Norwich City far from the only club to struggle to get over the Championship finish line
- Credit: Alex Broadway/Focus Images
Norwich City should have sealed their promotion success by now – but they’re hardly the first team to struggle to get over the finishing line at the business end of the season.
Firstly, let’s take a look back at the Canaries’ most recent promotion campaigns.
In 2014-15 a remarkable run of 12 wins in 15 games had lifted Alex Neil’s resurgent team up to second place with three games remaining.
When crunch time arrived however, the Canaries were beaten 1-0 by Middlesbrough and drew 1-1 at Rotherham to allow Bournemouth to clamber back above them – who pipped Watford to the title on the final day.
Fortunately, City avenged that costly defeat by beating Boro 2-0 in the play-off final to go up anyway, via the glory of a Wembley success.
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Paul Lambert’s team held their nerve in 2010-11 when four consecutive wins were required to finish second, winning the penultimate game of the season at Portsmouth 1-0, with Simeon Jackson’s famous diving header taking advantage of Cardiff losing earlier in the day.
The previous season there had been a wobble in League One before Lambert’s team wrapped up their title success though.
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Chris Martin’s late winner against Leeds at Carrow Road at the end of March had pushed the Canaries 11 points clear of the second-placed Whites with eight games remaining.
However, a 3-1 loss at Tranmere followed, in which Fraser Forster was sent off after 10 minutes. A 2-1 home win over Stockport kept things on track but a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road with MK Dons and a shock 2-1 loss at Leyton Orient had tightened things up at the summit.
With four games remaining Leeds were six points adrift and Millwall a point further back. Winning 1-0 at Charlton the next weekend put any nerves to bed though and a 2-0 win over Gillingham wrapped up the title on home soil with two games to spare.
Nigel Worthington’s team had few issues with nerves in 2003-04, with promotion sealed during a run of seven consecutive wins.
The title was won in slightly odd circumstances though – celebrating after a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, thanks to West Brom slumping to a 4-1 defeat against Stoke.
It’s when you take a look back at the Championship promotion races of recent years that you truly appreciate that getting over the line isn’t straight forward though...
Big-spending Wolves were 12 points clear at the top and looked set to win the title comfortably, yet a run of four wins in 10 matches saw Cardiff close the gap to just three points with 10 games remaining, with Aston Villa a further four points back.
They put their foot down though and a run of seven wins in eight games saw promotion sealed with four games remaining, after Fulham were held to a home draw by Brentford.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team then wrapped up the title in style with a 4-0 win at Bolton – eventually finishing nine points clear.
Newcastle were favourites to bounce straight back to the top flight and looked on course to do just that for much of the campaign, but there was still a little wobble in April.
The Magpies were top and 10 points clear of third place with six games remaining but defeats at Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich, either side of a home draw with Leeds, kept the Champagne on ice until a 4-1 home win over Preston secured promotion with two games to spare.
Brighton even moved above them into top spot but their own wobble of just one point from the final three games, including losing 2-0 at Norwich, saw Newcastle pip them to the title on the final day.
Burnley were fifth on New Year’s Day but then embarked on a brilliant 21-game unbeaten run to seal promotion at the first attempt, winning 1-0 at home against QPR in the penultimate game, then sealing the title with a 3-0 win at Charlton.
It was Boro who were top at the start of the year but losing three games in March checked their hopes, only for a six-game winning streak to keep them top.
However, four consecutive draws saw them rather stumble over the line, courtesy of an epic final-day encounter with third-placed Brighton at the Riverside, when a 1-1 draw saw the Seagulls miss out on second place on goal difference.