It’s going to be a thrilling few weeks
When the Canaries moved into second place in the Championship table courtesy of that very impressive display at home to Bristol City on Monday night, no doubt many people would have questioned whether they would then be able to hold their nerve in the final nine matches.
Well, if Saturday’s display at the KC Stadium was any indication of what we can expect in the run-in, there really is nothing to worry about.
True, City managed only to draw the game at the weekend.
But there was more than enough evidence on the day to suggest that achieving the dream of securing automatic promotion – as opposed to having to for a place in the play-offs – isn’t going to be decided by anything other than form.
City looked confident and assured against Hull. They were disciplined and professional. And although we have seen them produce more impressive displays in terms of the way they have attacked teams and dominated their opposition, by the same token they responded in kind to what was required of them on Saturday.
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The Canaries came out of the traps quickly and looked bright and inventive in the opening exchanges. After 15 minutes or so, the home side settled into their rhythm and posed an attacking threat whenever they were able to bring full-back Liam Rosenior into play on the right flank. His pace and direct play did cause City one or two problems, and the game became more of an even contest.
But come the half-time whistle, City deserved their lead courtesy of Zak Whitbread’s first goal of the season.
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Hull certainly took the game to City in the second half more than they had earlier done, and the Canaries were required to defend as a team on a fair number of occasions.
And they did so with some aplomb. While it would be fair to say Nigel Pearson’s men had upped the tempo of their own game and put City on the back foot in spells, they never really convinced you that they were close to grabbing an equaliser.
But when they eventually did get on terms, Norwich responded in precisely the way you hoped they would.
They got straight on the front foot and promptly went in search of a winner.
And it made for a pulsating, thoroughly entertaining and, at times, heart-stopping final 15 minutes.
All in all, a share of the spoils was probably the right result.
The final eight matches will test every team’s mental strength and it will certainly test their resolve.
And the one thing we can be sure of is that there will be plenty of thrills and spills plus one or two surprises in the coming weeks.
But we can be very confident that, should it come down to it, Norwich will certainly have enough bottle.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – ZAK WHITBREAD: The City centre-back has been very consistent since his return to the starting line-up and has looked a very strong and reliable defender, just as he did again at the KC Stadium on Saturday. Along with his defensive partner, Elliott Ward, who also played well, Whitbread marked and tackled effectively and was also on hand to snuff out danger whenever Hull threatened. His goal was the icing on the cake and a fitting reward for a string of impressive performances.