Francis helps Norwich find winning form

Norwich City 2 - Southampton 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

For three months, as his players struggled for their first league win of the season, the Norwich City manager, Nigel Worthington, spoke enviously of the quality strikers elsewhere in the Premiership and said his side would just have to battle on with what they had.

Luckily for Worthington, one of his midfield players has come up with the goods just as things were looking ominous.

Damien Francis's brace against Southampton on Saturday took his tally to four in six games. It also allowed Norwich to banish the prospect of setting a club record stretching back 84 years of 14 successive league matches without a win.

"I'm happy with the goals, but I'm working hard for the team," said Francis, who had two excellent chances to complete his hat-trick. "Hopefully this will be a turning point. We had to win. We have to beat the teams around us to realistically have a chance of staying up."

Before Saturday's game, Worthington pulled the players together to watch a motivational video of winners like Michael Schumacher and Mohammad Ali. "It's something we occasionally do," he said. "It appears to have spurred us on."

How the Southampton head coach, Steve Wigley, must wish he could apply the same motivational skills. Saints have only won one more game than Norwich and are level on points down in the drop zone.

Wigley can have few complaints about this latest setback. Southampton had plenty of possession but rarely threatened. Even before they took the lead through James Beattie, they might have conceded a penalty when Darren Huckerby's cross hit the Norwich captain Jason Dodd's arm. Unintentional ball to hand ruled the referee Mike Riley.

Southampton's defence should certainly have prevented the winner. When Darren Bentley swung in a corner and Craig Fleming knocked the ball forward, there was not a single red-and-white shirt within three yards of Francis, who applied a simple headed finish.

Rumours persist that Glenn Hoddle could yet be reinstalled at St Mary's before the game against Crystal Palace next weekend. "I am what I am and it's for you lot to find out," was Wigley's cryptic response to being asked about the renewed pressure. "All I know is that we kick-started Norwich's season which I didn't want, however much I like Nigel." It smacked of a decent man feeling the tension. How long the agony will last is now up to the chairman, Rupert Lowe, and his board.

Goals: Beattie 24 (0-1) Francis 28 (1-1), Francis 52 (2-1).

Norwich (4-4-2) Green, Edworthy, Fleming, Charlton, Drury; Bentley, Mulryne, Francis, Huckerby; McKenzie, Svensson. Substitutes Not Used: Jonson, Safri, Ward, Helveg, Doherty.

Southampton (4-4-2) Keller, Dodd (Crouch 83), Lundekvam, Kenton, Le Saux; Fernandes, Delap, Telfer (Nilsson 72), Anders Svensson; Beattie, Blackstock (Phillips 60). Substitutes Not Used: Jakobsson, Blayney.

Referee: M Riley (W Yorkshire)

Booked: Norwich: Bentley. Southampton: Kenton.

Man of the match: Damien Francis.

Attendance: 23,706.