Surman - Atmosphere will spur on Norwich City
Andrew Surman is relishing his return to the South Coast – even though Fratton Park will be relatively new territory for the Norwich City promotion hopeful.
Despite graduating from trainee to established first team footballer with Southampton, the cultured midfielder never had the chance to face big rivals Portsmouth in a derby match.
But the 24-year-old has a good idea of what to expect when the second-placed Canaries visit Pompey in Monday’s televised Championship game (7.45pm), with the possibility of clinching a Premier League place if they win, depending on third-placed Cardiff’s result at home to Middlesbrough immediately beforehand.
And Surman believes the occasion will inspire rather than intimidate Paul Lambert’s men.
“I’ve only played there for the reserves but I’ve been to derbies and experienced the atmosphere; it’s pretty hostile,” he said.
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“They’ve got a good fan base and good support so I’m sure the atmosphere will be decent.
“But we’ve dealt with a lot of pressure this season. If we’ve had to go and win games, we’ve gone and done it. I think a good atmosphere will spur us on.
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“We’ve always risen to the challenge. We know we deserve to be in second place. We know on our day we can beat any team. Our confidence has got us results and we’ve got great support behind us away from home.”
If Cardiff are beaten by Boro’ in the game that kicks off two and a half hours earlier, victory for the Canaries would guarantee promotion with one match to spare, but Surman said they would not dwell on events in the Welsh capital.
He said: “We will be preparing for our game. We’ll be at the stadium already. I don’t think we’ll be listening in.
“At the end of the day we are one point ahead so we know if we win our last two games we’re promoted.
“We’ll be going out with that attitude. Whether Cardiff win or lose it doesn’t matter as long as we go out and win our game.”
Surman missed the 2-0 defeat by Pompey at Carrow Road in December, during his second spell on the sidelines with knee problems since his summer move from Wolves.
Steve Cotterill’s team are safe in 14th place with no play-off aspirations and no danger of the drop, but they could become the first team to double City since Lambert became manager 20 months ago.
“Portsmouth have some good players. Their league position probably doesn’t truly represent the quality they have in their squad, so it’s going to be tough,” said Surman
“They beat us 2-0 but I think we were probably unlucky to lose – remembering the game we had quite a few chances and just didn’t take them and they punished us.
“How they approach the game is up to them.
“We know if we approach the game right and do things right, we’ve got a very good chance of winning.
“They’re probably disappointed they have nothing to play for, but the pressure is off them.
“But we will approach it like any other game. We will show them the respect they deserve and go out and try to win.”
His injury problems behind him, former England Under-21 international Surman has started City’s last 11 games and scored vital goals in the wins over Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich.
“I feel comfortable. It’s been an up and down season with injuries but I feel I’ve found a bit of a groove and confidence is high in the squad, which always helps when you’re coming back into the team,” he said. “I feel I’m playing with confidence and we’re going out thinking we can win every game. It’s just nice if I can get to my best before the end of the season and help us win our last games.”
Lambert’s main fitness concern for the Portsmouth trip is defender Zak Whitbread, substituted in the 3-2 win over Derby because of a hip problem.
“I’ll see how he is. He still has another few days, so we’ll wait and see,” he said.