No fears for the rest after matching best

This time last year we were away to the leaders, but were unable to hold out against Leeds and lost thanks to that last-gasp defensive clanger.

Fast forward to 2010 and there was no danger whatsoever of a repeat. In fact the only way we would have suffered a similar late heartbreak was if one of many home officiating decisions really went against us. (You can't help but think that if one of our players had denied an opponent a clear goalscoring chance they would have been automatically red-carded, for example.)

At Elland Road 12 months ago Norwich played like a side who watching neutrals must have thought could maybe make a good stab for the play-offs.

Against QPR City came across as a side who, if they can maintain this standard, will be a nailed-on certainty for the top six. No doubt about it.

This was Paul Lambert's biggest test as City boss and he passed with flying colours. Yet again. His side always looked as if they knew they would get something out of the game.


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They might have picked off some of the division's poorer teams in recent weeks, but there was always a nagging doubt about what would happen against a better outfit and a more tactically-aware manager.

When the new regime took over to create 'the Football League's richest club' you expected QPR to fill their team with star names.

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That didn't work, so they've now gone instead for employing a manager who knows a thing or two about winning promotion.

When the line-ups were read out before the game, a few of the home side were so unfamiliar that you imagine they wouldn't even be household names in their own homes.

However, QPR are the most organised, focused and effective side the Canaries have faced this season and, other than a hesitant start, they more than matched the league leaders.

Neil Warnock's side are an infinitely better side than Bristol City – far more than the 23 places and 21 points which now divide them – and the Canaries were given a far, far harder afternoon.

For the opening 20 minutes the home side were showing lots of good movement, but City then worked them out, started to close them down and a far more tight encounter ensued.

True, QPR still had an awful lot of the ball at times, but City were able to deal with them and John Ruddy was hardly the most over-worked of keepers. And as for the penalty... well it might have been one of the worst we've seen since the Millennium Stadium, but it came so early in the game that it's hard to believe it cost us two extra points.

If anything it might have spurred QPR into greater action and we could have ended up losing 2-1. But for the spot-kick miss most people, I'm sure, would have happily settled for a 0-0 – or maybe 1-1 to break QPR's home sequence and extend our away one.

We had to avoid defeat on Saturday. Had we lost we'd now trail QPR by 11 points – the same margin after last season's loss at Elland Road, with Leeds also having a game in hand.

Would history then repeat itself? Somehow, I doubt it.

City's away approach this season has been generally excellent, and Saturday was no one-off. Confidence and organisation exudes through the whole team, and it was another game when, penalty miss apart, you couldn't fault anyone.

You'd like to think there's no reason why it can't carry on over the next couple of weeks.

Hopefully we can get on with the business of beating a struggling Crystal Palace tomorrow night, ignoring their new status as Ipswich Town Reserves, and then cross our fingers that Middlesbrough haven't done the decent thing and sacked Gordon Strachan before their visit here four days later.

And if we can take this thoroughly professional away approach to Cardiff in 12 days' time the in-form Bothroyd, Chopra and Whittingham will hold no fears for us whatsoever.

That's six away games played and four clean sheets recorded now – with three in a row too, and it must be some time since that's happened at this level.

Not for the first time it just makes me regret that we have to wait until Good Friday to visit Portman Road.

Lambert's side looked so at home on the big stage in west London on Saturday that that game just can't come soon enough.

• WONDERFUL AWAY FANS PLAY A PART

Quite apart from frustrating the league leaders, Saturday's result has knocked one popular perception on the head. Namely, that big away Norwich followings are a recipe for disaster. Not just in other parts of west London – 1,800 for a 2-1 defeat at Brentford last season, 6,000 to see the 4-0 FA Cup loss at Chelsea and who knows how many at Fulham in 2005 – but the one that always gets talked about is the 3,000 following for the 4-0 thrashing at soon-to-be-relegated Leicester three seasons ago. But the 3,122 present at Loftus Road more than played their part in an enthralling encounter. It also created a little bit of history. Only once in the last 60-odd years has this fixture attracted a bigger crowd – in 1975 when QPR finished in their highest-ever position as runners-up in the old First Division – but such was the cramped nature of the away end that it did make you wonder how exactly Loftus Road ever managed to achieve a record attendance of 35,353 in 1974.

• KILLEN FIELDS

A lot is going to be said or written in the run-up to this Saturday about what happened the last time that Norwich faced Middlesbrough. So let's focus on something that won't take place: the involvement of Chris Killen in the meeting of his two English clubs. Never has a player seemed so out of his depth during his brief loan stint at the start of 2009. Four substitute appearances saw him come on in the 86th, 74th, 70th and 68th minutes. At that rate it would have only taken another 15 fixtures for him to actually start. He then turned up at Middlesbrough last season, prompting but one word – why? – but, I notice, after appearing in the World Cup he has now materialised at Shenzhen Ruby of the Chinese State League. Maybe our loss will be their gain. Or maybe not..

• EBAY NEXT STOP

They aren't the only club to do it, but for such a supposedly wealthy club like QPR to offer a teamsheet as a programme prize does come across as, well, a bit cheapskate, really.

'You'll be the only R's fan on the planet to own the official team sheet that gaffer Neil Warnock writes his team on before the big kick-off at Loftus Road,' the wording screamed.

Hmm. Three words spring to mind: 'straight', 'to' and 'eBay'.

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