Norwich City play the waiting game
Norwich City did their bit against Reading on Saturday – leaving the Canaries faithful to keep a keen eye on events elsewhere this week as their promotion rivals play catch-up.
Paul Lambert’s side are third in the Championship table, six points behind leaders Queens Park Rangers in the battle for the top two automatic promotion berths, after their thrilling last-gasp victory over Reading at Carrow Road three days ago.
Second-placed Cardiff and Swansea, in fifth, also had late goals to thank for keeping up with the pace at the top of the second tier.
But with only two points separating the teams from second down to Leeds United in sixth, this week’s games in hand could have an intriguing effect on the Championship standings.
The Bluebirds will play their game in hand on City and leaders QPR tonight, when in-form Burnley visit south Wales.
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A home win would put three points between Cardiff and Norwich; a heavy defeat could see the Canaries overtake their Welsh rivals on goal difference, while bringing the Clarets firmly into the automatic promotion picture.
Then, tomorrow, Nottingham Forest play one of their two games in hand with a trip to relegation-haunted Scunthorpe United, who have won only once in 13 attempts.
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Forest just missed out on a club record-equalling seventh straight victory on Sunday – although holding QPR to a 1-1 draw with only 10 men left plenty for Forest boss Billy Davies to be happy about.
A draw on Wednesday would be enough to send Billy Davies’ side above the Canaries on goal difference, and still with a trip to struggling Middlesbrough in hand on March 1.
And 24 hours before City travel to Elland Road for their much anticipated trip to Leeds United – and Cardiff travel to Nottingham Forest – Sven Goran Eriksson’s resurgent Leicester City will aim to increase the pressure to the Championship’s top six by earning a fifth straight league win when Bristol City visit the Walkers Stadium on Friday night.
But Cardiff are first up tonight – and with fit again Jason Kumas helping Cardiff to finally break down Scunthorpe’s resistance on Saturday in their 1-0 win, the midfielder is hoping he can help the Bluebirds pip the Canaries and their rivals to automatic promotion.
“I sense I owe the fans here because they have stuck by me; they will definitely see me back to where I was a few years ago the last time I was here – I really believe I’m not far away from that,” said Koumas, who is on a season-long loan from Premier League Wigan.
“In this second half of the season I sense I am going to make an impact here. I promise you that.
“Saturday was a big win for us when you see how others around us in the table have done. We managed to be patient and remain in the game. It’s the business end of the season and we need to keep winning.”
• CHAMPIONSHIP STATE OF PLAY
How the respective club reporters in Cardiff and Nottingham see the current automatic promotion picture…
• Terry Phillips, South Wales Echo:
“Personally right now I think Cardiff are favourites (for second). I think they now have a really good first XI and players who can come off the bench and change a game. If they don’t make it (manager) Dave Jones won’t be there next season, because they have to go up. Who else would be given a �10m Premier League player in Craig Bellamy to play for you? The big thing is they have now sorted their back four and they have kept two clean sheets. I can’t believe Forest have got more options, although they’re a cracking team and so are Norwich – they looked fantastic. I wouldn’t have said it a few weeks ago, but Cardiff looks like the ones to me.”
• Paul Taylor, Nottingham Post:
“Last year Forest faded away quite badly at the end of the season for two reasons: I think the pressure got to them because they are a young squad, and they ran out of numbers. That may be a problem again because they haven’t added massively to their squad since then, but they have got that extra experience and recently they’ve ground out a few results they wouldn’t have got last year – Sunday included.
“There’s a genuine feeling around the place that they are going to do it. The injuries and suspensions are adding up at the moment and Swansea, Norwich, they will both be up there. Saturday is a massive game against Cardiff – and in the meantime they’ve got to go to Scunthorpe and get a result, and that’s the kind of game they could mess up. But if they can beat Cardiff then they’ll probably set their sights on QPR.”
• This week’s fixtures:
Tonight: Cardiff v Burnley, Doncaster v Ipswich, Sheffield Utd v Reading, Watford v Preston.
Tomorrow: Scunthorpe v Nottingham Forest.
Friday: Leicester v Bristol City.
Saturday (selected): Ipswich v Hull, Leeds v Norwich, Nott’m Forest v Cardiff, Preston v QPR, Reading v Watford, Swansea v Doncaster.