Still a slim chance left

CHRIS WISE Norwich City's outside hopes of reaching the promotion play-offs may have suffered a potentially fatal blow at Turf Moor - but, believe it or not, all is not lost just yet.


Norwich City's outside hopes of reaching the promotion play-offs may have suffered a potentially fatal blow at Turf Moor - but, believe it or not, all is not lost just yet.

As the die-hards travelled back to Norfolk on a wet and windy Friday night - or should that be Saturday morning - thoughts of promotion would not have been upper most in anyone's mind. And that's putting it mildly.

The Canaries had gone into their televised clash against Burnley with a glorious chance of closing the gap on sixth placed Preston to just four points, albeit for less that 24 hours - and they had blown it.

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The form-guide that was printed in the Burnley programme put the game nicely into context, with Norwich sitting proudly at the top with four wins and a draw from their previous six games and the struggling hosts languishing at the bottom without so much as a point to their name.

It looked for all the world like an away banker but, not for the first time this season, the Canaries failed to live up to expectations - and even Nigel Worthington was forced to admit afterwards that promotion was now an extremely long shot.

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He clearly feared the promotion door was about to slammed in his face, with the sides immediately above City in the table all having home matches to look forward to against modest opposition the following day.

But Preston, Wolves and Cardiff all failed to punish the Canaries for their slip up, and, as a result, the pre-season title favourites still have a glimmer of a chance. And I mean a glimmer!

Preston threw away a golden opportunity to move 10 points clear on Saturday when they could only draw 0-0 with Plymouth - that's just one win in seven now for Billy Davies' men - while Cardiff were involved in a similar stalemate against QPR.

The biggest surprise of all came at Molineux, with Wolves suffering their first defeat in seven as mid-table QPR pulled off a stunning 3-1 success.

All that left Preston on 61 points from 39 games and Wolves and Cardiff on 59 from 40. City are back in ninth position on 53 points from 40 fixtures, a identical record to neighbours Ipswich.

Preston will be hoping to increase their advantage over their rivals by winning their game in hand tomorrow night - a home fixture against bottom side Crewe - but judging by the way they have been wobbling in recent weeks you certainly wouldn't put any money on them coming away with all three points from that one.

If they did then City would be all but dead and buried - Preston would only need seven more points to finish above them even if Worthington's men won their final six games (remember their goal difference is far superior). But if the Lilywhites failed to pick up a maximum haul then there would still be a little something to play for.

Of course Cardiff and Wolves would still be in with a far better chance of taking advantage of Preston's apparent frailty. But that promotion door would be ajar for Norwich as well, if only just, with the Canaries still having fixtures to look forward to against the three teams they are trying to catch.

I reckon City would need to win their final six games to have any chance of finishing in the play-off positions. And even if they did reach 71 points there's a good chance that one out of Preston, Wolves and Cardiff would finish with a higher tally.

But Saturday's curious set of results proves you can take nothing for granted in this league and there's no way Worthington and his players will be throwing in the towel just yet, even though they didn't looked like a side capable of putting together a magnificent late run on Friday night (and that's being kind!).

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