Football: Sutton drives Norwich back to the summit

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Everton . . . . .0

Norwich City. . .1

THOSE big-money clubs that have recently been calling the tune at the top of the Premier League may still not have it all their own way this season - the Canaries are back on song and once again perched on top. 'If people want to say it's a two-horse race, that's fine. Maybe we're the donkeys trailing in behind to pinch it,' Mike Walker, their manager, said after the game.

Having gone six games without a League win Norwich have suddenly, in the space of four days, rediscovered the assurance that took them to that heady eight-point lead in early December. 'We've had an indifferent spell, but the good thing was how we've tightened up at the back. After last week's cup defeat at Spurs, a few people were told a few things, and the victory on Wednesday against Palace carried over to today,' Walker added.

Certainly what caught the eye was the way they showed their claws when Everton came at them in the second half. City's weakness has often been a reluctance to battle when their sweet passing has come to nought. But here was a performance, bristling with determination, that received its due reward, although it was tinged with luck when Tony Cottee missed two excellent chances late on.

Norwich, urged on by a few dozen extra Sunderland supporters who had strayed in from a waterlogged Prenton Park, started confidently as if they had not heard of Everton's recent revival. Injury still deprived them of Ian Crook's creativity and Walker retained the youthful strike force of Lee Power, 20, and Chris Sutton, 19, a decision that paid immediate dividends. After 16 minutes Sutton seized on to a mistake by Everton's Dave Watson and went haring through the middle before hitting a low drive in off a far post.

The visitors, with Ruel Fox sneaking into gaps, had by far the stealthier approach in the first half, and the home side were pedantic and predictable by contrast.

But Peter Beardsley's uncanny knack of killing the ball and sending it where he wants breathed some life into Everton just before the interval. Cottee's close-range header was brilliantly tipped over by Brian Gunn and then Beardsley's shot ricocheted on to the bar and almost hit the roof, which is probably what Howard Kendall, the manager, did at half-time.

His rearranged team with Paul Rideout on for Snodin played with greater elan and caged the Canaries in for almost all of the second half. Beardsley had a piledriver blocked and then a moment's sophistication saw a neat interchange end in Cottee skimming the bar from 20 yards.

The arrival of the pacey Stewart Barlow for Predrag Radosavljevic then offered an attacking route via the right flank but Everton were slow to use him preferring instead to feed Beardsley down the middle.

In an exhilarating finale, the referee, Lewis, waved play on after Gary Megson had appeared to trip Cottee, who saw Gunn push his last ditch effort on to the post and clear.

'I threw myself to my right and managed to get a couple of fingers to it. The ball spun on to the post and thankfully came straight back into my arms,' Gunn said.

Everton: N Southall, M Jackson, A Harper, I Snodin (P Rideout, 45 min), D Watson, G Ablett, P Radosavljevic (S Barlow, 68 min), P Beardsley, T Cottee, B Horne, B Kenny. Sub not used: J Kearton (gk). Manager: H Kendall.

Norwich City: B Gunn, I Culverhouse, M Bowen, I Butterworth, J Polston, G Megson, J Goss, L Power (M Robins, 81 min), C Sutton, R Fox, D Phillips. Subs not used: C Woodthorpe, M Walton (gk). Manager: M Walker.

Referee: R Lewis (Great Bookham).

Goal: Sutton (0-1, 16 min).