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Flashback 1992-93: Canaries peck a hole in Villa's title balloon

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Flashback 1992-93: Canaries peck a hole in Villa's title balloon continues its look at the week-by-week efforts of Ron Atkinson's exciting Villa side during the memorable 1992-93 season. Each week we will republish the newspaper articles from that exact time during the campaign. We continue with a set-back against the high-flying Canaries.

Paper: Sunday Express
Author: Paul Weaver
Headline: Spink sparkles in vain

Norwich manager Mike Walker was 47 but he must have felt as though he had aged ten years during a hectic 90 minutes.

Norwich increased their lead of the Premier League by ending Aston Villa's unbeaten run of 13 games.

Villa, who have title ambitions of their own, were destroyed by the pace of Norwich's attacking moves and could have been four-down by half-time.

But in the final 20 minutes Norwich were forced to defend desperately against a series of surging Villa attacks.

Villa started brightly but once Norwich found their touch they were virtually irresistible.

They went ahead when impressive Ruel Fox and Mark Robins set up David Phillips for a left-foot shot which Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink could not get near.

Spink then rescued Villa's ponderous defence with a series of rousing saves.

After Bryan Small had saved the day with a last-ditch tackle on Robins, Spink turned a header from Robins round the post with a diving one-handed save.

Two minutes later the Villa goalkeeper made an equally brave save from the persistent Darren Beckford.

But Norwich scored a second after half an hour. Phillips's corner was dropped by Spink, who could be excused for being punch-drunk after what had gone before and Beckford's shot appeared to get a deflection off Robins.

Villa hit back within seconds of half-time.

Ugo Ehiogu chipped the ball forward to Ray Houghton, who ran on before striking a 25-yard shot which bounced through Bryan Gunn's fingers after an awkward bounce.

Villa equalised seconds into the second half.

Houghton provided the chipped through-ball which Ian Culverhouse could not clear and Garry Parker volleyed firmly past Gunn.

Norwich still had something left. Minutes later they hit the winner when the outstanding Daryl Sutch beat Spink.

Paper: Sunday Mercury
Author: Unknown
Headline: Villa's yellow peril

Title-chasing Aston Villa caught a nasty dose of yellow fever as they 13-match unbeaten run went west along with their harassed defence.

Mike Walker's Canaries stunned Villa with a 3-2 victory as Norwich moved eight points clear of Ron Atkinson's side in the championship race.

Slipshod first-half defending put Villa under the cosh with Shaun Teale's stand-in, Ugo Ehiogu, having a rocky opening 45 minutes.

Atkinson said: "Ehiogu didn't do particularly well but that's one of those things.

"We started brightly but they had a spell where they were hitting us on the break and playing quite well.

"When it got to 2-0, I thought the score could have been anything.

"But when we got it back to 2-2, I thought we would go on and win it.

"I don't know where their third came from or how it went in."

Ray Houghton, scorer of Villa's first goal, warned: "Now is the real test!

"Ultimately you are going to lose a game along the way and the challenge is to see how you respond to that.

"This was an excellent chance to close the gap on the leaders and we are very disappointed not to have taken it."

Paper: Today
Author: David Harrison
Headline: Sitting Pretty

It was manager Mike Walker's birthday but, more significantly, it was the day Norwich came of age as championship challengers.

The pretenders became genuine contenders by showing how much they have grown up as a team.

They stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points, beating an Aston Villa side who were gradually becoming the force everyone else feared.

But Norwich took them on and revealed a tactical superiority and strength of character to go alongside the flair that has always been their most endearing feature.

No longer can they be considered country-bumpkins, there to make up the numbers among the pacemakers until the springtime surge for honours begins.

As skipper Ian Butterworth said: "If we had been top after six games you could have called it lucky - but not after seventeen matches.

"We have come here and beaten the best form team in the country and we could have killed them off at half-time with a three or four-goal lead.

"But I suppose if we had won 4-0, people would have said Villa had an off-day. We are getting a bit fed-up of people saying how badly opponents play against us.

"It's never a case of us playing well.

"It's getting to use a bit but it's making us even more determined. The bookies are quoting us at 40-1 and you can bet one or two of the lads have got a few bob on us at those odds. But we would rather be the long-shots.

"It takes the pressure off but we realise it's going to get harder. Now we have to make sure after a win like this that we don't slip up at Wimbledon next week."

Norwich's victory was a triumph for the tactical surprise sprung by manager Walker, who deployed a sweeper to curb the threat of Villa dangermen Dean Saunders and Dalian Atkinson, who have been running amok in the last two months.

His players carried out the plan to the letter and wrapped up the three points as a perfect birthday gift.

"It was certainly better than a new pair of socks and underpants," joked Butterworth.

"He might even buy us a drink now. In fact, I thought I saw him with his hand half in his pocket after the game."

Villa's contribution to Walker's celebrations was their worst defensive display of the season and an embarrassing individual performance by England U21 international Ugo Ehiogu, who failed to live up to the big-match build-up given him by Ron Atkinson.

Only Paul McGrath held Villa together an even he admitted: "It was down to bad defending.

"We handed them the points on a plate. Norwich tend to concede too many goals but they'll be up there at the finish and we'll be there with them."

Goals from David Phillips and Darren Beckford put Norwich ahead but Villa hit back through Ray Houghton and Garry Parker either side of the interval.

But the visitors deservedly took the points with Daryl Sutch's 49th minute winner.

Paper: Birmingham Post
Author: Andy Colquhoun
Headline: High-flying Canaries peck a hole in Villa's title balloon

The loud hiss escaping from Villa Park on Saturday was the sound of hugely inflated hopes and dreams being punctured.

It was no consolation that the team to end Aston Villa's 13-match unbeaten run should be the leader leaders.

They are, after all, only Norwich and no matter how talented and worthy they are [which is clear] they will still be the victims of serial condescension all the way to the title should it be theirs.

Villa hit the earth with a nasty bump.

They had been soaring at White Hart Lane the previous week but displayed little of that fluency here.

Snap up your tickets and back the boys against Stoke.


AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 3rd December 2012
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