No show gives me the Blues

STEVE GEDGE Having lambasted the incompetence of clubs such as Burnley for calling games off less than 90 minutes before kick-off, I can't really now turn round and complain at Luton's overly early decision to postpone.

STEVE GEDGE

Having lambasted the incompetence of clubs such as Burnley for calling games off less than 90 minutes before kick-off, I can't really now turn round and complain at Luton's overly early decision to postpone.

Not that it wasn't frustrating, though. And not just because instead of being at Kenilworth Road I spent much of Saturday afternoon at home watching Sky Sports News and seeing Jeff Stelling and Chris Kamara eulogising about a masterful display from Malky Mackay. In the Premiership. In an away win. And helping to keep an away clean sheet against relegation rivals.

No, the call-off was particularly annoying because you just sensed if ever there was a game City were going to win, this was it. Still on a high from beating Leeds, and with the Hatters on a poor run of just three points from seven winless games, the Canaries could have taken another big step towards the magic 50-point survival mark.


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Instead, we may now have to wait to April, when City are facing an increasingly congested fixture list and Luton might be back to their solid early-season form (22 points from their first 13 fixtures). Or even if their fortunes haven't improved, they'll be a whole lot harder to beat if they're a side on the brink of dropping back down to League One - not least because you suspect they won't be quite as injury-hit as they might be at the moment.

City are now faced with a tricky spell of fixtures as they look to put some daylight between themselves and the bottom six.

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Preston away a week tomorrow isn't particularly a promising source of points, and as for Coventry at home the following Saturday... well, what usually happens when City face clubs who have Andy Marshall on their books?

Saturday's postponement makes the visit to Barnsley on March 3 even more of a must-win occasion than it was before, because you can't see a lot coming out of the subsequent matches against Derby, Cardiff, Birmingham and Stoke.

In fact you have to wait until April until the sort of fixtures from which you would expect the Canaries to be certain of recording the minimum five victories they need to finally banish the spectre of relegation.

Had Saturday's game gone ahead, in true-manager speak I would have quite happily sacrificed victory against Blackpool - as long as it wasn't as totally embarrassing as the 3-0 home defeat to Cheltenham four seasons ago - to get the three points at Luton.

Because, and I can't imagine I'm in a small minority about this, I just can't get worked up about the FA Cup fifth round at all.

Ever since the Canaries were presented with the prospect of a trip to Stamford Bridge, my view has been, to coin a phrase, I don't want to go to Chelsea, it does not move me.

About the only thing you can say about this occasion, should it take place, is that at least ticket prices have been been slashed.

Two years ago in the Premiership it was frankly immoral that City fans - from, let's face it, not one of the more affluent parts of the country - should be asked to pay £40 for the privilege of subsidising the wage packets of already-overpaid multi-millionaires.

At least this time the price has been cut by nearly 40pc, and, besides, part of the proceeds will make their way back to Carrow Road rather than entirely end up in the Stamford Bridge coffers.

But apart from that, what exactly do City have to look forward to? In past FA Cup mis-matches, such as the ties against Manchester United in 1959 and 1967, say, while the Canaries were rightly given no real chance of causing an upset, there was still the slenderest of possibilities that they might defy the odds.

But nowadays it's a very different story. Not only have those odds slimmed down anyway since Norwich's 1967 triumph at Old Trafford, but they've diminished even further since the FA Cup meetings with Chelsea in 2002.

Then, effectively an outstanding display of keeping by Carlo Cudicini denied City victory at Carrow Road, but since then the gap between the clubs has widened beyond measure.

If we've lost 4-0 on each of our last two visits to Stamford Bridge, what might the margin of defeat be this time if Chelsea decide to take the game totally seriously ahead of the following week's Champions League last-16 tie?

But despite all of this, with no points at Luton to fall back on as a consolation, were City to lose to Blackpool tomorrow night... that's an awfully long week of inactivity in which to have to prepare for a seemingly fairly likely defeat at Deepdale. Especially if - and again quite likely, you would sense - Preston go into the game having beaten Manchester City in the FA Cup at the weekend.

So, despite my initial reservations I want to see City complete a morale-boosting victory over Blackpool to keep things ticking over.

And, if nothing else, at least they wouldn't then be away on Saturday to someone like Plymouth. Given the Canaries' recent weather fortunes they'd undoubtedly be the victims of a Saturday-morning downpour at Home Park. I somehow imagine it would take an awful lot more than a spot of rain to prevent the money-spinning operation that is Chelsea Football Club from further increasing its turnover.

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