Leon Barnett ready for biggest challenge of Norwich City career

Leon Barnett is looking to draw another blank at the weekend as his burgeoning relationship with Elliott Ward faces its biggest challenge of the season.

The centre-halves – reunited at the weekend after Ward's midweek ban – have kept clean sheets the last three games they have played together.

But with a visit to high-flying Cardiff at the weekend, perhaps the most important statistic is the trio of clean sheets they have kept in City's last three away games.

Manager Paul Lambert described the partnership as 'brilliant' on Saturday as they nullified the threat of Middlesbrough's Leroy Lita and Kris Boyd – and he will be hoping they can become only the second team to hold the Bluebirds to a blank on their own ground this season.

Barnett knows it's a tough ask – but is looking forward to the Cardiff challenge – which is followed by Burnley at home, Millwall and Reading away and then the home double bill of Leeds and Ipswich.

'This month is definitely the hardest month of the season,' said Barnett, on loan from West Brom until after the trip to Middlesbrough in January 3.

'But if we collect as many points as we can and kick on for the rest of the season I don't see why we can't push on for promotion or be there or thereabouts.

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'I think everybody is positive – we've got nothing to lose. We've come up from League One but we want to get the three points just as much as they do so it's going to be a great game. We have to go there and be positive.

'The whole team were happy to get three points on the board, which pushes up into fourth place.

'That's where we want to be, in the play-offs or there or thereabouts. We're doing well at the moment, we just need to keep our heads and not get carried away.'

Victory over Middlesbrough, thanks to Simeon Jackson's first-half goal, moved City up a place to fourth.

Barnett and Ward were commanding, while full-backs Russell Martin and Steven Smith – in for the injured Adam Drury – completed a good day for the defence.

'Smudger has come in and I don't think Adam is going to get the left-back spot easily,' said Barnett.

'He's doing well and on the other side Russell Martin's been consistent ever since I came here, and me and Wardy, since we've been playing together we've kept four clean sheets, so we're happy with that.

'We know Middlesbrough are a passing team and they're good at using the ball, but if you keep them in front of you and get all 11 men behind the ball they're going to find it very hard to break you down. As a team we defended well and pushed out well.

'That clean sheet was hard work and I think we deserved that on merit.'