Fleming's hopes for promotion outsiders
CHRIS WISE Craig Fleming is hoping that Norwich can revel in the role of promotion outsiders - just as they did during the closing stages of the 2001-2 campaign.
Craig Fleming is hoping that Norwich can revel in the role of promotion outsiders - just as they did during the closing stages of the 2001-2 campaign.
Four years ago the vastly experienced defender was part of the team that put together a tremendous late run to grab the final play-off position, and he would love to see a repeat performance from the current City line-up.
The Canaries are just seven points off the pace after Saturday's excellent win over Sheffield United and while it's still an uphill task Fleming believes anything is possible after his previous experiences of a last-gasp push for the Premiership.
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“The first thing to say is that we would rather have the points on the board,” he said. “But if you look back to the year we reached the play-off final if you get on a roll at the right time, and get the right feeling around the place, then anything can happen, especially if you get a bit of luck too.
“That's what happened in 2002 and I don't think there's too much in it between now and the same stage then.
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“It's an old cliché, I know, but every game seemed like a cup final to us during the closing stages of that season. Every game had a massive atmosphere and the lads were buzzing, they were confident. If we can recreate that anything is possible.
“What we proved that year is that it is a lot easier to chase than it is to consolidate. When we won the league we did it in tremendous style, but it can be difficult when you are always looking over your shoulders at other teams.
“It's a different kind of pressure for us at present and we are enjoying it.”
Fleming believes the Canaries are now finally getting to grips with the tough physical demands of Championship football, and is hoping that the new-found resilience will stand them in good stead over the next seven games.
“I know it has taken a long time but I think we have realised know what is required at this level, it's starting to click in,” he said. “Making the transition from playing Premiership style football to what you get week in, week out at this level is not easy.
“I spoke to a couple of the lads at Palace and they had a similar kind of scenario but they got there a little bit earlier than us.
“Today's performance reminded me of the sort of display we were turning in all the time a couple of years ago when we won the title. We worked really hard, matched our opponents on the physical side of the game and made sure we took the chances that came our way.
“I thought it was a great performance, a real professional Championship performance. We went a goal behind, which put us on the back foot, but our heads didn't drop.
“They are big, physical side, but we stood up to them - and towards the end of the first half we knocked it around really well.”
It was all a far cry from the dismal display at Crystal Palace last month which resulted in a 4-1 drubbing. But that was City's only defeat in the seven games since the East Anglian derby debacle and Fleming was keen to emphasis the point after the victory over the Blades.
“Everybody knows what Crystal Palace was like,” he said. “We let ourselves down there but hopefully it was just a little blip. In and around that we have shown some pretty good form, and the results have followed, which is very pleasing.
“There were some poor displays earlier in the season, I know that, but there were a lot of games where we weren't getting the results that our performances merited. Now we are - and that's good to see.”
Fleming was delighted to have played a key role in what proved to be City's winning goal. His deep cross from the right was tucked away by Robert Earnshaw after Blades defender Craig Short had completely misjudged the flight of the ball - and the man with an assist to his name was quick to join in the celebrations that followed.
“I just teased their defender, that was the idea, and it felt nicely for Earnie,” he quipped. “That's what he has done throughout his career. You know if you get anything approaching a decent ball into the box he is likely to get on it and stick it away.”
t City's final seven fixtures: March 24: Burnley (a), April 1: Leicester (h), April 8: Preston (a), April 15: Sheffield Wednesday (a), April 17: QPR (h), April 22: Cardiff (a), April 30: Wolves (h).
t City's final seven league fixtures of 2001-2: Gillingham (h) 2-1, Wolves (a) 0-0, Crystal Palace (h) 2-1, Bradford City (a) 1-0, Grimsby (h) 1-1, Barnsley (a) 2-0, Stockport (h) 2-0.