Leeds Utd 1 Norwich City 0: Healy sets Leeds off on long road back

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The Independent Online

Exactly 11 weeks ago, Leeds were defeated in the Championship play-off final by Watford in Cardiff. Their off-season lasted just five weeks, two of which their manager, Kevin Blackwell, spent on jury service. But David Healy's first-half penalty at least ensured the first three points of another marathon season.

Norwich, who, like Leeds, should contend for promotion, were unfortunate not to have left Elland Road with a point. Robert Earnshaw missed two outstanding chances and hit the post twice while Darren Huckerby, playing against one of his former clubs, was a constant threat.

Leeds were solid enough defensively but the second-half withdrawal of Healy in favour of a fifth midfielder betrayed a familiar lack of belief in their ability to finish a team off.

"I expect teams to create chances but so did we," said Blackwell. "I was pleased with the performance against a side that lots of people fancy. After Cardiff I knew I had to make some changes, and I have, and we've started the season in the right way."

Healy might have put Leeds ahead with a neat shot on the turn, but Norwich had the better of the early chances. The first came when Shaun Derry's pass was intercepted only for Earnshaw to allow Tony Warner to smother his shot. Then Earnshaw's curling shot rebounded off the inside of the post.

Derry's improvised back-flick and Healy's low shot, after Gary Kelly had helped work an opening, were the best Leeds could manage before they were gifted the lead just before half time.

Lee Croft, on his debut after his move from Manchester City, tripped Steve Stone as the former England midfielder drifted harmlessly away from goal and Healy scored from the penalty spot. It was harsh on Norwich, who should have equalised when Croft found Earnshaw unmarked on the far post.

Norwich threw men forward and almost equalised at the death when the hapless Earnshaw saw his final attempt on goal catch the outside of the post. "I'm pleased we came to Leeds and put on a performance like that," said Nigel Worthington, the Norwich manager. "Robert Earnshaw will score goals in this League, there's no doubt about that, as long as we continue to create chances. There were a lot of pluses for us - apart from not picking up any points."

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