City midfielder Darel Russell will be hoping a little of his old Potters' magic will follow him to Portman Road tomorrow as the Canaries cast a beady eye on the Championship finishing line with victory against their nearest and dearest neighbours.
Today's games not only confirmed Scunthorpe United's place in League One next season alongside the luckless U's, but also found Leicester City installed as the favourites for the third and final relegation spot.
For while Iain Hume's 90th minute leveller might have spared them the indignity of a home defeat by Geraint Williams' men, today's contest at the Walker's Stadium had a 'must-win' written all over it.
The Foxes now travel to in-form Barnsley next weekend, before facing fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday at home in their penultimate game.
It is their final game of the season that will send a chill down the spine of any Foxes' fan and may yet allow Canary supporters to sleep even easier tonight.
Away at Stoke City is a nightmare fixture – particularly given that Tony Pulis' table-toppers (or at least until the final whistle of the West Bromwich Albion versus Watford game later this evening) look nigh-on set to be gunning for an automatic promotion slot on that final Sunday and will be eagerly awaiting Ian Holloway's Foxes.
While no-one can take anything for granted in this league, it would be one huge result if Leicester could pull anything out of the Britannia Ground. On that basis, taking six points from their next two games would leave Leicester on 54 points; victory tomorrow would take the Canaries to 55. Norwich are all but home. Coventry City's defeat to Stoke helped; as did Southampton's draw at Charlton; as did Blackpool's defeat by FA Cup finalists Cardiff City.
The Seasiders play host to Sheffield Wednesday next weekend; another big game that both sides cannot win.
All of which could become virtually irrelevant if the Canaries can throw another large spanner into Ipswich's play-off works. It would be the worst time in the world for Russell to score his first derby goal for City.
“I had a real good record against Ipswich when I played for Stoke,” said Russell, his back-to-back red card miseries now behind him.
“I think I had three – maybe four. I'm not sure. But in Norwich derbies I haven't notched yet, so it'd be a nice time to break that duck but we'll have to wait and see.”
Certainly, there was little evidence of anyone thinking that a job was done. This is, after all, derby weekend.
“It's been a lot more serious around the place,” said Russell, speaking at Colney yesterday.
“The gaffer's very serious about the game and that's emanating into the way that we've been training this week as well.”
Given his long Canary history – albeit with three years at the Britannia sandwiched in between – Russell knows exactly what tomorrow's game means. “Especially at this stage of the season.
“It's probably our biggest game of the season and there's a lot riding on it in terms of us safety-wise and Ipswich trying to get themselves into that play-off position.”
Town's margin for error on that score lessened even further today with Palace's 2-0 win over a doomed Scunthorpe – a result that left the Eagles with the wind back in their sails and four points clear of the Suffolk side with games fast running out. The 1-1 draw at home to Cardiff in mid-week hardly helped ease the locals' anxieties.
“It's a big game for everybody – and for the fans it's the biggest bragging rights for the rest of the year. And they've got a nice summer to enjoy it – whoever gets the win.”
Edgy would be one word for tomorrow's likely atmosphere; Russell added another.
“It's going to be a lively one – that's all I can say,” he said. “I can imagine it being 100 miles per hour from the word go. So it's going to be a tough game for both sides – physically and mentally because there's so much riding on it. It's going to take a lot of tough people to go out there on Sunday and get us that result.
“But if we play how we know we can play, I think we are a match for anybody in this division as we've proved – at times – this year. Too inconsistently,” he swiftly admitted.
“And if we'd have done it more consistently we would have got ourselves right up that table. But I think we've shown that we've got a lot of talent and ability in our team.”
City will certainly be a far different animal from the one that drew 2-2 in the home fixture last autumn in Glenn Roeder's first game in charge at Carrow Road. Far from prying eyes and it was interesting to hear the 27-year-old talk of the changes to the club's training regime under the new boss and his two assistants, No2 Lee Clark and first team coach Paul Stephenson.
“The training has been the best I've known it at a club for a long time,” said the City midfielder, offering last weekend's 2-0 win over Burnley as proof in the pudding. “We're training at such a high tempo and it seems that we're taking it into games and we're pulling eachother along.
“We're probably playing beyond ourselves to a certain extent – where you can see people pulling along, you've got to try and keep up with them as well. So it's a fantastic way to be playing; we're training that well… it's hard to get the fans to understand that. But certainly last Saturday, we're playing the way that we've been training. So it's been great.”
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