. .1

Milligan 50

Attendance: 22,468

ASTON VILLA'S superhuman victory over Internazionale disguises a run of four straight defeats, which was finally halted yesterday. Villa's poor form in mid-table has brought out the irascible authoritarian over the ebullient boy in Ron Atkinson. Pauncho Villa, master of the sound bite, belligerently defended his team and reserved his snappy put-downs for the press.

To add to their on-the-field woes, Villa have come under attack from a Channel 4 documentary for poor ground safety. The club yesterday rebutted the allegations, including an intriguing clarification of a point about the exit signs above some lavatories.

Atkinson's apparent tension was understandable. Norwich moved ahead after 50 minutes with a cartoon goal - 'comic cuts', Atkinson called it - not the first they have scored this season. Mark Robins's cross was prodded on to a post by the impressive midfielder Darren Eadie, then turned against the bar by Mike Sheron. Eadie sent the rebound goal- ward, the out-of-sorts Kevin Richardson's goal-line clearance was tentative and Mike Milligan's header was allowed to bobble in for his first Norwich goal.

Norwich, who lost Carl Bradshaw near the end with twisted knee ligaments, narrowly deserved their lead for their skilful passing if not their menace near goal. Their neat habits have propelled them to sixth place. One early, intricate move, ending with Eadie shooting over, was worthy of Romanian sophistication, though at half the speed and without real threat. However, it was the home side, who travel to the Black Sea on Monday, who created the chances: a Dwight Yorke close-range header and a Dalian Atkinson fluffed shot in front of goal. The equaliser duly arrived just after the hour, Dean Saunders expertly flicking in Garry Parker's chipped cross with his forehead.

Norwich held on, surviving Yorke's last-gasp header against the post. Villa have now won only two Premiership home games since February. The watching Trabzonspor officials and journalists were not exiting fearfully to the lavatories.