Is three the magic number for Norwich’s promotion dreams?

Norwich City first team coaches Gary Holt (left) and Mike Phelan with manager Neil Adams (right) in

Norwich City first team coaches Gary Holt (left) and Mike Phelan with manager Neil Adams (right) in the dugout at Reading. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

'We can't lose many more because the gap is now extending to the top two places. We have to get back on it straight away.'

Martin Olsson. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Martin Olsson. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

So spoke Neil Adams in the aftermath of Sunday's hugely disappointing defeat at the hands of Reading. And how right he is. To be a bit more precise, three games could be as many that Norwich can come away from empty-handed in the 22 matches between now and the end of the season if the automatic promotion that so many crave is to be secured.

It's crude, granted, but I'm basing that on the final points tally of the top two teams in the Championship for the previous 10 seasons. In that time the average points haul for the league winners has been 91 points, while 84 is the figure for runners-up. It's widely quoted that you need two points a game on average to secure promotion from the league, but that figure has actually been achieved only four times in a decade.

Bournemouth are currently meeting the target, but I don't expect that to continue. Arch-rivals Ipswich, managed by Mick McCarthy, pictured, are near to it, but I also predict their challenge will tail off over the next few months as the strength of their squad is tested to the limit. Derby County remain the club to beat and I expect them to top the charts come May. I'd hazard a guess that leaves the Canaries needing around 47 points from the remaining 22 games to reach 84 points and possibly a return to the promised land at the first attempt. Even my woeful mathematical standards won't stop me from working out that 14 wins and five draws would achieve that.

That doesn't leave much margin for error. Yet despite this, and you might spit your brew out at the next statement, I think this target is wholly achievable, even for a team that has lost seven of the 24 games it has already played. The negative reaction from many to Sunday's defeat would have you believe that promotion is now mathematically impossible for this City side. But until it is an impossibility, given this mad Championship world we're in, I refuse to give up hope. Especially when the talent in the squad is clear – how best to harness it remains the issue.

Should you ask for a prediction, however, then I'll stick with that made at the very start of the summer – which was Norwich City would finish fifth in the league, but their fate in the subsequent play-offs would be wholly unpredictable.

Should that position be achieved (and we're only four points off that spot now), two good games would probably be enough to secure a mass day out at Wembley, an outcome I'm adamant most fans would have been satisfied with just a few months ago.

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So let's not be too gloomy. The Reading defeat on the back of such thumping victories beforehand felt completely and utterly deflating. Apt that it came in those horribly dull days after Christmas, when the presents, fun and excitement are over for another year. But put the loss in the context of three wins, a draw and a defeat in the past five matches and City's form table looks much improved. That sequence of results played out in the next 22, would give Norwich 46 points and a final tally of 83, just one off the magic mark. Defeats will happen in this league. Don't forget there are probably a dozen or more clubs around us whose fans make the same claims that they too should be in the Premier League. Belong there in fact.

It is what makes this league such a fascinating battle and the next 22 games promise to be just that. The stereotypical rollercoaster ride. Whether Norwich will be good enough to ensure the ups outnumber the downs remains to be seen.

It certainly possesses a squad with talent and strength in depth, but one which needs to find consistency over more than just a handful of games from this moment on.