Worthy pushes for promotion

CHRIS WISE Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington was happy to talk up a New Year promotion push after watching his side reel off their fifth straight Coca-Cola Championship victory.


Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington was happy to talk up a New Year promotion push after watching his side reel off their fifth straight Coca-Cola Championship victory.

The Canaries were some way below their best against a struggling Leicester, but still managed to come away with all three points courtesy of a well-taken second-half strike from a rejuvenated Paul McVeigh.

As a result Worthington's in-form side are now just one point adrift of the play-off positions, having being too close to the relegation zone for comfort at the beginning of December - and they'll be in the top six come 5pm this afternoon if they see off Preston at Carrow Road while Wolves, Luton, Burnley and Cardiff above them all fail to take maximum points.

That's probably something of a long shot, but there's no doubt that the team written off as no-hopers in certain quarters a month ago are now back in with a genuine chance of reclaiming their place in the Premiership at the first attempt.

Worthington puts Norwich's sudden resurgence down to pure hard work - and believes his side will have an excellent chance of completing the job if they can maintain their current standards for another four months.

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“Five or six weeks ago we'd have lost at Leicester, there's no doubt about that, because we were a team who would cave in under pressure,” said the City boss. “But we've got steel back in the side now and people are working hard, whereas before some people were simply going through the motions and pretending.

“We sorted that out and now we are back to the high work ethic that has been an important factor for us ever since I have been manager of this football club.

“I think it's now realistic for us to be talking about a promotion push. Five wins out of five is nice - and now it's time to keep it going.”

There were no shortage of calls for Worthington to resign during a miserable first half of the season which saw his talented squad under-perform on a regular basis.

So he had plenty of sympathy for under-pressure Craig Levein after the game, and is hoping the Leicester board follow the example of City's majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones and stand by their man in times of trouble.

“We were beaten 2-0 at Derby at the beginning of December when we were rubbish, and the fans were shouting that they wanted me out,” he said.

“It's not nice to hear that sort of thing but my board have been a tower of strength and the people at the club have stuck by me too and since that day we've had five straight wins. I just hope the people at Leicester will do the same with Craig.”

McVeigh's fourth goal in the space of five games transformed a match that appeared to be heading for an instantly forgettable stalemate - and although a goalless draw would have been a fairer outcome based on the overall balance of play Worthington was making no apologies afterwards.

“It's a great result,” he said. “This is a very tough place to come to and Leicester threw the kitchen sink at us in the first half. But all credit to the players. They got their blocks and tackles in. It would have been nicer if we had got the ball down and played how we like to play, but against Leicester you are not always going to be able to do that.

“I always thought if we got through to half-time without conceding we could go on and win the game - and that's exactly the way it turned out.”

While McVeigh grabbed the limelight once again, Dean Ashton had a particularly quite game - but that did not prevent the inevitable questions about his future after in the post-match press conference.

The speculation linking the highly rated striker with a big-money move to the Premiership is likely to gather pace now the January transfer window has opened but Worthington stressed again that he had no desire to sell his prime asset.

“The phone can ring all it wants but someone is going to have to break the bank to buy him,” said the City boss before adding confidently: “Dean Ashton will be part of our promotion push.”