Saints, Sinners, and Shrimpers; the P and C words

After all the hype the Southampton game was disappointing. It was a poor performance by Norwich, and a poor result for our promotion aspirations.


After all the hype the Southampton game was disappointing. It was a poor performance by Norwich, and a poor result for our promotion aspirations. Saints deserved their win; they hit the woodwork twice, and Barnard took his two chances well. It made me wonder whether we should have bought him from Sarfend during the transfer window, as we were rumoured to be interested in him. Was he likely to score more goals than Oli Johnson? On that performance, yes, I mused.

Our midfield created very little on Saturday, even before Rusty's red card, our full backs made few surging runs down the flanks, and our much vaunted attack at no time really tested the Saints keeper. Our only significant shot on goal came from Korey Smith, but neither the shot nor the deflection were sufficient to beat the keeper. Although Wes tried hard he was never able to create very much. For his sins Rusty's red card (the sixth in his Canary far) means he misses the next two games as well as the Southend game.

Talking of sinners, to make matters worse the much derided Semi did not make his usual mistakes at the back (as we all secretly hoped he would) on his return to Carrow Road. And although Leeds failed to take full advantage of our aberration, they did gain one point on us and both Charlton and Col Who notched home victories to close the gap. Even Ipswich won. The highlights of Saturday were undoubtedly the copper ones in Zoe's hair, and the chocolate brownies which she generously handed out on the train from London.

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So Saturday was a bad day at the Carra for Canary fans. The game on Tuesday against the Shrimpers was quite another kettle of fish. Again City were unimpressive, the tension was unbearable, and Oli Johnson could not have left it later to score the winner. But the net bulged, the shrimps were well and truly battered, the winner it was, the three points were safely in the bag, and City both restored some pride, overcame their blip, and put more pressure on the chasing pack.

Oh and out of respect for the visiting Shrimpers, I shall make no bad puns or jokes about the prawn sandwich brigade. All that matters at this stage of the season is the three points. And of course “Oli Oli” is a much more potent striker than I always said.

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After these two home games, should we still consider Paul Lambert a Saint and would it be a sin to utter the dreaded words “promotion”, “play-offs” or “champions”? Personally I still consider Lambert's appointment to have been an inspired one. I doubt if we would have done so well this season under the previous management team. City have now accumulated 69 points from 33 games, and cannot finish bottom of the League because bottom club Stockport cannot now overhaul us, even if we lose all our remaining games and they win all theirs. Our nearest challengers, Leeds, have 66 points from 32 games, and the third placed club, Colchester, are 7 points behind us having played 32 games. Remember that the first and second placed club are promoted automatically, and the clubs who finish in third, fourth, fifth, and sixth places contest the play offs. So at the very least we need to finish the season in sixth place. The seventh placed club, Millwall, currently have 55 points from 32 games. In recent seasons 87 points have been sufficient to guarantee automatic promotion from this division.

Our main aim this season (indeed since the debacle at the Valley) has always been to win promotion at the first attempt. It would be a bonus to go up as Champions, and a relief to finish second and avoid the nail biting trauma of the play offs, but promotion by whatever means is much more important. At the end of the season, whether promotion is achieved by winning the title, coming second, or winning the play off lottery will be relegated to a mere footnote in the history books. So far this season City have averaged just over two points per game. If we maintain this average we will have 94 points or thereabouts from our 46 games, which should be enough to become champions. If we gain six more wins from our remaining 13 games we should gain automatic promotion. And we have a cushion of 14 points (five wins) over the seventh placed club to ensure that we at least make the play offs. I do not wish to tempt fate, but I am cautiously optimistic. The finishing line is in sight. Lambert's job is to ensure the Canaries do not run out of steam before crossing that line. In Lambert we trust. I am sure that he will keep the team firing on all cylinders until promotion is achieved.

The Canaries have won many plaudits for their play this season. With the notable exception of the still howling Cowling, opposing fans, managers, chairmen and players have all praised the quality of our players and our play, as well as the level of our support. But the ultimate accolade has to be from Old Trafford, where the biggest crowds in the country have taken to wearing Norwich scarves to show their appreciation for our fine City, fine players, fine club, and fine achievements. It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I hope the crowds at Old Trafford will still be wearing yellow and green scarves when Holty leads out our team in the Theatre of Dreams in August 2011 after we have won the League One title in April 2010, and the Coca Cola Championship title in April 2011. All we need now is for the Man Ure fans to learn the words of “On the Ball City”. All together now: “Kick it off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage....”

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