‘It was so much harder’ – City star has his eyes open over what is coming next
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Forget the derby against Ipswich Town and taking on Championship leaders Wolves – it is Norwich City's forthcoming fixtures that will prove as tough as they come for Daniel Farke's in-form squad, so says Nelson Oliveira.
It's been a run of play-off chasers and serious promotion contenders – plus City's arch rivals – since Norwich took on Chelsea in the FA Cup during January's early exchanges.
Yet the Canaries have suffered just one defeat in their last 12 matches, taking them back into the top half of the Championship table above Ipswich and clinging on to the very fringes of top-six contention themselves.
What comes next will go a long way towards showing how much progress City have made, as they face five of the Championship's bottom eight clubs in five forthcoming fixtures.
City have seven wins this season against sides currently in the bottom half of the table – just two more than they've managed against those alongside them in the top half.
And Oliveira – City's late hero in the excellent 2-2 draw at runaway leaders Wolves on Wednesday – feels the challenges coming up are going to be tougher than what they've recently battered away.
'I think we are capable playing well against each team in this league because we have good players, a good group and a good manager,' said the Portuguese striker.
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'Now the 'small' teams come to play against us and we can't think it will be easy because sometimes it is harder to play against Bolton than it is to play against Derby, for example.
'I remember we played at Derby a few weeks ago and for me it was an easy game. I think we controlled all of it, we played so well. And I remember playing against Millwall, and it was so much harder.
'So we have to respect all the teams because all of them in this league, especially when they're fighting for survival, it's hard to play against them.
'We need to play the next games like we have recently, play well, play as a group and hopefully the good results will come.'
Trips to Barnsley and Hull plus visits from Nottingham Forest and Reading are preceded by Bolton, who come to Carrow Road on Saturday.
And Oliveira should have a spring in his step for that one, after his first goal in 12 games earned Norwich a point in the last seconds of injury time at Molineux – a trick Timm Klose helped City pulled off against Ipswich three days earlier.
'People just judge strikers by their goals but I'm not like that because I know that I've been playing very well the last few weeks and I'm working very hard,' said Oliveira.
'But sometimes when you want really hard to score, the goal doesn't come. Here it did come and I'm happy for it, but not that I was worrying a lot about it.
'For me, even scoring a tap-in feels so good. It's all the same because I'm a striker, I like to score goals – but I also like to play well for the team, to work hard for the boys.
'For example, no one will praise Marley Watkins but I think he played really well here because he worked really hard.
'That's all the people outside the stadium and I understand that because they're fans. I think sometimes we don't always get the credit we deserve, but it is what it is.'
Oliveira added: 'The late goals say a lot. They say we keep believing until the end. Even the gaffer told us during this week that we are one of the best teams in the league for scoring in the last 15 minutes, so that should we are good in our physical preparation. We believe until the end and we have a great group.
'A late goal is always good because it feels like… We didn't win at Wolves and we didn't win against Ipswich but they both feel like a win. So it feels good to score at the end, but we need to keep going too.
'The fans can't leave early, especially this season because we've scored a lot of goals in the extra time – but it shows we believe until the end.'
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