Paddy Davitt: ‘Logic and reason are on the side of Norwich City at Carrow Road’

The Norwich fans get behind their side before the Barclays Premier League match at Carrow Road again

The Norwich fans get behind their side before the Barclays Premier League match at Carrow Road against Newcastle. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

You can understand where Alex Neil was coming from but the Premier League survival equation really does add up for Norwich City.

Carrow Road needs to be loud and proud this weekend against Sunderland. Picture by Paul Chesterton/F

Carrow Road needs to be loud and proud this weekend against Sunderland. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Canaries may have squandered too many cheap points since Crystal Palace's opening day league visit - we can all select our personal lowlights. Liverpool and that Carrow Road nightmare spring readily to mind, but there was also the late spill from John Ruddy at West Ham that turned a certain away win into a frustrating draw. Or the hardest of hard-earned points at Manchester City that evaporated when Russell Martin was forced to handle on his own line and Yaya Toure punished the visitors from the penalty spot in the final minute of normal time.

Neil's assessment, ahead of last weekend's fruitless journey to Selhurst Park, was perfectly sound when asked if he would have settled for this fraught survival run-in before a ball was kicked.

The Norwich manager's bullish reply left the questioner in no doubt he felt his squad was good enough to have navigated a course for less choppy waters by this advanced stage.

City's better days back up his assertion, but the Premier League standings paint a different picture.

The Norwich fans celebrate their side's first goal against Newcastle. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Foc

The Norwich fans celebrate their side's first goal against Newcastle. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

They tell the tale of a set of players and backroom staff who have managed to prevail at times, in adapting to a much tougher environment than the Championship, but equally, like against the Eagles where they spurned a chance for further progression, can also come up short.

That search for consistency should not be confused with the debate over whether Norwich's resources or the financial disparities that exist between them and the vast majority of their top flight rivals suggest they have found their level rather than dropped below it. That clearly remains a subjective issue.

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Strip away the pessimism and the inherent tendency of football fans to focus on the negative - that wide expanse where heart clouds head - and you would not swap Norwich's position now for either that of Sunderland or Newcastle.

City have the points on the board, a healthy if slim advantage over their rivals, and crucially the Black Cats to come at Carrow Road this weekend. Beat Sam Allardyce's strugglers and you edge forward again at their expense. The job would not be finished, points would still have to be accumulated but it would be difficult to construct a positive case for Sunderland to overhaul Norwich, should they leave Norfolk on Saturday evening seven points adrift with games running out.

Newcastle's situation looks even bleaker, given Rafa Benitez has picked up one point from his first four games in charge of the ailing Tynesiders. Such a ratio will ensure they depart the Premier League in Aston Villa's slipstream.

Neil may well have expected more but 90 minutes at Carrow Road against a direct rival to claim a massive and, in all probability, insurmountable advantage in the survival race appears at face value a favourable proposition; certainly far more palatable than the winning surge both north-east clubs require to overhaul Norwich.

Pressure and desperation are powerful forces, as Sunderland proved at the expense of the Canaries two seasons ago. Leicester's great escape was even more impressive this time last season but Neil and his players must heed the voices of logic and reason and ignore the nagging doubts.

Norwich have every advantage going this weekend.

They need to make it count and unleash the controlled fury that overwhelmed Newcastle in a raucous din at Carrow Road. It is time for an encore.

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