Hughes drinks to revival as Norwich whine backfires

Blackburn Rovers 3 Norwich City 0
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The Independent Online

Nigel Worthington described this match as a "bad day in the office" and was wondering whether he might get a pretty ropey evening in there too. "I'm going for a glass of wine with Mark Hughes," he said, pausing for effect. "As long as I drink it and don't wear it, I'll be fine." He was joking, or at least we hope so, because Sparky was pretty riled by Worthington's suggestions that Blackburn Rovers can be over-aggressive and might have proved the latter's point if the Norwich City manager had come within popping-cork range on Friday. Come the end of this game, however, Hughes was as warm and mellow as a good claret.

Nigel Worthington described this match as a "bad day in the office" and was wondering whether he might get a pretty ropey evening in there too. "I'm going for a glass of wine with Mark Hughes," he said, pausing for effect. "As long as I drink it and don't wear it, I'll be fine." He was joking, or at least we hope so, because Sparky was pretty riled by Worthington's suggestions that Blackburn Rovers can be over-aggressive and might have proved the latter's point if the Norwich City manager had come within popping-cork range on Friday. Come the end of this game, however, Hughes was as warm and mellow as a good claret.

Blackburn would have been deep in a relegation mess stickier than the Goodison Park pitch if they had lost, but victory had pushed them eight points clear of their third-from-bottom opponents and Hughes could afford to let the steam dissipate. "We were able to make a statement of what we're about," he said. "From now to the end of the season we'll be looking up rather than down."

Hughes was pleased Rovers had won the football battle as well as the physical one, but the visitors were so generous with their errors Saint Peter's team of angels would have fancied at least a point. It was a bad day in the office all right, so bad that, if the driver of the Norwich coach was in similar form, the team would have got to Norfolk via Inverness.

Not that he would have asked Robert Green the way. He was twice beaten at his near post and then let a drive from Paul Dickov slip under his body. Green was by no means the only culprit in a Norwich shirt. Simon Charlton was beaten too easily by Morten Gamst Pedersen for the first goal, the defence was asleep when the 5ft 6in Dickov headed the second and a ludicrous pass across the pitch preceded the third.

It was such a shambles you wondered whether Worthington's comments about Blackburn's bullying tactics had backfired to the extent that Norwich could not play their normal game, but he was having none of it. "I didn't want a Chelsea situation," Worthington said, referring to a fortnight ago when Arjen Robben was crocked. "I have got to protect my players, simple as that. I've got seven injuries and the last thing we need is more. I thought the referee dealt with the situation and Blackburn were not a problem." But his own team were clearly a very weighty one. "Blackburn had three chances and scored; we had three and didn't even hit the target," he moaned before moving to the back. "We didn't defend well. If you defend like that you're going to lose matches."

It was a whine that needs to be appreciated, if not savoured, by his players.

Goals: Pedersen (17) 1-0; Dickov (39) 2-0; Dickov (62) 3-0.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Nelsen, Todd, Mokoena (Neill, h-t), Johansson; Emerton (Reid, 70), Tugay, Savage (Thompson, 75), Pedersen; Gallagher, Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Johnson.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Charlton (Safri, 75), Fleming, Doherty, Drury; Stuart, Francis, Holt, Brennan (McKenzie, h-t); Huckerby, Ashton. Substitutes not used: Gallacher (gk), McVeigh, Shackell.

Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).

Booked: Blackburn Rovers Tugay, Neill; Norwich City Francis.

Man of the match: Dickov.

Attendance: 20,923.

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