Watching brief is part of the game now for Canaries fans
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:12 06 December 2018
Not since Premier League relegation loomed have City fans had a reason to care much about other teams' results.
It’s with far less trepidation, for now at least, that we find ourselves keeping a close eye on what’s happening in fixtures up and down the country to see how it affects Championship league positions.
Anyone who tries to do so via mobile data in the confines of Carrow Road will know how frustrating keeping up to date with them can be.
After Norwich turned around that early goal deficit to record a comfortable win against Rotherham on Saturday, Middlesbrough were thumped at home by Aston Villa to ensure a five-point gap remained between them in third and City on top last Saturday.
While Villa are still nine points behind, they’re the only other side whose form over the past five games equals ours. Dean Smith seems to have revived the Midlanders while his former team have plummeted down the league table. Brentford did win their first point in four games, though, with a last-gasp equaliser at West Brom on Monday evening. It meant Tony Pulis’s side also missed the opportunity to close the gap to two points.
Their failure to win also meant City stayed joint top of the home league table. It is of no significance on its own of course but improving on last season’s dire form at Carrow Road was always going to be imperative to any hopes of success this.
At this stage of the last campaign, Norwich had won just two of their opening 10 home league fixtures and had picked up just 11 points from a possible 30 with only eight goals to cheer. Despite conceding three fewer goals, the difference in atmosphere between then and now could barely be starker.
Groans of ‘put us out of our misery, ref’ were being uttered around the lower Barclay when City drew 1-1 with Preston in freezing conditions 12 months ago. Fast forward a year and Carrow Road is bouncing again as City execute the kind of sumptuous football we could only have dreamed about.
No Championship team have won more points (21) on their own turf, and coupling that with the ability to come from behind as Daniel Farke’s charges have done in three of the last four home games means there is real confidence around the place.
That confidence oozed out in a brilliant second-half display against Rotherham on Saturday, capped by the superb team move that ended with Max Aarons’ deft header marking his first goal for the Canaries. Many will be regarding this weekend’s fixture against lowly Bolton as another home banker as City try and make it 25 points from a possible 27, but it’s games against those teams around us in the table that will be crucial to league positions.
Indeed, those fixtures against two struggling teams might be viewed as an early Christmas gift given the scheduling of games against high-flying Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day and then Derby 72 hours later.
It also means that before the turn of the year, City would have already faced six of the other seven teams that currently make up the top eight at home, while the New Year will bring with it some of the most difficult away fixtures.
Villa’s climb up the table up to eighth proves that any team who put a run together can soon force themselves into the play-off mix, of course, but by the time City take a break from league action to take on Portsmouth in the third round of the FA Cup, results over the chaotic festive period are likely to have given us a much clearer picture as to which teams are real promotion contenders.