City's biggest win for years

STEVE GEDGE You simply can't underestimate the importance of Saturday's win - by far and away the most important in the last season and a half for the Canaries. The most recent comparison has to be the defeat of Birmingham in May 2005 which almost allowed City to complete their Premiership great escape.


You simply can't underestimate the importance of Saturday's win - by far and away the most important in the last season and a half for the Canaries.

The most recent comparison has to be the defeat of Birmingham in May 2005 which almost allowed City to complete their Premiership great escape.

But as individual matches go you probably have to go back to the victory over Stockport in April 2002 that took the Canaries into the play-offs.

Because at 4.10pm on Saturday, Norwich were, quite simply, staring the bottom three square in the face. As scores stood at the time they were just two points off the drop zone and a further two ahead of a suddenly resurgent Leeds.

After a promising start City had allowed themselves to fall behind - failing to heed the warning of a swift Leeds counter-attack moments before they did score - and for all their pressure they weren't creating anything in the way of clear-cut chances.

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Had Norwich lost this one the doubts would've really started setting in. If you can't beat Leeds, why could you expect to do any better at a similarly struggling Luton? Then, there's the small matter of Preston (a), Derby (h) and Birmingham (h) to come as three of the following six fixtures.

For the moment at least we can forget about looking up the format of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in readiness for next season. City finally showed the spirit all too lacking at times from a season in which many have been guilty of taking the money and running - or perhaps that should be ambling or strolling in some cases.

Yes there were failings on Saturday - the frequent offsides and the persistence in wasting corners by playing them short certainly spring to mind. But they were cancelled out by the all-round determination the Canaries displayed in the last half-hour. Darren Huckerby was outstanding, with Youssef Sari not far behind. Simon Lappin enjoyed an excellent debut, although it was not really the kind of game to be able to judge Mark Fotheringham straight away.

But the 59th minute of Saturday's game was possibly the moment when Dion Dublin wrapped up the player-of-the-year vote. Two wins in the last 10 games, both involving goals from the big man, what would we do without him?

While his signing last year following the departure of Leon McKenzie was rather presented as the acquisition of a forward, he's certainly answered all his critics, including me. If he wants another contract for next season he's already earned it.

In a week of the unseemly and hasty depature of a player whose commitment to the cause couldn't be questioned, we're going to need a few more to follow Dublin's lead yet. Am I alone in thinking that Craig Fleming's exit might yet prove to be a bad call? Granted, his better days are behind him when it comes to the Premiership and the upper half of the Championship, but given the relegation scrap the Canaries have allowed themselves to be dragged into - not to mention their lack of defenders - he could have surely done a job here for the remainder of the campaign. If City have to go to Sheffield Wednesday on May 6 needing a result he'd be exactly the sort of character you'd want to be involved.

It's one win down, five to go now in terms of Norwich ensuring their survival - hopefully starting at Luton on Saturday. It's not that City are a bad team who deserve to be flirting with relegation - the first half against Wolves last Tuesday showed that -but without Robert Earnshaw they have so little to offer up front that they start throwing away points that they'd otherwise be comfortably picking up. Had City's No 10 been involved then with his eye for goal he'd probably have been on target against both Plymouth and Wolves, and the Canaries would now be sat pretty in 11th place on 43 points - closer to the top six than the bottom three.

City aren't out of the woods yet, but they should never forget the growing concern of the last month -- take your eyes off the ball and you can drop down to a division of reduced circumstances in which away followings of 286 - the number of Chesterfield fans to visit Blackpool this season - are recorded.

Talking of which, it wasn't just the result that Saturday will be remembered for; the atmosphere was the best at Carrow Road for some time because so much rested on the outcome. Oh, and the small matter of a maximum contingent of away fans who were unstinting in their support for their side.

Although since their last visit the Leeds fans appear to have dropped songs about 1970 from their repetoire. Mind you, the anti-Chelsea sentiment continues. Guys, such are the two clubs' relative standings now that it really doesn't matter any more. Plenty of City fans believe we were relegated in 1985 because Everton threw a match at Coventry, but you don't hear too many songs at Carrow Road about this travesty.

Depite beating fallen giants, there's still both need and scope for City to strengthen their squad. Well, why not do as Boston did last month and borrow, borrow, borrow when the loan market re-opens later this week?

Take the maximum permitted number of five loan players - in the Pilgrims' case Justin Richards, Drewe Broughton, Ian Miller, Jason Kennedy and Brad Thomas - as was the case for their visit to Stockport and then add to that with an additional 'foreign' temporary signing, well from Scotland anyway, in the form of Rangers' Dany N'Guessan.

A course of action which, according to Boston secretary John Blackwell, was perfectly within their rights.

“There is no loan transfer between England and Scotland, so when Dany joined us, ourselves and Rangers both signed a 'multiplicity' contract to allow Dany to play for us,” he said. “Therefore it's not classified as a loan signing.”

Given the backgrounds of certain key people at Carrow Road, you can sense 'multiplicity' becoming this season's buzz-word equivalent of 'bouncebackability' in these parts.

Just so long as chucking a collection of virtual strangers into the same team brings about more of an immediate dividend for Norwich than it did Boston - they lost 2-0 at Stockport last month . . . and 6-0 at home to Grimsby on Saturday.