Leeds United. . .2
CHRIS SUTTON, centre-back, or centre-forward? That seemed the more pertinent debate last night at Carrow Road after Norwich had returned to form, closing to within four points of the Premier League leaders, Manchester United, though they have just three games remaining.
How the reviving Canaries must wish they could face Leeds again, again and again. Then we could still be talking about them as possibilities. Sutton, a 'diabolical' defender in last week's two crippling defeats by United and Tottenham, was pushed up front and helped himself, on Leeds' invitation, to a hat-trick, the first of his career.
The last time Sutton played as an attacker he scored the winner at Everton, the time before that he scored in the defeat of Crystal Palace. Recently, his appearances have all been as a stopper, but with Ian Butterworth summoned to repair the holes that have undermined Norwich all season, he once again had the chance to demonstrate his versality.
'Chris has done a really good job at the back, but he had a diabolical game at Spurs and it was time for a change,' the Norwich manager, Mike Walker, said. 'He prefers it up front and it certainly worked out for him tonight.'
The title? Just three weeks from the end of the campaign, the chief Canary is not about to change the tune he has sung since August. 'We have shown the front two we are still around and we'll keep the pressure on,' Walker added. 'It's in their hands, but better teams than them have lost two or three games at this stage.'
Accepting all that, the situation dictates that Norwich's target is a place in Europe. It would be a first for the club, and as compensation goes, perfectly acceptable.
It was in Europe that Leeds recorded one of only two wins away from Elland Road this term. They have still to win on their travels in the League, and for 11 minutes hinted at an ability to lay that particular ghost as Lee Chapman sent them ahead in three minutes from Jamie Forrester's astute pass. He almost followed up with a header that was well claimed by Bryan Gunn.
By the quarter-hour, however, Leeds were 3-1 down, made to pay three times for inadequacies at the back which ensure they are not yet safe from the threat of relegation. First, Mark Bowen's cross enabled Sutton to climb between Chris Fairclough and Dylan Kerr for a header John Lukic was slow to react to.
Fairclough defended Ruel Fox's centre no better three minutes later, Sutton eventually helping on David Phillips's assist. The next minute saw Kerr impede Fox for a penalty that Phillips put away.
Such an open affair promised more and it came within two minutes of the restart, courtesy of Rod Wallace's sharp burst and nifty skills, to put Leeds back in it. Appropriately, Sutton had the final word. Chasing a through ball, he obtained a fortuitous deflection from Lukic's clearance and scored into an empty net.
Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Butterworth, Polston, Goss, Cook, Sutton, Robins, Fox, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Ekoku, Johnson, Walton (gk).
Leeds United: Lukic; Kerslake, Kerr, Tinkler, Fairclough, Whyte, Strachan, Rod Wallace, Chapman, Forrester (Hodge, 75), Speed. Substitutes not used: Newsome, Day (gk).
Referee: W Burge (Tonypandy).
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