International Football: Norway undermine Toshack's experiment: Crowd reacts angrily to disastrous start for new regime

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The Independent Online
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JOHN TOSHACK'S return to international football and Ninian Park ended in disappointment and anger last night when the tactical revolution the new Wales manager believes can take on the world was shown up by a Norway team allowed an easy preparation for their World Cup summer.

It is early days, of course, and with some key players missing it was perhaps too much to expect that Wales could do to the Scandinavians what England could not. Yet despite the changes Toshack rung and kept on ringing, his team failed to impose themselves and Chris Coleman's goal two minutes from time could not disguise the gulf between the sides.

One goal adrift after six minutes, the Cardiff crowd had lost patience by half-time, booing off their team. The two that sailed past Neville Southall immediately after the turn- round prompted calls for the return of Terry Yorath, who was controversially ousted two months ago. The sun wil make San Sebastian a far more welcoming place when his part- time successor flies home today.

Afterwards Toshack took the blame for the defeat, saying his players had done all that was asked of them. 'If you are going to point the finger, look no further than me,' he said. 'Because of the nature of the game I did not pay as much attention to the opposition as I would normally do. But if anybody thinks I can come over and, after a training session of an hour and a half, we would be able to beat a very, very good side, they would be very foolish indeed. At least things can only get better from here.'

The new era kicked off seven minutes late. Perhaps that was what Toshack meant when he had hinted there would be no Rush. In the event, Wales' record scorer was there from the start but, unusually and uncomfortably, in the advanced line of midfield players primed to get up in support of Mark Hughes.

But a system, any system, depends on the ability of those required to carry it out, and individual mistakes can bring it crashing down. Shortly after the start, Gary Speed lost the ball to Jostein Flo and from close on 30 yards the striker who cannot win a place with Sheffield United surprised Southall with a shot that crept into his right- hand corner.

Toshack was frequently on his feet directing his men into the positions he wanted them to adopt. But little was happening for him, the flow of the game mostly in the opposite direction. After half-time Rush was restored to the position he prefers, though it was the Norwegian attackers posing the problems. They must have impressed the Republic of Ireland's assistant manager, Maurice Setters, whose side share the same World Cup group.

When Erik Mykland and Jahn Ivar Jakobsen combined adroitly, the former tucked away his shot. Two minutes later, in the 51st minute, Andy Melville completely missed his clearance and Jakobsen accepted with thanks at the far post.

WALES (3-3-3-1): Southall (Everton); Young (Crystal Palace), Melville (Sunderland), Coleman (Crystal Palace); Perry (Cardiff City), Horne (Everton), Phillips (Nottingham Forest); Blake (Sheffield United), Rush (Liverpool), Speed (Leeds United); M Hughes (Manchester United). Substitutes: C Hughes (Luton Town) for M Hughes, h/t; Saunders (Aston Villa) for Speed, 60; Pembridge (Derby County) for Blake, 60.

NORWAY (4-4-2): Grodas (Lillestrom); Berg (Blackburn Rovers), Loken (Rosenborg), Pedersen (Oldham), Bjornebye (Liverpool); Mykland (Start), Bohinen (Nottingham Forest), Rekdal, Jakobsen (both Lierse); Flo (Sheffield United), Fjortoft (Swindon Town). Substitutes: Solbakken (Lillestrom), for Rekdal, 70; Frigard (Kongsvinger) for Fjortoft, 79.

Referee: J Ferry (Northern Ireland).