Barnett warns against getting carried away

Defender Leon Barnett insists it is far too early for the Norwich City squad to start thinking about promotion despite a point at Crystal Palace moving them up to second in the Championship table.

City have exceeded everyone’s expectations, including manager Paul Lambert’s, so far this season, and Barnett said that the squad will only be taking the table seriously when there are a lot fewer games to go.

“The boys are not really concentrating on the table because the season is not over yet,” said the former West Bromwich Albion defender, who has become such a mainstay in the City back four. “We’ve still got 18 games to go and we’ve just got to get as many points on the board as we can.

“We are just taking each game as it comes. Our thoughts turn to Millwall now, who are doing very well and we’re going to have to be on the top of our game to get anything.”

While City were not at their best going forward in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park, the back line comfortably coped with anything the Palace forwards could throw at them.

Barnett looks to be forging a promising partnership with Zak Whitbread at the heart of the back four while goalkeeper John Ruddy is showing why Lambert never had any worries that he would be able to fill Fraser Forster’s boots.

“He (Ruddy) is the kind of figure that when you’re under pressure he will come and get the ball,” said Barnett. “He will try to push the defence up so it’s a massive bonus to have him in the team.

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“I think Zak has also done really well. He is good in the air, good on the ball and I can see why the gaffer has kept him here. I think we’ve made it very hard for the gaffer because there are four good centre-halves here. It’s a good problem to have.”

Barnett was pleased with his own display after being at fault for Ched Evans’ goal in the 2-1 win at Sheffield United the previous week, but knows he must maintain his performance level if he is to keep his place, with Elliott Ward and Michael Nelson looking to force their way back into Lambert’s plans.

“I was pleased with my own performance – I wanted to make up for my mistake last week. You get mistakes and all you can do is try and make up for it.

“You can’t let your guard down because all of us are fighting for our positions. Any slip-ups and I know the gaffer is going to put someone else in. There’s no room for error.”

Saturday was City’s first clean sheet away from home since their 0-0 draw at Queens Park Rangers in October and Barnett knows they are going to have to produce a few more if they are to maintain their lofty position in the Championship table.

“The clean sheet is definitely a plus for us,” he added. “I think we were unlucky not to get the three points but if you can’t win then you’ve just got to make sure you don’t get beaten.

“The clean sheet is a massive confidence boost. We are happy in that sense but we wanted to come here and get the win.”

The Canaries need to produce their best form from the first whistle as well, sometimes relying too often on Lambert’s half-time words of wisdom to dig them out of a hole.

“Sometimes it takes us a half to be ready and we need to be off as soon as we hear the whistle,” said Barnett. “The travelling fans were great today and we wanted to give them something to cheer about.”