Sky Blues boss Chris Coleman has set his players a survival target of 54 points as the Canaries watch events at Hillsborough tonight unfold with great and growing interest.
Sheffield Wednesday may be in the drop zone right now, but they enjoy two games in hand on many in the relegation pack.
With Saturday's late dramas leaving the Canaries still in the thick of the mix and just four points clear of the Owls, this evening's clash with Coventry City – who themselves sit just one place beneath Norwich with a game in hand after springing a major surprise away at play-off hopefuls Plymouth this weekend – is of major significance as Coleman looks to prise two more wins and 54 points out of his newly-inherited squad.
“Two more results out of our remaining games, which we are well capable of, should see us OK,” said Coleman, ahead of this evening's crunch trip to South Yorkshire.
Speaking to the Coventry Evening Telegraph ahead of this evening's game, the Ricoh chief also recalled last month's clash with the Canaries in which Jay Tabb's sixth minute opener – somehow – proved the only difference between the two teams as both Darel Russell and Gary Doherty saw red.
Afterwards and Coleman clearly had a chat with his long-time Fulham pal Lee Clark as to how their respective seasons were shaping up. Coventry were just starting to dig themselves out of trouble, Norwich had done much of the hard work already – only to then find form and fortune turning against them as that 13-game unbeaten run fast disappeared into the memory and same familiar failings came to haunt their hopes of a calm and trouble-free spring.
The 5-1 home win against a surely-doomed Colchester United lifted some of the pressure, but whatever the rights and wrongs of the whole Andy D'Urso affair at Ashton Gate – the fact remains that a win for the Sky Blues tonight would see the Norfolk side slip further into the mire ahead of their next crunch clash at home to Burnley this weekend.
“We played Norwich about a month ago and their assistant manager Lee Clark, who's a very good friend of mine, said: 'If you keep playing like that, you'll get out of it…' Now they're in it – that's how tight it is,” Coleman told the Telegraph. “I still think it will go to the wire because it's so tight at both ends of the league.”
Coventry are probably the 'form' team of the relegation pack having gone three games unbeaten. Their weekend success at Home Park will have done them the power of good – and will have set the alarm bells ringing at both St Mary's and the Walkers' Stadium with both Southampton and Leicester City unable to dig out any real result of late.
Wednesday have the consolation of digging out a big point against then leaders Stoke City on Saturday – albeit if the possibility of a Football League investigation still hangs over their heads after fielding six loan players in their 16-man squad for the Potters clash. One of whom – Portsmouth's Frank Songo'o – scored the crucial leveller.
The hope – not just in the Potteries – would be that a Football League adjudicator would not only award the two extra points to Stoke, but whip one out of the Owls' hands; keeping them firmly rooted in the bottom three.
That prospect looks ever less likely after it emerged that Swansea fell foul of the same, five-loans-only rule five years ago.
The Swans, too, named six loanees in a game they also drew, but were let off with a reprimand as only five played. On Saturday, two of the Owls six loans sat on the bench for the full 90 minutes and never entered the field of play. No more than a reprimand awaits, was the general view.
Either way, tonight is a big, big game in this season's relegation stakes.
“There will be a lot of pressure on both teams,” Coleman told the Coventry Telegraph. “But Wednesday have got to come at us and try to win it because it's on their patch and they are behind us in the league.
“If we get the three points, that makes the gap that bit bigger for us, but if Sheffield win they'll be on the same points with a better goal difference. It's a really big game for both teams and if we managed a win it would be fantastic.”
Coleman – like City boss Glenn Roeder – would take a draw. That would leave the Sky Blues level on points with Norwich but still below them in the table on the virtue of having a one-goal worse goal difference. That in itself demonstrates again just how tight the fight to avoid the drop is becoming.
One goal here, one goal there. One decision here, one decision there.
“Any result away from home is good, especially at this stage of the season when we're playing a team in and around us, and a draw would be a better result for us at this stage – it would be two points dropped for them,” said Coleman.
“A point is not the end of the world for us but Wednesday would be very disappointed because that would make it three points from a run of three home games and they would have been looking at more than that.”
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