Norwich City are soon to lose two of their most influential players and with them their initiative. Yesterday, though, they were at loss to take anything more than a less than satisfactory point from a game that only stimulated excitement in the final minute when Millwall's Kevin Muscat was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Although Norwich remain strongly placed in the early jousting for promotion from the First Division, they may well be on borrowed time. Having taken Darren Huckerby and Peter Crouch on loan from Manchester City and Aston Villa respectively, the borrowing period of three months is almost at an end. Crouch is certain to leave and a decisioon on Huckerby will be made this week. Norwich will be left to fill a substantial gap, both players having become reliable goal scorers.
Crouch could have broken a prolonged early period of tentative probing by both sides yesterday when, after 22 minutes, Millwall's defence fumbled badly to allow him a comparatively straightforward header. However, Darren Ward had stationed himself on the line and headed away.
As for Huckerby, he was given a hostile reception by the home fans despite the fact that when on loan to their club back in 1996, he performed admirably. Here, he maintained his usual pace down the left side which is still a problem for any defence. What he does with the ball remains unpredictable.
Norwich felt aggrieved that in the 20th minute, Paul McVeigh tumbled in the penalty area but the referee saw it as exactly that - an involuntary fall - and Millwall quickly composed themselves. They were deprived of an opening goal when one of their own on-loan players, Nick Chadwick, shot into a crowded goal mouth where Robert Green deflected the ball back to him before superbly blocking the return header with a diving save.
By replacing Bob Peeters with Kevin Braniff after half-time, Millwall marginally improved their attacking potential. In a rare, well- organised moment of attractiveness Peter Sweeney found Braniff with a sweeping cross but the shot that followed was not its equal. Norwich's lack of control in midfield, where McVeigh seemed inhibited by an early caution, was disappointing. Crouch was given inadequate service and Huckerby faded. Not that Millwall took much in the way of positive advantage.
Quite why Millwall's captain Muscat could spend so much of a negative game seemingly in high dudgeon was difficult to know. He had already been cautioned when, in the 80th minute, he kicked out at Huckerby when they were both on the ground, and though the referee missed the incident a linesman saw it and Muscat was rightly dismissed. Half the players on the field joined a heated discussion but none of it amounted to much - likewise the match.
Millwall 0 Norwich City 0
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