Michael Bailey: Alex Neil finds the art of rotation - just as Norwich City's injury list threatens to hamper their Championship recovery

A nice, early goal from Cameron Jerome would be useful.

A nice, early goal from Cameron Jerome would be useful.

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It was a random fixture change. An exciting fixture too. The prospect of Norwich City taking on Huddersfield under floodlights and in front of the live Sky Sports cameras will be one of the key evenings this season.

Norwich City's return trip to high-flying Hudderfield will be among a frenetic run of games to kick-off April. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesNorwich City's return trip to high-flying Hudderfield will be among a frenetic run of games to kick-off April. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

It was a random fixture change. An exciting fixture too. The prospect of Norwich City taking on Huddersfield under floodlights and in front of the live Sky Sports cameras will be one of the key evenings this season.

The simple switch from Tuesday to Wednesday night in early April is, in reality, neither here nor there. But it did draw attention to one of the quirks of City’s remaining campaign – the fact they will end March with just one game in the space of 20 days, and yet start April with five in 17.

That Easter challenge will shape much of what the Canaries can achieve this term, bearing in mind as things stand right now Alex Neil’s men cannot afford to take on any more damage.

It will also be interesting to see if the Norwich boss continues to develop what he showed this past week he may well have learned this season.

MORE: Read Michael’s take on John Ruddy’s Norwich City renaissance

I suspect if you asked the City boss for his chief regret when taking on Huddersfield in their initial fixture at Carrow Road, he would lament the lack of squad rotation. The fact he had banked on his in-form players delivering the same levels for one more December fixture – and them falling short.

Therefore it was noticeable when speaking after City’s 2-2 draw with Newcastle on Tuesday, that Neil was happy to point out his decision to rest a few players against Nottingham Forest paid off in midweek.

The performances of Cameron Jerome especially but also Jacob Murphy, and then Alex Pritchard against Nottingham Forest, backed the manager’s judgment with four points and two hugely encouraging days’ work.

Certainly the performance against Newcastle was full of energy – until the batteries ran out late on.

The irony of course is that just as Neil seems more inclined to rotate his playing squad, injuries could seriously hamper his intentions.

Kyle Lafferty is going to have to do a lot better than he managed in midweek, if City are going to have striker success while Nelson Oliveira recovers from what could yet prove to be a serious fitness blow to the Canaries’ promotion prospects.

And yet whoever is available for Saturday, the expectations will state there can only be one winner at the Pirelli Stadium this weekend.

For now, City are going to have to dig in and ride the wave – because there’s a very long way to go before their March break arrives.

I’ve seen Newcastle United live twice this season. Both games were absolute crackers played at a pace I have never seen in a Championship fixture before.

Maybe the defending was short of Premier League levels, but there’s no doubt the side Rafa Benitez has at his disposal this season should be miles clear at the top of the division. They really are that good.

Alex Neil was asked on Monday at Colney whether the Newcastle boss deserved credit for adapting to life in the Championship, given his more illustrious previous surroundings?

The City boss raised a customary eyebrow and gave a reasonably straight bat to the question – but his answer could have quite easily been ‘Michael Bailey could probably get that side promoted’.

If they don’t finish the job come May, I’ll get Dwight Gayle tattooed on my leg.

Once again, the Norwich City Fans Social Club delivered a cracking night at Carrow Road.

Their annual quiz earlier this month was a roaring success with packed tables, 35 teams – including a group of spirited Ipswich fans – and most importantly more than £2,600 raised for the Community Sports Foundation.

They even paved the way for more fantastic events with the club in future. As least, I assume that’s how they allowed the Norwich City team headed by interim chief executive Steve Stone to win the quiz on a tie-breaker. Again.

You can find information on future events by visiting ncfsc.co.uk

There’s a bit of me that was looking forward to seeing Tom Lawrence play at Carrow Road in little more than a week.

The way he has been tearing up the Championship has been far beyond eye-catching. He’s a chief tormenter with a wonderful delivery into the box and a canny knack of dribbling away from people – all alongside more than a handful of special goals that have single-handedly kept Ipswich out of relegation trouble.

He looks like someone who really could make it all the way to the top. Still, his two-game ban certainly helps City ahead of next weekend’s derby. Let’s just hope there is a positive result for Norwich in the preceding fixture.

Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno

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