‘Hold your nerve’ Alex Neil urges Norwich City ahead of Middlesbrough showdown

Norwich manager Alex Neil expects his side to step up against Middlesbrough. Picture by Paul Chester

Norwich manager Alex Neil expects his side to step up against Middlesbrough. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil labels Norwich City's winning burst under his command 'unbelievable' but the Canaries' boss is urging his men to not squander that legacy against Championship rivals Middlesbrough.

City's grip on the second automatic promotion spot remains perilous. Boro and Watford have both matched Norwich in recent times, with Bournemouth maintaining their slender one point lead.

'We recognise how hard we've worked to get to this situation and we know this one game will go a long way in deciding the fate of all four of the top teams,' said Neil. 'We've got to make sure that we keep doing what we've been doing, and hopefully go on and try and get the points we need. We're in good form. We've clawed back a lot of points on the teams around us and we have three left now. It has been an unbelievable run and we are in a great position.

'Everybody's form has been so good. If you look at the points tally now then in past years teams have gone up with 84 or 85. This time around it could take considerably more than that to make sure you are in the top two. That is what makes it a wee bit special and different to previous years, in terms of the number of teams involved. Maybe in the past you had two or three, at a push, competing for the top spot.'

Neil draws confidence not only from City's rich seam of victories but their ability to raise it against the leading lights.

'Since I have been here, apart from Brentford, when we struggled for numbers in central areas, against the big teams at home we have done really well, both in performance and results,' he said. 'The fact we are meeting a team so close to us in the table adds extra incentive. You can't get much better than this game and that brings its own different challenges to some of the other games of late.

'There is very limited time left to slip up. The fact we are ahead of Middlesbrough means we want it to remain that way. Whichever team comes out on top, if there is a winner, will have a huge advantage. I don't think it's a case of saying if you lose that is you done and it's the play-offs only because there are still games to play, but if we get the points it will be a huge shot in the arm.'

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Neil is promising Boro they will face a different Norwich to the one hammered 4-0 in the north-east before Christmas.

'I don't think that game is in any of the players' minds,' he said. 'I have watched the match and I think we are a different animal now to that stage of the season and it won't have any relevance.'