Football: Walker points out the positive

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The Independent Online
Norwich City. . . . 0

Tottenham Hotspur. .0

OVER-AMBITION will not hinder Norwich's progress during the second half of the campaign as they aim to consolidate an interval lead which now carries an 'if only' tag gaining greater prominence with every game.

Boxing Day marked the mid- point of their pinch-me season. The morning results had gone their way and it was with excited anticipation that the green and yellow favours poured into Carrow Road. The outcome, though, like so much else in the immediate aftermath of Christmas, proved to be an anti-climax.

You sensed another psychological advantage had been allowed to slip away. Still, there was to be no banging of Canary heads in the dressing-room, no wringing of hands from the manager. Instead Mike Walker spoke of the success in avoiding a third successive failure and of the achievement in maintaining a clean sheet (for the first time in the League since 19 September).

The fact that two points had gone and could not be recovered did not seem to bother him unduly. And who could argue with the philosophy, as provincial and humble as it might first appear. Having disputed Norwich's suitability to carry the Premier League banner and disparaged their ability to stay in front, it would be churlish now to condemn them for failing to meet our revised expectations.

In the past they have dug out a victory when the tide has been against them but fate cannot always be so kind. Here Norwich were the better team, built a compelling period of supremacy in the second half yet could not quite push over the barricades.

Through good organisation and defensive resource Tottenham remained intact and always carried the menace of a strike of their own. Walker identified them as being typical of the kind of challenge his unlikely lads must expect as the season wears on.

'What's happening now is that teams are paying us a compliment by coming here, bringing people back and making it hard for us,' he said. 'They no longer come here to play a good game of football because if they do that they know they'll get hammered. We have to keep things in perspective and this was a good point for us.'

To Norfolk delight Ian Crook returned after injury and his presence has a galvanising effect on those around him. But, as the terrace decibels rose, Ruel Fox and David Phillips proved unable to maximise City's possession, Walker lamenting their use of the 'final' ball.

Norwich have now been scoreless in the last three games. It was always unreasonable to expect Phillips to continue drawing from the well that yielded him so much inspiration before and when Mark Robins is crowded out there is little in the way of alternative supply.

On Saturday the responsibility fell to Chris Sutton as did the best of his team's opportunities. When the young man preferred to Darren Beckford sharpens his anticipation and develops a shade more ruthlessness he will be better placed to make the responsibility his own.

Tottenham continue to pick up points from unexpected places. Even without Gordon Durie - unsettled by transfer rumours linking him with Rangers, the Scottish striker did not feel right 'mentally' to play and could also miss today's visit of Nottingham Forest - they still carried enough weaponry to return home with a point.

Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Newman, Polston, Megson, Crook, Sutton, Robins, Fox, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Beckford, Sutch, Walton (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur: Thorstvedt; Austin, Edinburgh, Samways, Mabbutt, Ruddock, Howells, Barmby (Moran, 82), Anderton, Sheringham, Allen. Substitutes not used: Bergsson, Walker (gk).

Referee: J Martin (Hampshire).

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