Norwich City are in danger of being snookered

Ricky van Wolfswinkel heads for goal during the game against Liverpool. Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FO

Ricky van Wolfswinkel heads for goal during the game against Liverpool. Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES LTD - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

You can tell the football season's rapidly reaching its dying embers. Games are finishing in broad daylight, stomachs are gurgling under the weight of a nestful of chocolate eggs and the snooker's started at The Crucible.

As April gives way to May and the big relegation issues are being decided some much-needed calm can traditionally be found in the more sedate surroundings of the World Snooker Championship. It's almost as if it's been placed deliberately in the sporting calendar to ease the blood pressure of your average hyperactive football supporter. For the easily distracted there's something rather therapeutic about having constant access to television coverage of different coloured balls whizzing up and down a bright green table.

Norwich City supporters know what it must be like to play Ronnie O'Sullivan (inset) after the Easter weekend. We were left to sit nervously in our chairs on Saturday, fiddling with our bowties, while watching helplessly as Sunderland built a surprising break at Chelsea.

Then it was our turn. Unfortunately, Norwich City rather missed their cue at noon on Sunday. A shaky start led to us letting a couple of easy reds slip very early and despite a stirring second-half comeback, there was no way back from being 2-0 down after just 11 minutes to a Liverpool side apparently destined to win the league for the first time in 24 years.

For those of us who grew up with the dominant Liverpool team of the 1980s, it was like they had never been away. Watching them expertly take as much time as possible over every throw-in, goal kick and corner while they protected a slender lead for the final 10 minutes was a throwback to the days when Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen used to be seen fully vertical. Younger readers may be surprised to learn that they haven't always sat on that sofa discussing their golf handicaps with Gary Lineker while we watch the highlights from the day's big games.


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It was such a fitting tribute act that I was almost expecting Dennis Taylor to be involved in a tense last-frame decider with Steve Davis by the time I put the telly on in the evening.

Liverpool's impending return to the top of the tree is probably very well deserved. I say probably because I haven't really been paying that much attention to the goings on at the top of the table lately. When you support a team so entrenched in a relegation scrap you don't have enough energy left to properly enjoy the flowing football being played by the division's more illustrious outfits.

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Norwich City's second-half display against Liverpool set the standard for what is required over the last three weekends of the season and provided the home support with just a glimmer of hope that everything might be ok after all. But hope needs to be converted into points quickly because Cardiff play Sunderland next weekend so they can't both lose and if Norwich suffer a sixth straight defeat at Old Trafford then we will be starting to need snookers to get out of trouble.

Let's just hope this 1980s revival has got at least another week left in it because Manchester United were no good in the 80s.

There is no doubt that Luis Suarez will be named the Footballer of the Year this season, and rightly so.

There was a certain grinding inevitability about the way he stroked in Liverpool's second goal at Carrow Road on Easter Sunday, his 12th goal in his last five games against Norwich City. The only surprise was that at least two more didn't follow.

The Canaries actually did a good job of keeping Suarez fairly quiet after the 11th minute.

His one-man demolition of Norwich at Anfield in December was the most devastating individual performance I have ever seen. The Uruguyan may be difficult to warm to for various reasons, but there is no denying his quality.

There was one moment from Sunday's game which is worth clipping out and showing to Premier League referees. Suarez can be a delicate flower at times and the merest hint of the less than minty fresh breath of a lumbering central defender on the back of his neck has often been enough to send him sprawling around on the floor like a spider when the bath taps get turned on.

That's why it was interesting when he came back to help with the Liverpool rear-guard effort during the latter stages of Norwich City's desperate search for an equaliser. At one point Suarez tried so hard to stop a ball from going out for a City throw-in that his momentum carried him at full throttle into the Carrow Road advertising hoardings.

The smack of South American bone on Premier League promotional paraphernalia was enough to draw an audible wince and a gasp or two from the battle-hardened City Standers who very nearly had Suarez joining them in the front row.

Suarez picked himself up and trotted gently back on to the pitch without so much as a grimace.

Referees should have that incident saved onto a special device in their pockets to be brought out and shown whenever he goes down in the box. 'How come this didn't hurt you then?'

It's probably churlish to keep banging on about that side of Luis Suarez's game when he has been so undeniably brilliant this season. I'll be the first to applaud when he goes on stage to collect his Player of the Year gong in a few weeks, as long as he doesn't trip over the steps on his way to the stage.

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