Downs says Norwich City’s target must be to survive

Consolidation is the key this season for the Canaries – according to ex-Norwich and Coventry defender Greg Downs ahead of Saturday's Championship meeting between his two former clubs.

Downs will be at the Ricoh to watch two sides where he spent 15 years of his playing career attempt to bolster their own play-off ambitions. Coventry are one place and one point better off approaching the festive period but Downs believes Norwich must not lose track of their rapid ascent over the past 18 months.

'As far as I am concerned if they don't get relegated that is a good season,' he said. 'It's no different to teams that go into the Premier League. All they want at the start is to stay out of the bottom three.

'Why should that be any different for a promoted club lower down? Of course we all want to see them get promoted, but most Norwich fans are level-headed and they understand what you have to try and do is get the club on a financial footing – so that you are in a position when you do go up to maybe spend a few bob and stay there.

'The last time they went up they were never, ever strong enough – albeit they did spend the money towards the end of the season on the boy (Dean) Ashton, which they eventually recouped.'

Downs has the distinction of scoring a rare winning goal for Norwich at Coventry in what has traditionally been a graveyard for the visitors. That 1-0 win in 1980 remains one of only three in 52 visits in all competitions, but the former full back believes City's superb away form this season gives them a great chance of improving that unwanted record.

'Surprisingly it's the home form which has let them down a little,' he said. 'The away form has been terrific – which is very strange because teams usually come to Norwich and get a tough time of it.

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'But in that sense this weekend you have to fancy Norwich a bit more because the momentum seems to be that way round. I thought they were so unlucky at Reading the night when they should have got all three points if it wasn't for some of the referee's decisions.

'Norwich will look to keep it tight and that will be important because Coventry are now playing like a lot of (Aidy) Boothroyd teams. They are direct, they try to get the ball forward early and perhaps some of the fans don't exactly enjoy watching that style of football. Coventry will work and work and work and provided Norwich match that they could have more quality on the ball.'

Downs, now a Norfolk police officer, admits Leon Barnett's pending suspension this weekend is a blow in combating Coventry's expected physical approach.

'He has been excellent and formed a really formidable partnership with the boy (Elliott) Ward,' said Downs. 'That is the problem Norwich are going to face. When your squad isn't huge then it only takes three or four injuries or suspensions to test the depth.

'Hopefully they have someone who can fill the void but the one thing about Barnett, he is quite mobile and I'm not sure you can replace that.

'I thought the lad who started the season (Michael Nelson) would struggle in the Championship but he was playing very, very well until he got injured. Coventry have Clive Platt and Marlon King up front, but Platt could be right up his street in terms of a more direct style of play.'