Blizzard fails to knock Canaries off title perch

Watford 1 Norwich City 2
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Norwich City celebrated their already-assured promotion to the Premiership at Vicarage Road yesterday not in impressive style but with several other attributes that have served them well this season.

Norwich City celebrated their already-assured promotion to the Premiership at Vicarage Road yesterday not in impressive style but with several other attributes that have served them well this season.

If football teams reflect the character of their managers, then Norwich are the spitting image of Nigel Worthington, a back-to-basics man without flamboyance or charisma. The club's major benefactor and popular director, Delia Smith, built her career along similar lines, propagating the theory that before cooking anything exotic, first learn how to boil an egg.

The question for next season is whether the foundations laid in this one will be firm enough to stay in the Premiership. There is an unfortunate but strong feeling that none of the teams in the First Division look much better than any of the Premier League's strugglers. Sensibly, Norwich are making no outlandish claims. Delia, who spent yesterday's match among the fans, talks of "safety and survival'', but even that could be a high target.

Worthington said last night: "Those fans probably don't realise how important they are. With them, we can get to more points next season than people think."

There has been no surge of interest among richer clubs for any players, a relief for Worthington. Darren Huckerby, with his pace and goalscoring instinct, has been too quick for many a First Division defence and crucial to the promotion success, but individuality is not the cornerstone. Promotion has been won through consistency based on a rarely-changed defence. Worthington is very much of the "if it ain't broke don't mend it'' style of management, and has been fortunate not to have had an injury crisis all season.

There was a sense yesterday that in spite of wanting the championship title, Norwich were likely to relax and leave Watford to secure their First Division status. Certainly, Watford did stretch them in the early part, but only in the way that warms the muscles of a better team. As soon as Huckerby had made a few sprints down the left and sent over some defence-teasing centres, the impression was that Watford would need to exceed even their own recent good form to deny Norwich another day of triumph. They certainly tried.

They were marginally ahead in the possession stakes when, after half an hour, their defence was wrong-footed by Leon McKenzie whose pass across the penalty area allowed Damien Francis space in which to place a low shot beyond Alec Chamberlain.

Watford compounded their difficulties when, three minutes after half-time, Chamberlain handled outside the penalty area. Kevin Cooper's floated free-kick dropped through a queue of heads and McKenzie claimed the goal.

Although from then on Norwich were not able to coast, they were not exactly in top gear. They saw Sean Dyche clip their crossbar with a rasping 30-yarder, and then their usually alert defence crowded each other to let substitute Dominic Blizzard slip in a goal on his debut. Bruce Dyer also hit the bar, but the Norwich fans were the first to it afterwards.

Watford 1
Blizzard 78

Norwich City 2
Francis 29, McKenzie 48

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 19,290

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