Norwich City away form as good as championship winning side

Crisis, what crisis? Another almost effortlessly straightforward away win that makes you wonder what all the midweek fuss was about.

Some might not be satisfied with their home record, but City's away form at least is on a par with the title-winning 2003/4 season. Then: 10 wins, seven draws, six defeats; at the moment it's seven, seven, three.

Other than the early excellent save by John Ruddy and the less-than-excellent finishing of Marlon Harewood, I can't remember a moment when I didn't think the Canaries would win.

It made the 3-0 win at Bristol City and the 4-1 trouncing of Ipswich seem close-run things.

On a really poor pitch and with a new formation and changed line-up City looked simply unbeatable and totally assured.


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Yes, they should have scored more than two, and I'd still like to see an extra dimension brought in up front because I can't imagine more than a couple of their remaining 12 opponents offering as little resistance as Barnsley, but you can't deny that with goals coming in from all parts of the pitch and just about every player there's a certain unpredictability about their play.

Andrew Crofts goes six games without scoring after his decisive double at Sheffield United, then comes up with two efforts of which a 30-goal-a-season striker would have been more than proud.

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Not bad, too, for a 'free transfer from Brighton'. Honestly, whoever does the research on The Football League Show should be sacked. By next week they might like to consider how this season is shaping up compared with our recent years of stagnation in English football's second flight.

Since relegation from the Premier League in 1995, the only two of our 13 full seasons in the Championship that you could call noteworthy were the play-off campaign of 2002 and the title success two years later.

Every other season has been largely or – in some cases – wholly forgettable. Yet with 12 games still to play this year we have already surpassed our points tally in seven of those 11 underperforming campaigns – two of which were backed by parachute payments, don't forget. And given that the other four totals are 62, 62, 63 and 69, we are on course for at least our third best Championship season since 1995.

Except it won't stop there. I can't see City winning all 12 of their remaining games to edge past 2004's total of 94 points, but 2002's tally of 75 is now in their sights. Having taken 23 points from their last dozen games, can the Canaries match that in the remaining 12 fixtures?

On the evidence of Barnsley and Leeds you'd have to say yes. City are in their element on the road facing home sides who come out and have a go and exploiting the space they leave at the back as a result.

Are the likes of Swansea and Ipswich going to sit back at home against the Canaries? Doubt it somehow. A bit more patience at home – on and off the field – and surely at least Derby, Preston and Scunthorpe ought to be seen off.

It's a pity that Burnley don't play their two home games in hand against Coventry and Middlesbrough until March 15 and April 19 because those two results would make the top of the table an awful lot clearer.

But City can only worry about what they do, and on the evidence of the steely attitude and superiority they displayed at Barnsley on Saturday the first step towards securing a place in the play-off zone – avoiding defeat at both Hull and Leicester so that the sides other than Burnley most likely to gatecrash the top six don't steal a march on them – is well within their grasp.

So, Preston at Carrow Road on Saturday then. That's the Preston who last won against Roy Keane's Ipswich Town (before their recent name change) on December 11, but despite recent draws against Nottingham Forest and QPR have now gone 12 games without a victory, with Phil Brown still to taste any kind of success after nine fixtures.

City have won more points on the road than North End have both home and away. Surely, surely they're not going to become the latest team to end such a sorry sequence against the Canaries?

• CITY AWAY FORM AS GOOD AS CHAMPIONSHIP WINNING SIDE

So City's final game of the season now kicks off at 12.45pm on a Saturday rather than an unspecified time on a Sunday 'following negotiations between the Football League and broadcasters'.

In other words, Sky looked at the potential for May 8 and decided that the likes of Manchester United v Chelsea, Stoke v Arsenal and Wolves v West Bromwich made for a far more super Super Sunday than the prospect of having to screen the likes of Burnley v Cardiff or Swansea v Sheffield United, and the BBC, the junior partners in this particular coalition agreement, presumably duly went along with them.

Still, never mind, paying football punters are used to being both used and dumped upon like this.

Never mind that the last programme of the Championship season has been played on a Sunday for more than a decade.

Never mind that this change, barely 10 weeks before the games are played, comes so late that people may have already made arrangements for that weekend, or bought non-refundable travel tickets, seemingly secure in the knowledge that these fixtures have been carved in stone since last summer.

It never fails to make you sick the way supporters are messed around like this. With two and a bit months of the regular season left the Canaries now have just four Saturday 3pm kick-offs left thanks to the combined efforts of Sky, Suffolk police and the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

And it's only going to get worse.

Come the start of the new Football League broadcasting deal in the 2012/3 season not only will there be a total of 35 Championship games screened live 'from fixtures scheduled to be played on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or any bank holiday' but a new package of 10 live Thursday matches has also been put up for grabs.

You'd hope that they're going to be worth the time and effort, unlike those never to-be-remembered ITV Digital occasions like a Thursday-night defeat at Stockport nine seasons ago.

• ROVERS RESULT WAS NO SHOCK

When it comes to gamesmanship it's clear that Doncaster chairman John Ryan could teach Sir Alex Ferguson a thing or two.

How intentional his comments actually were last Tuesday to get Rovers' visit to Carrow Road called off I don't know, but they certainly unsettled things off the field in these parts.

If Doncaster had been well beaten, well, he was just getting his excuses in first. Anything else, though, and his carefully-chosen words were a case of over-raising local expectations. Almost a case of: 'We're so injury-hit you should beat us easily.'

Which some people fell for, judging by the somewhat subdued atmosphere at Carrow Road. It wasn't a great result, but they happen. Norwich are, of course, the team who managed to take a grand total of one point against each of relegated Crewe and Bradford in the otherwise successful 2001/2 and 2003/4 seasons respectively.

• ROOM FOR EVERYONE

A trip to Oakwell – it's the away fixture you'd surely want to end a season's travels with, rather than have to go to Portsmouth on April 30.

You want plenty of space for a potentially huge match – well, if Saturday is anything to go by there would have been room for another 7,000 City fans, rather than the woefully-inadequate 1,800 spaces we're likely to get at Fratton Park if our last visit is anything to go by, unless, of course, cash-strapped Portsmouth give us any extra tickets.

And then there's our playing record against Barnsley – surely the team for whom the phrase 'Can we play you every week?' was coined.

Nine wins and a draw from our last 10 meetings, 24 goals for and just five conceded.

Doncaster Rovers they're not.

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