Barnett braced for Norwich City’s ‘hardest month’

Defender Leon Barnett is bracing himself for what he believes will be Norwich City’s toughest month of the season.

The on-loan centre-half helped the Canaries to a 1-0 Championship victory over managerless Middlesbrough in front of Carrow Road’s biggest crowd of the season.

City moved up one place to fourth in the table thanks to Simeon Jackson’s fourth goal of the season and another clean sheet, but Barnett knows the fixture schedule in the coming weeks will test them to the full.

Paul Lambert’s men round off October with a trip to second-placed Cardiff City next Saturday. Then November pits them against three early front-runners – Burnley at home, followed by Millwall and Reading away – before a mouthwatering double bill at home to Leeds United and Ipswich Town.

The 24-year-old Barnett renewed his impressive central defensive partnership with Elliott Ward, back from a one-match ban, against Middlesbrough – and knows they will need to be at their resilient best for the challenges ahead.

“This month is definitely the hardest month of the season. But if we collect as many points as we can and kick on for the rest of the season I don’t see why we can’t push on for promotion or be there or thereabouts,” he said, relishing the trip to South Wales.

“I think everybody is positive – we’ve got nothing to lose. We’ve come up from League One but we want to get the three points just as much as they do so it’s going to be a great game. We have to go there and be positive. The whole team were happy to get three points on the board, which pushes up into fourth place.

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“That’s where we want to be, in the play-offs or there or thereabouts. We’re doing well at the moment, we just need to keep our heads and not get carried away.”

It was a day when City’s back four all performed well, with Steven Smith growing into his role at left-back in the absence of the injured Adam Drury.

“Smudger has come in and I don’t think Adam is going to get the left-back spot easily,” said Barnett. “He’s doing well and on the other side Russell Martin’s been consistent ever since I came here, and me and Wardy, since we’ve been playing together we’ve kept four clean sheets, so we’re happy with that. We know Middlesbrough are a passing team and they’re good at using the ball, but if you keep them in front of you and get all 11 men behind the ball they’re going to find it very hard to break you down. As a team we defended well and pushed out well. That clean sheet was hard work and I think we deserved that on merit.”

Barnett, whose loan from West Bromwich Albion currently runs until January 4, also believes there is a lot to be said for competition for places after David Fox and Anthony McNamee were recalled against Boro’.