The Canaries head for Royal Berkshire tomorrow and a date with the Sky cameras – well aware of the challenge that awaits.
The Royals might have lost to early pace-setters QPR, but were unlucky to pick up just a point against Dave Jones’ Cardiff City in mid-week.
And at least one Reading star – winger Jobi McAnuff – is squarely gunning for all three points at the end of a big week for both clubs.
The play-off pack want to break away from the mid-table fodder and with the Canaries having dug themselves fairly firmly into the top six reckoning with a third of the season now gone, so Paul Lambert and Co will not be looking to return to Norfolk tomorrow night empty-handed.
It should be an intriguing contest as the Sky cameras get ready to roll.
“Norwich are another good team and they’re up there in the mixer,” McAnuff told the Reading Evening Post tonight. The former Wimbledon youngster was already pencilling in the Canaries for a top-six re-match at the end of the season; he has Lambert’s squad down to last the course of yet another gruelling season in the Championship trenches.
“They will be there or there-abouts and will probably be play-off rivals for us so we need to make sure we get a positive result,” said McAnuff.
It was a gauntlet that Canary boss Lambert would, no doubt, be happy to pick up – particularly now that he has the suspended Andrew Crofts back in the middle of the park.
He is one that ought to relish a chance to shine in front of the TV cameras.
He clearly missed not being centre stage on a dirty night out at the New Den.
“That was one of them games where I would love to have played in,” the one-time Gills skipper told BBC Radio Norfolk today.
“But the boys did well; a good point – could have been all three. But we take that into Saturday now.”
Crofts was described as ‘the heart-beat of the team’ by fellow City star Elliott Ward after the 2-2 draw with Burnley in which the Welsh international’s game ended with something of a bang – two yellows with the crucial equalising goal sandwiched in-between.
It would be one of the bigger surprises of the season if Crofts didn’t walk straight back into Lambert’s starting thinking for the Royals clash. He still has, of course, four yellows to his name; one more and he will be out a game.
It is not something that he is thinking about, unduly. Normal midfield service will be resumed at 5.20pm tomorrow.
“That won’t come into my head at all – I’ll just play the game as I’ve been playing it,” he vowed. It would, he said, be one to watch.
“Reading are a very good side and we can’t wait to play them because we know it’s going to be a great game.”
He, like McAnuff before him, was fully expecting to find Reading in the final reckoning come next May.
“They’re usually there or thereabouts most seasons and have been up in the Premiership, so they know what it’s all about,” said Crofts, already firmly in the running for the Player of the Season gong.
His return will, inevitably, prompt another re-shuffle; whether winger Anthony McNamee is the one to be sacrificed will be just one of the decisions facing Lambert ahead of kick-off. He may yet be slipped up the manager’s sleeve for a second-half run-out.
Crofts himself insists for the likes of Korey Smith – who found himself in three different positions in that Burnley clash – that’s just the way football works; sometimes, you have to be a jack of all trades.
“It’s part and parcel of football, that’s why you’ve got a squad,” said the City midfielder.
“Sometimes you’ve got to play in a position that’s not your main position. We’ve got a great set of lads and they’re prepared to do that if it benefits the team.”
Back down the M4, the Royals have been into some re-shuffling of their own.
For that Cardiff clash they went into mid-week battle with three strikers on from the start in the shape of Shane Long, Simon Church and Noel Hunt.
Throw in McAnuff – hardly the most defensive of midfielders – and it could well prove to be an open and attacking encounter that Crofts expects; it might not be too cat-and-mouse.
After all, it almost yielded a decent result against the Bluebirds; they enter the contest determined to end a big week on a winning note.
“We had a few chances that we could have done better with and killed the game off,” said McAnuff.
“But now we have to dust ourselves down and get ready for Norwich on Saturday.
“Being so close to winning and drawing like that hurts. But we have to take the positives out of it and we’ll take confidence from the game. We picked ourselves up after the QPR defeat and played well.”