Norwich City 1 Sunderland 0: Earnshaw lands undeserved victory

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The Independent Online

This win has not exactly propelled Norwich City towards the play-off places but it may have given the Canaries a much-needed injection of confidence, perhaps all the more so given it was entirely against the run of play. Thanks to Robert Earnshaw's well-taken strike early in the second half, Peter Grant, their new manager,notched up his third League win since taking charge.

Norwich had to survive two late penalty claims, at least one of which deserved serious consideration from the referee, Mike Riley, as well as numerous shots on Paul Gallacher's goal. By comparison, Norwich were efficiency personified. One chance, one goal. Still, Grant's reaction was to say: "I'm shattered." The decisive moment arrived with six minutes of the second half elapsed and Sunderland continuing to force the issue in the same manner as their first-half performance.

However, looking brighter after the interval, Norwich seized their opportunity on the counter-attack. Paul McVeigh had been pushed higher up in support of Earnshaw and it was the midfielder who received the ball by the left wing. His pass was well-weighted and once the Welsh international had sight of goal he calmly beat Darren Ward from 20 yards.

Having gone close through David Connolly, after two minutes, and Tobias Hysen after half-an-hour, Sunderland were understandably peeved to fall behind. For his part, Roy Keane was an impassive spectator on the touchline, watching his Sunderland team somehow conspiring not to score.

The visitors' fortunes could have turned within the space of two minutes. With 17 minutes remaining came the first penalty decision when Dion Dublin tackled the substitute Daryl Murphy from behind, six yards out. Murphy fell to ground and Keane was convinced it was a penalty. Summing up the way things are not going for his men at present, he added: "We just lacked the final quality ball. You've got to take your chances and I felt we deserved a point. But the referee's made his decision and you've got to live with that." Having not been awarded anything on that occasion, Keane cannot have been surprised to see a handball claim then waved away although Chris Brown could have alleviated some of the pain two minutes later. The midfielder outjumped Dublin from eight yards out but directed his header a yard wide of Gallacher's post to complete Keane's misery.

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