Norwich City’s 6-0 drubbing at Fulham irrelevant now - Craig Fleming

The ghosts of May 2005 will not come back to haunt Norwich City as they prepare to return to Craven Cottage – according to one of the victims of their relegation nightmare.

Paul Lambert's Canaries visit Fulham tomorrow (3pm), their Premier League future virtually guaranteed with eight games to spare.

It was a very different story seven years ago when defender Craig Fleming led City into their final match of the season alongside the Thames with their fate in the balance.

Nigel Worthington's team knew that if they completed their late-season revival with a fifth victory in seven games, it would secure another year in the top flight.

But what was billed as Survival Sunday turned into a day of despair as Fulham romped to a 6-0 Premiership win and condemned Norwich to the drop.

'No, you don't forget it. It's still the biggest disappointment of my career,' said Fleming.

'Not getting to the FA Cup final with Oldham was close to it – we were 1-0 up against Manchester United in the semi-final at Wembley when Mark Hughes scored a great goal in the last minute of extra time, and we lost the replay. That was a massive blow, being so close to a Cup final. But the game at Fulham was an absolute disaster.'

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Of the 14 players on duty for the Canaries on that day in 2005, only full-back Adam Drury and assistant academy manager Gary Holt remain on the staff at Colney – a factor Fleming believes will make the six-goal drubbing irrelevant tomorrow.

'It will have no bearing whatsoever. It's seven years ago and apart from Adam, none of the current players remember it,' he said.

'The fans will remember it, the people who were down there and turned out in such great numbers, but not the current players.'

Fleming is still at a loss to explain why City performed so badly in such a crucial match, when they knew a win would keep them up.

'We went to Fulham on good form. I think on the day things went against us in the game, and one or two individuals didn't really perform,' he said.

'We had a couple of chances at 0-0 but they didn't go in and then we went 2-0 down before half-time. When it went to 3-0 we just threw caution to the wind.

'For the last half-hour all I remember is that it was just me and Jason Shackell at the back and it was so difficult, every time Fulham attacked we were overrun.

'As far as the scoreline goes, I think if it had been a mid-season match, at 3-0 down it might have stayed like that because we would have tried to keep it tight and limit the damage. But we knew we needed to win the game.'

The 6,000 City fans who travelled to Fulham were badly let down.

'In the build-up we were going into the game in confident mood and everyone knew the importance of the game but it just didn't seem to happen,' said Fleming, now Lowestoft Town's director of football.

'We had a similar kind of thing at Oldham when we needed to win the last three games of the season to stay up and we did it.

'Everybody in the squad knew how important it was but I didn't get that same feeling in the dressing room in the latter part of that season. There were things I couldn't really get my head round.'

Not surprisingly, Craven Cottage was not one of Fleming's favourite grounds, his four visits with City bringing three defeats and a draw.

'I think there are a few teams where if you haven't done well against them in your recent history you don't look forward to going there. I broke my cheekbone in one game at Fulham – I never liked the place,' he said.

The Canaries, 11th in the Premier League, are in a much more secure position as they bid for their fifth away win of the season against a Fulham side beaten in their last three games, without scoring a goal.

Lambert must make at least one change with skipper Grant Holt suspended for one match after being sent off in the 2-1 home win over Wolves.

Defender Daniel Ayala returned to action after a hamstring injury as City Reserves took on Fulham at Colney on Tuesday, when new signing Ryan Bennett played his first game and scored his first goal in Canary colours. But whether the 5-1 defeat enhanced either player's chances of a senior call-up remains to be seen.

Lambert was today expected to give an update on the fitness of full-back Marc Tierney (knee), striker James Vaughan (hamstring) and forward Anthony Pilkington (hamstring).

City are looking for their first win at Fulham since New Year's Day 1986, when Kevin Drinkell scored a late winner for the Division Two leaders against the team that finished bottom.

Martin Jol's men, two places and three points behind the Canaries, will overtake them if they win. They will be keen to get back to winning ways after the last three games brought defeats by Aston Villa, Swansea and Manchester United.