Football: Sutton on button as Norwich press on

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

Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

TWO goals in three minutes midway through the second half last night gave Norwich City a victory they will undoubtedly cherish for some time to come.

A 7-1 defeat at Ewood Park last season, and before that a run of nine defeats and two draws in their previous 11 appearances here, hardly inspired confidence. Even Norwich's vociferous and plentiful support would not have been too expectant after they had witnessed City's indifferent performance against Manchester United on Sunday.

Norwich appeared to have read the script and although they created a host of scoring chances, with Chris Sutton in brilliant form, they could not find the net even though Bobby Mimms was having one of his hesitant nights. Ruel Fox was able to find ample space to perplex the Rovers' defence as Norwich responded to Mark Atkins' glancing header in the seventh minute, but his finishing left much to be desired.

But the misses did amplify two important factors - that Sutton, Ian Crook and Rob Newman were causing more and more problems and eroding Blackburn's confidence. It was only fitting that Norwich should draw level a minute before the break when Mimms was unable to hold a rasping shot from Crook and Sutton was on hand to pop the ball into the gaping goal.

Whatever manager Kenny Dalglish had to say at the break certainly seemed to give new drive to Blackburn and it was no surprise when Wilcox smacked a return pass from Mike Newell past Bryan Gunn to restore Blackburn's advantage.

But that was when Norwich tore up the script. In the 63rd minute a free- kick by Crook was headed back by Sutton for Newman to blast the ball home and three minutes later a mix- up in the Blackburn defence left Sutton alone with only Mimms to beat and that was that.

After an eight-month absence, Alan Shearer appeared in the 73rd minute to a tumultuous welcome and his presence spurred frantic efforts for an equaliser, but it was not to be. In fact, his short return was blemished when he was brought down from behind by Newman and the England player's reaction caused a flare-up which needed a firm hand from the referee, Robbie Hart, but there were no bookings.

The Norwich manager, Mike Walker, was delighted by theend of his club's dispiriting sequence at Ewood Park. 'They stepped up a gear after Sunday as I said we would. Everyone else looks to put us down and we have come here and done the business tonight.

'There are not many sides who will come to Blackburn this season and go away with the spoils. But we broke the sequence, it was a fine performance and we deserved to win.'

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Mimms; May, Marker, Moran (Berg, 73), Le Saux; Ripley, Sherwood, Atkins, Wilcox; Newell, Gallacher (Shearer, 73). Substitutes not used: Talia (gk).

Norwich City (1-3-4-2): Gunn; Culverhouse; Butterworth, Polston, Newman; Bowen, Crook, Goss, Fox; Sutton, Robins. Substitutes not used: Ekoku, Megson, Howie (gk).

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

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