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Is three the magic number for Norwich’s promotion dreams?

PUBLISHED: 14:23 02 January 2015 | UPDATED: 14:25 02 January 2015

Norwich City first team coaches Gary Holt (left) and Mike Phelan with manager Neil Adams (right) in the dugout at Reading. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Norwich City first team coaches Gary Holt (left) and Mike Phelan with manager Neil Adams (right) in the dugout at Reading. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

“We can’t lose many more because the gap is now extending to the top two places. We have to get back on it straight away.”

Some of the rule changes readers would like to see

Dearest reader, you made my Christmas.

My previous fortnightly ramblings on this page regarding potential changes to the rules of football caused a reaction the like of which I’ve rarely enjoyed in my years of Norwich City columns. Although granted just two e-mails would increase the usual response by 100pc.

Even though most of the reaction was actually in disagreement (one reader even claimed he could tell I was a centre-back simply from reading the defence-minded proposals), at least it started a debate. Here is some reaction.

On the suggestion of a 30-minute sin-bin for professional fouls

“The punishment is harsh – but it’s supposed to be a deterrent. Give ‘em 30 minutes in a sin bin and these fouls will become even more commonplace than they already are.

“Where I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly is if you’d said the law should be applied differently if the professional foul is committed INSIDE the area. That’s where the injustice comes in. I think a penalty and a yellow card should then be seemed sufficient punishment.” Trevor Burton

“How about a penalty goal being awarded? Then there’s no need to foul.” Norman Smart

On following the lead of rugby

“I have advocated for ages this idea of simply moving a free-kick forward 10 yards in an attempt to simply shut up those mouthy individuals which every team seems to have in the side. IF “the governors of our beloved game” adopted this excellent idea then free-kicks 30 yards out being moved forward to 20 yards out would have the effect of substantially increasing the opportunity to score a goal – players would very soon sort out their colleagues with the big mouths if goals ensued from such an action.” Mike Holmes

On the offside rule

“Extend the front line of the penalty box to the touchlines and have no offside up-field of this line. Simple and easily policed by the match officials, in fact it should make their task easier by reducing the area of the pitch they have watch for offsides. No complicated change of rules, no technology. Strikers will love it, defenders hate it, so should lead to more goals.” Frank Robinson

Click here if you want to read my initial column. Feel free to keep sending ideas and feedback to david.powles@archant.co.uk.

So spoke Neil Adams in the aftermath of Sunday’s hugely disappointing defeat at the hands of Reading. And how right he is. To be a bit more precise, three games could be as many that Norwich can come away from empty-handed in the 22 matches between now and the end of the season if the automatic promotion that so many crave is to be secured.

It’s crude, granted, but I’m basing that on the final points tally of the top two teams in the Championship for the previous 10 seasons. In that time the average points haul for the league winners has been 91 points, while 84 is the figure for runners-up. It’s widely quoted that you need two points a game on average to secure promotion from the league, but that figure has actually been achieved only four times in a decade.

Bournemouth are currently meeting the target, but I don’t expect that to continue. Arch-rivals Ipswich, managed by Mick McCarthy, pictured, are near to it, but I also predict their challenge will tail off over the next few months as the strength of their squad is tested to the limit. Derby County remain the club to beat and I expect them to top the charts come May. I’d hazard a guess that leaves the Canaries needing around 47 points from the remaining 22 games to reach 84 points and possibly a return to the promised land at the first attempt. Even my woeful mathematical standards won’t stop me from working out that 14 wins and five draws would achieve that.

That doesn’t leave much margin for error. Yet despite this, and you might spit your brew out at the next statement, I think this target is wholly achievable, even for a team that has lost seven of the 24 games it has already played. The negative reaction from many to Sunday’s defeat would have you believe that promotion is now mathematically impossible for this City side. But until it is an impossibility, given this mad Championship world we’re in, I refuse to give up hope. Especially when the talent in the squad is clear – how best to harness it remains the issue.

Martin Olsson. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdMartin Olsson. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Should you ask for a prediction, however, then I’ll stick with that made at the very start of the summer – which was Norwich City would finish fifth in the league, but their fate in the subsequent play-offs would be wholly unpredictable.

Should that position be achieved (and we’re only four points off that spot now), two good games would probably be enough to secure a mass day out at Wembley, an outcome I’m adamant most fans would have been satisfied with just a few months ago.

So let’s not be too gloomy. The Reading defeat on the back of such thumping victories beforehand felt completely and utterly deflating. Apt that it came in those horribly dull days after Christmas, when the presents, fun and excitement are over for another year. But put the loss in the context of three wins, a draw and a defeat in the past five matches and City’s form table looks much improved. That sequence of results played out in the next 22, would give Norwich 46 points and a final tally of 83, just one off the magic mark. Defeats will happen in this league. Don’t forget there are probably a dozen or more clubs around us whose fans make the same claims that they too should be in the Premier League. Belong there in fact.

It is what makes this league such a fascinating battle and the next 22 games promise to be just that. The stereotypical rollercoaster ride. Whether Norwich will be good enough to ensure the ups outnumber the downs remains to be seen.

It certainly possesses a squad with talent and strength in depth, but one which needs to find consistency over more than just a handful of games from this moment on.

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