Tunnel vision the key for Norwich City to swat aside Rotherham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mind games hold the key to Norwich City swatting aside Rotherham on Saturday in the Championship.
The Canaries fragility has been routinely exposed in a prolonged downturn but not even the most ardent Millers' fan would predict anything other than a defeat for Norfolk-bred Paul Warne and his relegation-haunted squad.
City counterpart Alex Neil pinpointed a complacent streak as one of the factors in a pre-festive slump, and the same charge will be levelled if they slip back again.
'The one thing we know in this league if you are not up for the fight and not up for the battle it can prove difficult,' he said. 'I am not bothered what anyone on the outside thinks, in terms of this is a game we are expected to win.
'It is an opportunity for three points. I know they haven't been doing well and we would expect to win if we do our best. Whether we are on a hiding to nothing or expectation levels are high does not concern me. That is the nature of football.
'If we go to a really top team the expectation level might be lower but we still aim to win - regardless of whether people deem us as favourites. Complacency is something that has been discussed at length. We have made sure the preparations for Rotherham are suitable because we know what is coming.
'That complacency or lack of resilience has perhaps been typified on the road. When we went up the last time we had that. We were resilient, we were powerful away from home.
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'This is the start of three really important games.
'We have to live up to that expectation at Rotherham and then we need six points at home and it leaves us in a much better place to kick on.'
The Scot knows he faces the same questions should Norwich's recent upward trend end abruptly this afternoon.
'We are undefeated in three, we should have beaten Brentford and we more than held our own against Southampton,' he said. 'At Brentford if we score one or two of the five clear-cut chances we would have been saying we won the game comfortably and it was an excellent away performance. To then go and show resilience against Derby was encouraging. We had a really good performance against Derby and we will look to build on it.
'I am always hesitant to say we have turned the corner or we are going to do this or that. We seem to be in a good frame of mind at the moment.
'Beating Derby in the manner we did and the form they were in suggests the lads look focused. All the signs are good but the game will take care of itself and dictate whether or not that is the case.'
Neil still retains total faith in the men at his disposal: 'The mindset when you come down from the Premier League is you have to face facts. You are in the Championship, you are a Championship player,' he said.
'You have to accept that but then fight tooth and nail to make sure by the end of this season we are no longer Championship players or that I am a Championship manager. That is a big thing.
'At the start of the season we had that mentality but it is a touch easier when the weather is nice and the pitches are perfect. When it gets cold and dirty and the games get dirty that is a true test. Hopefully we can come out the other side.'
• Norwich City will earn a televised FA Cup fourth round tie against Arsenal if they get past Southampton in next week's third round replay at St Mary's.
The winner of the tie on the south-coast will host the Gunners on Saturday, January 28 (KO 5.30pm) and the game will televised live on BT Sport. Tickets for next week's replay at Southampton are priced £12 per adult, £10 for concessions and £5 for under-18s, with the Canaries offering free coach travel to Southampton.