Tough run-in means we're far from safety

The league table looks a little rosier following last weekend's crucial victory over Leeds. But don't count your chickens just yet.

The league table looks a little rosier following last weekend's crucial victory over Leeds. But don't count your chickens just yet.

More than one person called me unnecessarily negative when I sounded the relegation alarm bells a couple of weeks ago, and I was accused of over-reacting and exaggerating our predicament.

There may have been a little truth in that, but we seemed to reach the opposite end of the spectrum after our win last weekend. Delighted I was with the win, of course, and it was certainly an improvement on some of the early-season rubbish we had to endure, but let's keep it all in perspective, shall we? We beat the league's bottom club, at home, by a single goal.

I don't say that grudgingly - I simply think that some of the post-match reaction was a tad over the top.


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Sure, we played well - and I thought Darren Huckerby and Simon Lappin on his debut had particularly good games - and the performance and victory came hot on the heels of the Wolves match, in which we also played well and should have won comfortably.

But we are still only six points off the drop zone, and with Southend playing QPR last night, at least one of the teams beneath us will have picked up points by the time you read this. Weather permitting, I fancy both Barnsley and Leeds to pick up at least a point each this afternoon, and don't rule out Leicester getting something from Portaloo Road.

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Today's postponement of our game at Luton is a blow because we are on a bit of a roll at the moment and the Hatters would surely have been there for the taking.

Anther three points at Kenilworth Road, and even miserable gits like me might have mustered half a smile.

But although we've now got Blackpool at home in the cup to look forward to, we've then got away trips to Chelsea in the cup (if we beat Blackpool) and Preston in the league, and we'd do well to get anything in either of those games.

Notwithstanding the club's much-needed coaching shake-up that was announced yesterday, I have always felt that next year will be the year where we should expect to start motoring up the league.

Of course I want us to finish as high as possible this season, but I still think we could be in for a few tricky moments between now and May.

That we are improving is not in doubt. The refreshing singings of Lappin, Mark Fotheringham, David Marshall, Chris Brown and Luke Chadwick bode well, as does this week's skake-up at Colney. At long last, Peter Grant is starting to put his stamp on the club.

But we have a tough run-in at home between now and the end of the season, with five of our seven remaining Carrow Road league fixtures looking particularly difficult.

We also have some crunch matches with the teams beneath us, and the trips to Barnsley, Hull and Leicester look particularly crucial. Lose those three, and we would be handing our rivals a double boost.

Over the past three seasons, the team finishing fourth from bottom in the Championship has finished with either 50 or 51 points.

We've got 37 points at the moment, and so another 14 or 15 points should see us safe - assuming that the cut-off point is roughly the same this year.

There will no doubt be some “easy” points that we drop and some unexpected points that we pick up, and if I was any good with my predictions I would be enjoying the high life somewhere exotic rather than sitting here, writing this.

But just say that the last 16 games threw up the following results:

Luton (A): draw

Preston (A): lose

Coventry (H): win

Barnsley (A): draw

Derby (H): draw

Cardiff (A): lose

Birmingham (H): lose

Stoke (H): win

Colchester (A): lose

Hull (A): draw

West Brom (H): draw

Leicester (A): draw

Burnley (A): lose

Ipswich (H): win

Southampton (H): draw

Sheffield Wednesday (A): lose

That would give us another 16 points, giving us a final total 53. And that - based on recent years - would see us safe.

But not THAT safe. And while I actually think that, if anything, we'll pick up more than 16 points between now and the end of the season, you only need to turn a couple of those wins into draws and a couple of those draws into defeats and suddenly things aren't looking quite so brilliant.

Our situation has not been helped by a mini fixture backlog. With today's Kenilworth Road trip now needing to be rescheduled and the rearranged trip to Burnley having been shoe-horned into a midweek slot in April, we at least have the benefit of games in hand over the other teams around us.

But those games still need to be won, and it doesn't make the run-in any easier.

I realise that I might be sounding a little miserable this week, even by my own Eeyore standards, but I can only come back to the euphoria that seemed to be sweeping thorough Norfolk after last weekend's win.

We must keep our feet on the ground and realise that we are still only at the dizzying heights of 16th. Keep the good form going and we'll be more than OK.

But we're Norwich fans, don't forget, and experience tells us that we should take nothing for granted.

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