Stone strike sends Norwich free-falling into drop zone

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FOOTBALL

BY TREVOR HAYLETT

Norwich City 0

Nottingham Forest 1

Gary Megson's first game since taking over as the Norwich manager ended last night in a heartbreaking defeat to a goal four minutes from time, leaving him with just that number of fixtures to keep his club in the Premiership and himself in a job for next season.

The outcome was no more than Forest deserved despite the agonies endured by a home side who, as the tension mounted, were hanging on for grim death. The visitors climb a place and are now the third-best Premiership outfit. They played like it, too, the only surprise was that they took so long to cut their spade into Norwich's grave.

Steve Stone's winner bore deep into Norwich sores, the final whistle prompting a demonstration by 200 or so supporters calling on the chairman, Robert Chase, to resign. An hour later police were still broadcasting appeals for them to disperse.

Meanwhile Megson kept banging the drum of hope and optimism. "We are devastated to lose like that and the dressing-room is a morgue," he said. "The players gave me everything and if we had only performed like that in previous games we would not be in this trouble."

The newest and, at 35, the youngest Premier League manager, recalled the teenage striker Jamie Cureton, whose goal at Carrow Road began the defeat of Ipswich three weeks ago and had appeared to give Norwich the lifeline to a less stressful run-in.

Since then three successive away games had reawakened the alarm bells with a vengeance, sounding the death knell for John Deehan's managerial tenure. Megson had come in preaching the workaday virtues of graft and commitment and certainly there was a new vigour and purpose about Norwich's early business. Darren Eadie's first lacerating run produced a free-kick which Ian Crook brushed against the bar. The same player then unleashed a volley just too high.

However, from those unpromising beginnings, Forest began to settle into their rhythm. The waves of threatening counter-attacks made unhappy viewing for the fans who were later to release their frustrations. Collymore passed to Ian Woan who lifted his attempt over, Brian Roy played in Lars Bohinen who overran the chance.

After the break Woan squandered two gilt-edged opportunities; Stone headed wide when well placed; Collymore's raking drive was pushed aside by Andy Marshall. Norwich declared their satisfaction with a point by replacing the injured Eadie with a defender, Spencer Prior. Another reprieve came when Bohinen shot skywards.

Then, finally, Collymore broke free on the right, measured his cross into the area and the ever-willing Stone did the rest.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Bradshaw, Newsome, Polston, Bowen; Adams, Crook, Milligan, Eadie (Prior, 60); Cureton (Akinbiyi, 77), Ward. Substitute not used: Rhodes (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Phillips, Bohinen, Woan; Collymore, Roy (Lee, 79). Substitutes not used: McGregor, Mercer (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bicester).

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