Swift chance to get Swansea out of system

Defender Zak Whitbread has loved every minute of Norwich City’s promotion challenge – apart from the 90 at Swansea.

The central defender has put his injury nightmare behind him and become a first-team regular since his recall to the starting line-up against Queens Park Rangers on New Year’s Day.

Whitbread has started all but three Championship matches since then and his form since his recovery from long-running calf and hamstring problems has been one of the success stories of the season.

But he admitted he was below his best in the 3-0 defeat at the Liberty Stadium, which cut City’s hold on the second automatic promotion spot to just one point ahead of tonight’s game against Watford at Vicarage Road (7.45pm).

“I’ve been quite pleased – beside Saturday, when I was disappointed with my performance,” he said.

“Before that I thought I was getting to a level, but not every day in life is perfect so we have to move on from Saturday and get back to the same standard.

“You are never going to have a great game every game. It’s all focused on tonight and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

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“The lads had Sunday to get it out of their system. It’s gone, everyone knows it wasn’t a good result. I thought Swansea played well but that’s in the past now. We’re still second in the table and have two massive games this week we have to concentrate on and put that game behind us.”

Whitbread, 27, was a member of the Millwall side beaten by Scunthorpe in the League One play-off final at Wembley two years ago but made just four appearances for City in their League One title success last season. Now he is delighted to be playing a more prominent role in a team challenging for honours.

He said: “At this end of the season you don’t want to be thinking ‘Where am I going on my holidays?’ and having nothing to play for. That’s not what it’s about.

“You want to be thinking about promotions, championships and play-offs. If you didn’t there would be no point being here. We’re still aiming to go up and the lads are really focused.”

Watford, 3-2 winners at Carrow Road in the first game of the season, still have an outside chance of making the top six but three defeats in a row have made it very difficult.

“Teams like Watford, Reading and Millwall are really pushing for those play-offs. We’re expecting nothing less than a tough game, which is standard, really, and we have to make sure we’re ready for it,” said Whitbread.

“You can’t take anyone lightly. Watford have some good players and a good top scorer (Danny Graham) who has done well, scored plenty of goals, and scored in the first game of the season at Norwich.

“They work well as a team, so we have to be aware of that and make sure we put our stamp on the game.”