City boss Glenn Roeder is happy to let the Yellow and Green Army to be the ones that dream. He, he insists, is taking this extraordinary season “one game at a time” – kicking off with tomorrow night's home clash with Hull City.
“I know we're on a good run,” said Roeder, after Ched Evans' double strike gave Norwich another huge away win on their travels and left them unbeaten in 12 Championship games going into tomorrow's clash with Dean Windass and Co.
Since Lee Clark's 'watershed' game at Plymouth Argyle on November 10, Norwich have now lost just once – and that to a last-minute winner away at Stoke City.
In the 15 games since that fateful trip to Home Park, Norwich have now picked up 32 points from an available 45. The top six is now a mere four points distant; the bottom three a comforting ten points away.
It is, by any measure, an astonishing turnaround in the club's fortunes – particularly given the whole body language on show at Plymouth. Norwich, mentally, were gone. They stank. Three short months later and the first whiff of a trip to Wembley in May is filling the nostrils.
“Our fans have started to dream which is better than the nightmares that they were having at the end of October on eight points,” said Roeder. “But I work one game at a time.
“All my concentration now is getting the players feet back on the ground when we come back into training and working towards the home game against Hull City on Tuesday.”
Once again Saturday's trip to South Wales provided further evidence of Roeder's top class managerial style at work after Matthew Bates' mistake hand enabled Gavin Rae to squeeze home a leveller deep into first-half injury-time.
Nine times out of ten that is the moment that head's drop and belief shifts. Instead, Norwich put their noses back to the grindstone straight after the interval and refused to let Cardiff enjoy the psychological upper hand.
The nearest the Bluebirds came to moving into the lead was a fierce, 78th minute header from Paul Parry which David Marshall expertly flicked away and beyond his far post. Thereafter and the contest looked set to finish at 1-1 until Evans' last-gasp moment of youthful brilliance.
“The way I dealt with it as a manager was to steady things down,” said Roeder, who watched the whole game from the directors' box and left Clark and Paul Stephenson to direct traffic from the touchline.
“I didn't come in and start ranting and raving because there was no need to. We'd played particularly well and I did have a feeling sitting upstairs and watching the game that in the last five minutes of the first-half we were starting to relax too much and were becoming a little bit sloppy. And were inviting Cardiff back into the game.
“But nevertheless, for me, it was about getting the players to get over the disappointment very quickly. They were hugely disappointed at half-time; it was just a case of getting them to sit in silence for a few minutes and just get them to realise that this was a difficult place to come and win. And we'd have probably taken a draw at half-time.
“So while we were disappointed to have conceded seconds before half-time having taken the lead, the fact of the matter was that things weren't too bad. I just needed to refocus their minds – that things weren't as bad as it seemed to the players.
“And, thankfully, they listened and that showed in the second-half. We got our composure again very quickly and we restricted Cardiff to very few chances and went on to win the game with a strike that's as good as I've seen for many, many years.”
So for those scratching around trying to fathom how on Earth the Canaries have gone from black to white; from chalk to cheese; from Home Park to Ninian Park – there may lie part of the answer. A carefully measured management style; that the tea urn was only for throwing on specific occasions. It was not to be heaved off its footings at the slightest bump in the road.
“The boys have done the club proud,” said the City boss, as he looked back on the path they have trod together over the last three months.
“We had eight points at the end of October and I think if you'd offered the fans an opportunity to stay in the Championship with a couple of games to go, I think they'd have grabbed it with both hands.”
He, however, was expecting things to improve long before then. “Life has taught me to be positive – and most times things work out the way you want it to.
“So I've worked on the basis that we can pull ourselves out of the bottom three much sooner than the last couple of games. And I think we're doing that quite nicely – without too many people noticing.”
Given how much rests on Dion Dublin's 38-year-old limbs, there was one moment of alarm when the veteran City striker picked himself up clutching the back of a hamstring. It was interesting to see what Roeder's 'Plan B' was – to whistle up Gary Doherty into the forward line.
“And then Alex Pearce, who has impressed so much in training, would have come on,” he said, hopeful that Dublin picked up no lasting hangover from that first-half tweak.
The other slight 'alarm' came in the sight of Ryan Bertrand disappearing down the tunnel at a fast rate of knots with the action in full flow.
As was the on-loan Chelsea youngster. “I hope the doc has one or two tablets to give him,” laughed Roeder. “Either that, or a cork…”
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