Norwich City 0 Leeds United 1

Ashton left in the shade by Hulse's heavy blow
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The Independent Online

While three points from five games is disappointing for Nigel Worthington, the Norwich manager, his Leeds counterpart, Kevin Blackwell, was delighted with a powerful performance by his side that took them to fourth place in the Championship table.

Leeds' direct approach was exemplified by their striker Rob Hulse, who bundled home the winner from close range in the 67th minute and whose bulky presence constantly caused problems for the Norwich defence.

"We've missed Rob for the first four games of the season," said Blackwell of the former Crewe striker, whom Norwich tried to sign in 2003. "Defenders need to know they can't have it all their way, and Rob gives us that element of physical power that you need."

For Norwich, the big cheers before the game were for Dean Ashton, another ex-Crewe forward, who signed a new contract last week. Ashton looked out of sorts, though, missing two good chances in the first half and fading in the second.

Norwich did show signs of the attacking flair expected from them at the start of the season, often through Darren Huckerby, but they lacked precision around the Leeds box and were well contained by a defence that has now kept four clean sheets in a row.

Huckerby's duel with Dan Harding summed up the game in many ways. Huckerby was all galloping swagger in an unfamiliar right-wing role, but it was the young left-back, aided by the highly impressive Eddie Lewis, who came out on top.

In an even first half, Hulse headed against the bar, while at the other end Ashton missed twice when one-on-one with the Leeds goalkeeper Ian Bennett.

Norwich peppered the goal with long-range efforts from Huckerby and Jim Brennan in the second half, but Leeds always looked the more likely scorers, especially when Hulse got within inches of a Gylfi Einarsson header at the back post.

With Norwich fourth bottom, Worthington admitted that the Championship table makes for hard reading. "It's not easy to look at," he said. "But that's football and that's life and we have to face up to these things. We need to relax in front of goal and put the ball in the back of the net."

Goal: Hulse (67) 0-1.

Norwich City (4-3-3): Green; Colin (Doherty, 79), Shackell, Fleming, Charlton (McVeigh, 87); Brennan, Marney, Safri; Huckerby, McKenzie, Ashton. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Jarrett, Henderson.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Bennett; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Harding; Richardson, Einarsson, Derry, Lewis; Healy (Cresswell, 73), Hulse (Douglas, 79). Substitutes not used: Sullivan (gk), Kilgallon, Blake.

Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Leeds Hulse, Lewis.

Man of the match: Hulse

Attendance: 25,015.

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