Be sure that Norwich City will do it their way

Conventional football wisdom has it that if you win your home games and draw the away ones you're guaranteed success.

In a season which is proving to be anything but conventional, though, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Canaries were deliberately trying to go for glory the wrong way round – just to show it can be done.

Whatever else might have happened at Carrow Road on Saturday, the fact remains that City look a totally different side on the road than at home.

Barnsley were poor against Paul Lambert's side nine days ago, but still came across as an awful lot better than Preston.

Yet at Oakwell the Canaries oozed confidence and purpose, and once the game entered its second quarter there was only ever going to be one outcome.

And that win was by no means isolated. Some of the Canaries' other away victories this season may have been achieved pretty late on, but, the three defeats apart, they have always looked as they believed they could get something out of every fixture.

At home though, it's been very different.

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If Saturday was a one-off, you could accept it in a shrug-of-the-shoulder, 'these things happen' manner.

Unfortunately these struggles are happening a bit too often for comfort in recent weeks.

There were spells on Saturday when City looked, at best, unsure about their abilities. At times late on they appeared riddled with self-doubt. A better visiting side would have punished them on the break without suspicions of a helping hand from an arm.

Not since the Ipswich game have we seen the Canaries ruthlessly kill off a visiting side at Carrow Road.

It's all very well having consistently high home crowds, but that seems to be more of a hindrance than an advantage, as the uncertaincy and pressure felt off the field over the past three months has made its way on to the pitch.

And Saturday was a case in point.

You can blame the refereeing – and it has to be pointed out that giving the free-kick which opened the scoring to the wrong side, booking Russell Martin for the heinous crime of being fouled and totally ignoring Chris Brown's far more serious challenge on Marc Tierney was shambolic, to say the least.

And the approach to the penalty was more befitting a testimonial or an FA Cup tie against non-League opposition when you're four or five up, rather than a crucial stage of a key game in a season when two dropped points could prove extremely costly.

(I wonder, incidentally, who will step up to the spot now the next time the Canaries are awarded a penalty? Grant Holt?) But when all's said and done, if you can't beat the division's bottom side, who finish the game with 10 men and haven't won since before Christmas, then you can only blame yourself rather than cite any extenuating circumstance.

It was our fault alone that we threw away two points against a poor outfit who might be bottom of the points table but would be top in any competition for time wasting even without a referee whose stopped watch appeared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

We seem unable to make early chances count at home – that's just nine of our 31 league goals coming before half-time now – and put unnecessary late pressure on ourselves.

We got away with it against Millwall and Reading, but you can't keep relying on a series of unlikely last-gasp goals, as we saw in the Doncaster match.

This time, however, we may have got away with a poor result thanks to the efforts of Hull, Scunthorpe and a certain team down the A140 rather than anything we did ourselves.

Perhaps the key thing to come out of Saturday is this: we desperately, desperately need a fresh face to spark things.

We have only one striker who looks capable of scoring, and consequently is trying to do everything himself – it's too much and it shows on the rest of his game – and injury and lack of form has done for the rest of our 'first-choice' forwards, while the January signing has yet to make his mark and his arrival smacks of a desperation to be seen to be doing something, anything, in the transfer market. Keith Briggs, anyone?

We can't go into our remaining home fixtures with barely one man up front. The midfield won't rescue us in every game.

Whatever happens tomorrow night and against Bristol City we will still be in the top six with nine fixtures to go. If we fail to at least make the play-offs from that position this season will ultimately be seen as a failure despite the club's obvious consolidation after a year spent in the wastelands of League One.

To miss out on the chance of a history-making second successive promotion because your limited squad ran out of steam would be heartbreaking and leave you open to running the risk of suffering a major hangover in season 20111/12.

But, hey, what do I know? The way things are going you wonder whether we're almost fated to succeed. Frankly, you wouldn't bet against Aaron Wilbraham scoring a hat-trick in the final five minutes of the last game of the season against Coventry to take us up just as Swansea are collapsing against already-relegated Sheffield United.

So although drawing at home to two sides in the bottom third of the table is relegation form, we keep hanging in there.

I've seen enough of City on the road this season to know that the mood at Leicester tomorrow night will be totally different, and yet we could secure a morale-boosting victory and then learn that everyone else has won even more comfortably.

On the other hand we could suffer a repeat of our last visit there (0-4) and still lose no further ground if the likes of wobbling Forest give Micky Adams his first Sheffield United win at the 14th attempt.

But I'd far rather that if we are to achieve anything that we start doing it ourselves. Having to will Jimmy Bullard to score really is the stuff of desperation.


If there's one fixture which could define the rest of our season it's Tuesday night's visit to the Walker's Stadium.

In fact, with Hull hosting Burnley at the same time you can almost envisage a scenario being played out according to whatever happens at Leicester.

If City come out on top, then it's a real statement of intent for automatic promotion. If they can win there they can win anywhere in the rest of the run-in, Swansea included.

This is a huge game for Leicester – if they lose they could end the night eight points adrift of the top six with just 10 matches to play – and if the Canaries can win it really puts the pressure on the faltering sides around them. Will all of Cardiff, Forest and Swansea win at the same time? In this 'everyone can beat everyone else' season you'd have to say it's more unlikely than likely.

If however it's a draw, granted they will probably lose ground on the top two, but it at least keeps the Canaries eight points ahead of Leicester and makes their chances of a top-six place just that little bit better, since both Hull and Burnley also won't be able to make up ground on them.

Defeat, however, and not only will Leicester be just five points behind, with Burnley or Hull also similarly breathing down their necks, but also a Leeds win at Preston could leave the Canaries in sixth place and facing an anxious forthcoming weekend. They would have to sit idly by and ponder a dodgy spell which might be about to turn into a major wobble until perhaps having to play catch-up against an improving Bristol City – who have now won their last three games – a week tonight.

And in front of the Sky cameras, too. No thanks.


With each passing week of the season that seemingly straightforward final-day fixture at home to Coventry looks like being anything but.

When City won at the Ricoh Arena just before Christmas they were actually immediately below fifth-placed Coventry in the table

Since then Adie Boothroyd's side have suffered the kind of post-festive slump which used to be a speciality of the Canaries.

Just one win and six points from 13 games have left them tumble 14 places down the Championship and leave them nervously looking over their shoulders.

With Scunthorpe, Preston and Middlesbrough still to play, you'd hope they can turn things around – and not because I have any particular feelings for the Sky Blues.

Rather, it's because, on the evidence of Hull, and now Preston, a side coming to Carrow Road needing a result to break a long, poor sequence... you just know what might happen, don't you?

A chance for us to gain revenge for what happened in 1985? Better late than never, maybe, but I just can't see it, somehow.