Fleming: Still plenty to play for
CHRIS WISE Norwich City club captain Craig Fleming rallied the troops ahead of tonight's crunch showdown against Brighton when he declared: “There is still plenty to play for.
Norwich City club captain Craig Fleming rallied the troops ahead of tonight's crunch showdown against Brighton when he declared: “There is still plenty to play for.”
The vastly experienced defender accepts the end of season play-offs are a long shot now following a poor run of form since the turn of the year which has seen the Canaries slip a massive 13 points adrift of the Championship's top six.
But he maintains they have got the ability to mount a dramatic late challenge and set his colleagues an ambitious target of 10 wins in 13 games as he prepared to face a side who are involved in an uphill battle of their own at present - to avoid relegation.
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“The play-offs are a long shot now, we know that, but it is not impossible,” he said. “To have any chance we have got to go on a crazy run - and it has to start now. We need to start winning games and get on a run.
“We would probably need to win at least 10 of our remaining 13 games. That is huge ask but as long as the points are there to be played for we will go for it.
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“We showed what we were capable of over Christmas when we strung together five wins on the trot without playing to our full potential in my opinion so there is still plenty to play for.
“If you ask me are we capable of doing it then of course we are. You look in our dressing room and see the players who are there then of course we are. But as individuals we have got to up our performances and as a team we have got to up our performances as well. We need to get the confidence going which I think is a massive factor.
“When you are struggling it is difficult. We are only human beings after all and when there is an amount of flak flying around it does affect you.
“If we can get the confidence up we have got the players, that's for sure.”
Fleming is well aware that his team will have a big point to prove this evening after kicking off 2006 with a miserable sequence of two draws and five defeats. When City were beaten by arch-rivals Ipswich in their previous home game around 150 fans gathered outside Carrow Road afterwards to call for the head of manager Nigel Worthington, while there was also unrest during Saturday's low-key 1-1 draw at Hull.
One game can never make or break a season, but the club captain knows just how vital tonight's fixture is for his side.
“It's very important to end this run without a home win, of course it is,” he said. “It has been a while since we took all three points at Carrow Road and the longer it goes on the more it will prey on people's minds. We're desperate to get a win and if we play well and get the result we are looking for then I'm sure the fans will be right behind us.
“We have got to get out of the traps quickly and start brightly. We want to get them on the back foot from the word go - and get the fans on our side. That's certainly the game plan.
“But we won't be taking anything for granted against Brighton. There are no easy teams to play against in this league and the ones down the bottom will be just as tough as the rest. Even when we won the league a couple of seasons we lost a couple of games to Watford and Bradford, who were both struggling at the time, so we'll be giving them due respect.”
Fleming feels the 1-1 draw at Hull, achieved with the help of an 87th minute own goal, has given the Canaries something positive to build on.
“We kept the ball well in our half on Saturday but we all know we need to improve in and around the opposition box,” he said. “We need to show a bit more quality, whether it be with the crosses, final balls or efforts on goal.
“You look at our front four and there is goals there, there's no doubt about that. But it's a team game. The back four can't keep clean sheets without the rest of the lads doing their bit - and the same applies to the forwards scoring goals. You need everyone to play their part in creating chances, and everyone to play their part in stopping them at the other end.
“We didn't create too many chances at Hull, that's for sure, but I still thought we were well worth a point.
“We have conceded late a couple of times recently so it was good that we finally managed to do it the opposite way round.”