Canaries' away form puts them on course for promotion
Chris Lakey Norwich City's away form is finally something to shout about - and history suggests it could lead them back to the Championship at the first attempt.Since Paul Lambert arrived at Carrow Road in August, City have been beaten just twice away from home - at fellow promotion chasers MK Dons and Leeds.
Norwich City's away form is finally something to shout about - and history suggests it could lead them back to the Championship at the first attempt.
Since Paul Lambert arrived at Carrow Road in August, City have been beaten just twice away from home - at fellow promotion chasers MK Dons and Leeds.
They are currently unbeaten in their last three away games - without conceding a goal - in all competitions and have won five of their last six games on the road.
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The last time City won three successive away games in any competition was in December, 2005, when they won 2-1 at Crewe, 3-1 at Sheffield United and 1-0 at Leicester.
And the last time they won five in a row in any competition was at the end of the 2003-04 campaign when they stormed the old First Division to go up to the Premier League as champions.
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Historically, City have beaten the 40% figure for away points won in all their promotion campaigns - and the current figure of a 48.83% return suggests they are on the right track, albeit with the season only around a third of the way through.
That City run in the spring of 2004 was part of a seven-game winning streak of league games - and City can emulate that feat over the next week when they travel to Southampton on Saturday and then host struggling Brighton next Tuesday.
If results go City's way, they could leapfrog three of the four teams ahead of them and be sitting right on Leeds tails' by the end of the month.
It's a far cry from the opening days of the campaign when even a 4-0 League Cup win at Yeovil couldn't paper over the cracks.
Within a week, Lambert was unveiled as Bryan Gunn's replacement - and City have hardly looked back.
On Saturday they face a Southampton side which lost at home to Brighton on Sunday: both sides are in the bottom six, but as City defender Michael Nelson says, there's no such thing as an easy game any more.
“Nowhere is easy when you play for a club as big as this,” he said. “Apart from probably Leeds who are top, we are one of the biggest scalps.
“As soon as we go to an away game they seem to up their game and want to beat us even more so there are no easy away ties in this league and as you see from some of the results, anyone can beat anyone.
“Consistency is the key - home or away you have to be consistent and that's what we are.
“With the away form you always say that if you want to progress anywhere your home performances and wins at home will keep you ticking over, but if you have any ambitions to get promoted then your away form is going to be a major factor.
“So we have to keep doing what we are doing at home, keep getting the wins. Tranmere came and put people behind the ball and we have got to learn how to break people down and get the points at home and make sure when we go away we do our utmost to get the points on the road as well.
“You can't get the thing under your belt that you are a soft team away from home because you are on the back foot before you ever kick a ball.
“The momentum is going, at home and away, and we just have to keep it going and make sure regardless of where we are playing, whether it be at home in front of 25,000 or away to somewhere with probably 3,500 - we have to make sure we turn up and put on the same performance no matter where we are and pick up three points.”
Nelson is battling to get his place back, having been a victim of the changes that followed the opening day mauling by Colchester at Carrow Road and then picking up a nasty foot injury in the defeat at MK Dons which forced him out for seven games.
The partnership between Gary Doherty and Jens Berthel Askou has been a tough one to crack: Nelson started the FA Cup win at Paulton when Askou was switched to right back because of injuries, and then started the Johnstone's Paint Trophy win at Swindon last week when Doherty was rested.
But he believes it is a testament to City's stoicism that they have rarely flinched under the weight of defensive changes.
“The amount of clean sheets we've kept with all the reshuffles we have had to have in recent weeks with the problems we have had in full back positions, we have had to reshuffle and play people out of position, but it hasn't upset the balance of the team,” he said.
“Everyone who has come in has done a job and we've managed to keep clean sheets.”