Football: Rovers work for the spoils

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

NORWICH put the worst horrors of their last visit to Ewood Park behind them, but still could not prevent the Premier League leaders from progressing into the fourth round of the Coca-Cola Cup last night.

A goal in each half, both from set pieces, amounted to a mere slap on the wrist compared to the indignities heaped upon City when they lost 7-1 only 25 days ago.

But for the frailties revealed by one free-kick and one corner, they had their fair share of proceedings and could have been ahead before Alan Shearer ended what has been laughably referred to in Blackburn as a two-match goal drought.

Jeremy Goss, an industrious midfield man, had hit the post after Chris Sutton had nodded the ball down to him. Sutton and Rob Newman, in fact, had formed a hard-working if somewhat heavy- duty striking partnership in the absence of Mark Robins, who paid for a genuine scoring drought by being relegated to substitute.

In the 32nd minute, however, Shearer struck. David Phillips was clearly unhappy with the verdict that he had fouled Mike Newell eight yards outside the area, but there could be no argument about Shearer's swerving right- footed free-kick that found the corner of Bryan Gunn's net.

Norwich carried enough threat to come within inches of an equaliser before half-time. Daryl Sutch's right-wing run saw Newman denied on the near post and, from the corner, it took the diminutive Alan Wright to clear

Newman's header off the line.

With Jason Wilcox and Lee Makel - making his first appearance following his summer transfer from Newcastle when replacing the limping Stuart Ripley - full of running, Blackburn always looked capable of consolidating.

Norwich, though, made the first gesture of the second half, Goss's touch letting Crook hit a firm long-range shot that was held comfortably by Bobby Mimms.

There was no denying Blackburn, though, who struck on the hour when Makel's cunning chip towards Mark Atkins was cleared for a corner by John Polston. Wilcox's cross exposed the uncertainty in a defence forced to reshuffle following the loss of Ian Culverhouse at half-time. David May, booked early in the game for a challenge on Newman, was unchallenged inside the six-yard box and he flicked a header past Gunn.

The Norwich goalkeeper reacted superbly to tip a shot from his old team-mate, Tim Sherwood, over the bar and Makel was narrowly wide after another sharp piece of work. Further goals would have flattered Blackburn who, this time at least, had to work for the spoils.

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Wright, Sherwood, Hendry, Dobson, Ripley (Makel, 42), Atkins, Shearer, Newell, Wilcox. Substitute not used: Wegerle.

Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse (Fox, 45), Bowen, Butterworth, Polston, Sutch, Crook, Phillips, Newman, Goss (Robins, 85), Sutton.

Referee: M Peck (Kendal).