Francis equaliser seals Keegan's night of frustration

Manchester City 1 - Norwich City 1
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The Independent Football

There is something rather ironic about Norwich accepting a sponsorship deal with Lotus. As they have shown an acceleration rate of 0 to 7 points in three months, Lada might have been a more appropriate vehicle.

A list of the top flight's most hopeless teams of the past 20 years would reveal that all bar one - West Bromwich Albion in 1985-6 - found a first win quicker than Norwich, who, on Saturday, will go into their 12th game still searching for a victory. Since their opponents are Blackburn and the venue is Carrow Road, the outcome will be significant for both clubs.

And yet, Norwich are not adrift, they are not even bottom of the Premiership, and for much of this campaign, their manager, Nigel Worthington, could point to matches like these in which they matched their opponents. A draw at Manchester City is, however, only a limited triumph and had Willo Flood not somehow been denied a second goal of the night by the inside of the post or Craig Fleming not handled Robbie Fowler's shot on the line, this would have been a fifth defeat.

For City, this was another mediocre team that had escaped unpunished, another game in which Kevin Keegan raged at a refereeing decision.

The referee Steve Bennett was several yards away and perfectly sighted when Fowler's shot was parried by Fleming's forearm. When Keegan remarked: "How can that not be a penalty?" the question was entirely rhetorical.

As he had when going down to an inexperienced Arsenal side in the League Cup, Keegan pointed to a lack of leadership from his expensive, senior professionals. "With half an hour left, they took free-kicks and corners as if it were the last two minutes," Keegan said. "There was panic there almost."

Robert Green made several fine saves for Norwich, but Flood's 11th-minute shot was merely palmed into the corner of his own net. The 19-year-old Dubliner would not care. It came from a beautiful move - a flowing series of passes that finished with Shaun Wright-Phillips crossing for Flood's volley.

Having seen their side average less than a goal a game, those fans who travelled to Manchester from Norfolk would hardly have banked on a breakthrough after 12 seconds of the second half. Naturally, City contributed to their own downfall as Richard Dunne and Danny Mills failed to clear a long punt upfield and saw the ball break to Damien Francis, whose shooting was lethally precise.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne (Onuoha, 68), Distin, Jordan; Flood, Bosvelt, Sibierski, McManaman (Fowler, 81); S Wright-Phillips, Anelka. Substitutes not used: Waterreus (gk), McCarthy, B Wright-Phillips.

Norwich City (4-3-3): Green; Edworthy, Fleming, Charlton, Brennan; Jonson (Henderson, 81), Francis, Holt; McKenzie (McVeigh, 87), Svensson, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Mulryne, Helveg.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).