Earnshaw - Norwich City can be top six side

Michael Bailey It took just 90 minutes of football against Paul Lambert's Norwich City for Robert Earnshaw to change his mind - and back them as genuine promotion contenders.

Michael Bailey

It took just 90 minutes of football against Paul Lambert's Norwich City for Robert Earnshaw to change his mind - and back them as genuine promotion contenders.

Before Saturday's game at highly-fancied Nottingham Forest, the Wales striker believed it would take time to become clear where City's ambitions should lie for their first season back in the Championship.

But after the Canaries' excellent performance in the weekend's 1-1 draw, Earnshaw thinks his former club can challenge for a top six place this term - if they can consistently reproduce performances like the one that so nearly secured victory at the City Ground.

Earnshaw said: “I thought they did well - they did as well as anyone who has come here. We've played Leeds and they were a lot better than Leeds, and I thought they could have won the game to be honest. Chris Martin hit the post, hit the bar, so I thought they were unlucky.

“I thought they tested us, especially going forward with their shape and moving the ball very quickly, and their two strikers played very well against us and we couldn't handle them a little bit. So overall we were happy we didn't concede more goals really, which just shows how well they played.

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“We were a little bit surprised by them, and a little bit thankful we got a point because it was probably our worst performance this year out of all the games.

“The biggest thing you can try to do is win the game and there are a lot of teams who hold back a bit and maybe go away and settle for a draw. But they came here to play, to try and win the game, and I think that's going to give them a boost - especially coming here.

“Everybody knows we finished third and we did well last year, and everybody is expecting us to be one of the top teams, so they can be pleased with how they have performed.

“If Norwich can keep playing like that and keep playing at that level with that high energy, then they can be right up there and there is no reason why they cannot be pushing for the play-offs or anything like that.

“And the following from Norwich was unbelievable; I didn't expect that big a crowd - great support.”

Earnshaw and Norwich midfielder Andrew Crofts were due to become international team-mates from yesterday, meeting up ahead of Wales' first Euro 2012 qualifier, against Montenegro at the City Stadium in Podgorica on Friday.

However, the Canaries midfielder has since pulled out of John Toshack's squad with a groin injury, despite scoring City's 42nd minute equaliser at the City Ground.

“Somehow he scored!” joked Earnshaw. “He'll take it - that's two for the season and he's not really a goalscorer but, you know, he's done well and it will help him settle down as well because he's just moved to the club.

“I mean, to pop up with two goals already as a midfield player, I think that's going to give him a big lift and give the team a lift as well, because they scored at the perfect time really. Worst time for us but perfect for them. It's how it goes.

“It's the first qualifier on Friday and obviously a big game. We need to try and get a win. Montenegro - we've got to be looking at teams like that and going out there and getting three points really.

“It's going to be a huge game for us, because with England in the group and everybody expecting them to lead it, we need to pick up points to put pressure on them.

“At the very least we get a draw but if you're going to qualify, you need to beat Montenegro - or at the very least you need a point and then to win most of your home games.

“So we need a big send off, a big lift, and three points would be perfect for us.”