City defender Gary Doherty knows exactly what to expect tomorrow night – even down to the nearest set-piece, it will be a stiff test of the Canaries' mental and physical resolve at the high-flying Hornets.
For while Watford might have lost a little of their top-two sting on the back of those three straight draws going into tomorrow night's game, they remain favourites to nick one of the automatic promotion places.
Likewise Stoke's little upset at QPR yesterday will have given Aidy Boothroyd's outfit an untimely boost as far as Norwich are concerned. And while Marlon King might have grabbed the nearest Premiership ticket in the January transfer window, all that ensured was that the Watford chief had the wherewithal to splash ?3.25 million on Nathan Ellington.
Big, strong and physically imposing, the former Wigan and West Bromwich Albion hitman is likely to offer a very similar foil for the 6ft 2in Darius Henderson.
So are Watford the biggest test, physically, in this league? After all, if the Canaries are ever to return to winning ways after Saturday's home humbling by Blackpool, someone is going to have to find a way round Danny Shittu.
“Yes – I think so. Definitely in this league,” said Doherty, likely to keep his tin helmet on for the visit to deepest Hertfordshire.
“They obviously do a fantastic job at getting the ball in the box, keeping the ball in the box and scoring a lot from knock-downs. So it's going to be a tough game – especially physically – but one we're looking forward to,” said Doherty, one of the few to emerge vaguely unscathed from this weekend's 2-1 home defeat by the Seasiders.
Whether or not tomorrow's game prompts a reunion with Jason Shackell or whether he keeps faith on-loan Reading youngster Alex Pearce alongside Doherty is just one of the many selection posers for City boss Glenn Roeder to answer over the next 24 hours.
The fact that Norwich are travelling to a Watford and not, say, to a Scunthorpe will at least keep everyone on their toes. Or at least that was Roeder's thinking as he conducted the post-mortems at Colney yesterday.
“He (Roeder) mentioned that yesterday and it probably is the best thing,” said Doherty. “You don't want to be going to another team that's quite low down; you want to go and play one of the big boys because we've not played one of the big boys for a while so it'll be a good test for us.
“They're in decent form and they've got a lot of striking options so it's one that we're looking forward to. Definitely.”
With a tricky-looking away trip to Coventry looming at the weekend to be followed swiftly by the visit of Tony Pulis' Stoke next Tuesday night, the Canaries need to keep a degree of momentum to their performances and results. With the games coming so thick and fast, it would still be very easy to find themselves stuck in the spring mud.
Equally, a result tomorrow night would go a long way to suggesting that Saturday's home reverse was just 'one of those…' rather than the first on-set of a deeper, end-of-season malaise.
“I hope so – that's what we've got to put it down to. But the only way that we can put it down to that is if we perform in the next two away games. Coventry are fighting for their lives, but first up are Watford who are fighting to get into the Premiership, so it's going to be a tough game for us,” said Doherty. “But, like you say, it's a good yard-stick for us to say that Saturday was just a one-off.”
Everyone always assumed that the three recently-relegated clubs – all now armed with their enhanced Premiership parachute payments – would bounce back into the top flight with ever greater ease.
In the event, of course, first Stoke and now Bristol City have thrown a spanner into those kind of works. Certainly the chairmen of Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Charlton Athletic will not have based their financial forecasts on the lottery of the play-offs. Perhaps it is that kind of expectation that explains the Hornets' stumbling home form – 0-0 draws at home to Preston North End is not the stuff of runaway champions.
Doherty, however, is still expecting money to talk as the 28-year-old former Hatters favourite returns to their much-loved neighbours.
“They're whopping out three and four millions on players left, right and centre so we all expected them to be right up there; Sheffield United are doing much like we did when we came down,” said Doherty, as the Blades likewise find acclimatising back to their former surroundings a painful process.
“You lose a couple of players and it's always difficult to come down to this league. But I think Watford are doing alright; they're in a good position to chase and West Brom are in good form as well, so I'd expect those two to still be up there towards the end.”
Doherty missed the Carrow Road fixture – a comfortable win for Watford that left the two sides looking miles apart. One was clearly heading one way; one the other. Since then, of course, Roeder has managed to steer the SS Canary off the rocks and into some far calmer seas. Boothroyd, by contrast, has lost a little of the wind from his sails. Favourites to return they may be, but nothing looks guaranteed.
Watford are no Reading. Nor are they Norwich c2004.
“I was injured for that, but they did look decent – especially the front two,” said Doherty, as Watford turned on the power for that 3-1 success in just Roeder's second game at the helm.
“But I think King's gone now – he's obviously one we don't have to worry about. But then they've brought in Ellington and I think he cost about three million. So they've got good striking options and set-pieces they're strong as well, so it's going to be a tough one.”