The words 'six' and 'points' very rarely cross the lips of a manager. Nine times out of ten, if not 99 times out of 100, each game is as important as the next.
After all, in reality there is no such thing as a six-point game. You only ever get three points for a win.
But as Canary hearts and minds now turn towards the Easter East Anglian derby with struggling Colchester United at Carrow Road next weekend, City centre-half Gary Doherty was happy enough to confirm that the contest would be a real 'six-pointer'. In fairness, hard on the heels of yesterday's 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United 'happy' was probably the wrong word.
Resigned might be a better term as the Norfolk side find themselves back among the relegation pack just three points ahead of Sheffield Wednesday in 22nd place with just one win to their name now in eight Championship outings. As ever with the Canaries, it is either feast or famine; black or white. Through New Year they could barely stop winning; now they can barely start.
“It is disappointing and we're in a bad run at the minute,” said the 28-year-old, who arrived on the pitch half-way through the second period – the damage already done as first Billy Sharp and then Matthew Kilgallon wrecked Norwich's weekend in South Yorkshire.
“And it's something that we've got to put right because we've obviously been dragged right into it,” he added. “We've got a massive game against Colchester next week and that's really key for us now.”
Cue those two, little words. Is it a six-pointer?
“Yes – definitely,” said Doherty, with the Us own survival hopes fading fast on the back of seeing two more home points disappear with that 1-1 draw with Cardiff. “They're obviously a little bit out of it, but if they come to our place and get a result then it's going to gee them right up.
“So it's a massive game and we've got a big week ahead of us of focussing on that game and getting everything right.”
In fairness, City didn't plumb Leicester or Coventry (a) like depths yesterday. For much of the contest they more than held their own and, indeed, offered genuine moments of real quality as Kieran Gibbs swivelled away in the centre of the park before sweeping a glorious shot just wide of Paddy Kenny's left upright while Ched Evans would unearth a jack-hammer of a free-kick after the break that Kenny could only palm away, hands stinging.
But by the same token, Rob Hulse rattled the base of Marshall's post before the break and, indeed, would see a fine header swirl just wide as one-time Canary transfer target David Cotterill caught the eye. Sharp was the one to miss the real sitter – a horrible, scuffed shot at the far post that proved the high point of United's early storm.
“The performance wasn't too bad – it's just disappointing that when we were on that great run we were winning games by the odd goal and now – obviously it was two today – but we've been losing games by the odd goal,” said Doherty, with Blackpool, Stoke and Coventry all prising three, huge points out of Norwich's hands by one-goal margins. The fact that it was only 1-0 at the Ricoh owed little to Norwich's performance – more to Marshall's reactions and Coventry's own inability to turn chances into goals.
But, in theory, the margin between success and failure is small.
“Once we start turning those defeats around and getting them the other way round to 1-0 victories, then hopefully we can start pushing again,” said Doherty.
Part of City's problems is that don't turn those 1-0 victories into 2-1 wins – that they are always one defensive lapse away from conceding a goal. And given the chronically few number of goals they have score this season, one defensive lapse invariably means the loss of at least two points. Three if concentration goes AWOL twice in the space of three killer minutes as it did at Bramall Lane this weekend.
But again, Messrs Pattison and Huckerby bag a goal apiece from their two, first-half chances and it is a different story.
“They created a few chances, we created one or two chances as well, so it's pretty even I guess in the first-half,” said Doherty, with disaster lurking just around the corner in the 52nd minute as Sharp's instinctive volley off an Alex Pearce clearance left David Marshall stranded in the City goal.
“I thought the lad took the goal excellently for the first one – and it was a good second header,” said Doherty, as he gave Kilgallon credit for the decisive strike three minutes later.
“So they can be happy with their performance – and, obviously, we've got a lot of work to do.”
Leicester's extraordinary 4-1 win at promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion also sent a shudder through both the dressing room and the terraces. Only Southampton's 5-0 humbling at Hull City offered hope of a side rather more intent on following Leeds United into the deep, dark pit of League One football than the rest of those six sides with just three points between them. Like the Canaries, the Saints have both Bristol City and West Bromwich Albion still to play.
Twitchy times at St Mary's if everyone clings to the hope that both Colchester and Scunthorpe are already gone.
This weekend, however, and the honours belonged to Leicester. “That's just this league, isn't it?” said Doherty. “West Brom are a fantastic team and Leicester hardly score and they've hit West Brom for four.
“But then Leicester could lose next week – that's how even this league is at the minute.”
Suspended for the Stoke clash in mid-week, Doherty's arrival back in the thick of the fray mid-way through the second period for Jason Shackell suggests he may well be on centre-stage again come the Us game. Always one to divide message-board opinion, City boss Glenn Roeder has said before now that 'The Doc' has been “a rock” since his regime arrived.
With Darel Russell, likewise, due to return from his one two-match ban following the pair's red cards at the Ricoh, City will at least have two of the bigger players this season back at the manager's disposal.
“I never really felt that I deserved a red card, to be honest,” said Doherty. “And I'm just gutted that that's cost me my place.
“Obviously we lost on Tuesday, but the gaffer felt the lads done alright [Pearce and Shackell] and stuck with them, so it'll be interesting to see now whether I'm back in it for next week.”