Norwich City’s chance to put record straight
Norwich City get another chance to lay old ghosts and demonstrate their dramatic rebirth as a footballing force when they visit Swansea City for tomorrow’s crucial promotion encounter.
Exactly two years ago this weekend, on their last visit to the Liberty Stadium, the Canaries suffered a 2-1 defeat that helped push them through the Championship trapdoor into League One.
In tomorrow’s televised encounter (5.20pm), the mood of 2,000 travelling fans could hardly be more different as Paul Lambert’s team go in search of a victory that would put them seven points ahead of their opponents with six matches to play and in pole position to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League.
In the same way that clinching promotion to League One at Charlton last April helped take away the pain of relegation on the same ground a year earlier, so a win at fourth-placed Swansea could wipe away more bad memories from 2009 for City’s loyal followers.
Whatever their result against the Swans, the Canaries are guaranteed to hold on to second place at the weekend, but a win would make it mightily difficult for Brendan Rodgers’ team to overtake them in the closing weeks of the season.
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Both sides will have a better idea of where they stand by the time they kick off in South Wales, with the rest of the day’s Championship programme complete – and third-placed Cardiff’s result at Doncaster earlier in the afternoon carrying probably the greatest significance.
Elsewhere there are some fascinating battles between the promotion and play-off contenders with fifth-placed Leeds travelling to Millwall, who are eighth, and sixth-placed Reading visiting Nottingham Forest, who are seventh.
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Further down the queue, four more teams with fading play-off hopes are paired up as Burnley visit Leicester and Watford entertain Hull.
As Lambert has pointed out many times, however, City can only influence their own results – and hugely impressively with just two defeats in the last 25 league games putting them in with a real chance of back-to-back promotions.
Lambert was expected to give an update today on the fitness of star forward Wes Hoolahan, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 6-0 thrashing of Scunthorpe last Saturday, and striker Chris Martin, who has been out for eight weeks but was said last weekend to be a step closer to returning to action.
If Hoolahan is ruled out, on-loan midfielder Henri Lansbury and hat-trick hero Simeon Jackson, both of whom made an instant impact as substitutes against the Iron, will be among the candidates to replace him.
City have only two survivors from the squad of 16 on duty on their last visit to Swansea in midfielder Simon Lappin and full-back Adam Drury, but a place on the bench may be the best they can hope for tomorrow.
The Swans, despite changing managers twice since they last entertained Norwich, have retained many of the same players and up to eight of their starting line-up from the 2009 fixture could be involved again tomorrow.
Rodgers’ team has the best defensive home record in the Championship with just nine goals conceded in 19 home games and, if they are looking for omens, City’s last win at Swansea was a 3-0 success in Division Two in March 1962.
This Norwich side has shown disdain for such bleak records, however, and will travel with confidence after eight wins and eight draws from their 19 away games in the league.