Norwich City have ‘rivals’ at every turn in the Championship – including Middlesbrough

Lewis Grabban may have to make due with a place on the substitutes' bench again this evening. Pictur

Lewis Grabban may have to make due with a place on the substitutes' bench again this evening. Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

One glance at the Championship table is all it takes to understand why Neil Adams isn't entirely sure who will remain in the fight for promotion.

Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala will face his former club tonight. Picture: PETER REIMANN/EVENING GAZET

Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala will face his former club tonight. Picture: PETER REIMANN/EVENING GAZETTE - Credit: Evening Gazette

Just nine points separate the top 14 teams leaving more than a dozen sides hoping they can continue their early-season quest to ignite a push for the Premier League. Norwich City have been pegged back after an electric start and now sit behind five other outfits – including tonight's opponents Middlesbrough.

But City's boss insists it's far too early in the season to be deciding if clubs like Boro, third, will be around for the long haul at the top end of English football's second tier.

Adams said: 'I think it's probably too early to say that anybody is (a promotion rival). We include ourselves in that because nobody has really got away at the minute. Teams have had different runs of form. We started really well. Other teams have now put little runs together and that's why it's so tight and compact at the top of the table. I don't think there's any clear favourites at the minute.

'There's a good handful or more – maybe even 10 teams – that would fancy their chances and it will be the team that puts a run together and eventually opens up a bit of a gap that will obviously be the favourites. It's a very tight competitive top-end of the division at the minute.'

Cameron Jerome's knee has suffered no adverse reaction to the kick it sustained during Friday's 2-1

Cameron Jerome's knee has suffered no adverse reaction to the kick it sustained during Friday's 2-1 win over Bolton. Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

While the Canaries are looking for an immediate return to the promised land, Boro have failed with their attempts following relegation in 2009. Hopes are high however on Teesside that the current crop can bring brighter days back to the Riverside with Aitor Karanka's troops charging up to third.

A run of one defeat in 10 matches was rounded off with a 3-0 romp at Rotherham on Saturday, a victory that was achieved in front of a pair of very interested eyes from Norfolk.

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'I went and watched them on Saturday and they won the game comfortably and looked a good side,' said Adams, who saw his team beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at Carrow Road less than 24 hours before Boro's latest triumph. Obviously I've not been there personally to watch them at home but a lot of teams will find that (it's harder at home). With so many teams doing well, when they play at home the teams that are at the bottom end of the table are going to have to show them the respect or probably go there to try and contain, as we've found. They (Boro) may be finding that themselves but after a good win themselves they'll be keen to try and impress at home.'

City – who have no fresh injury worries to contend with – may not be focussing on the standings yet. But any points gained tonight will clearly be another step in the right direction towards a top-flight comeback.

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