City full-back Jon Otsemobor was today hoping that a day at the races can see the Canaries galloping down the final furlong tomorrow as Norwich play host to title-chasing West Bromwich Albion.
One win from their last three games will all but make City's place in the Championship safe next season. They could, of course, not win another point and still be bound for Turf Moor next year given that Burnley are, remarkably, the one and only club in the division with neither promotion nor relegation issues on their mind.
But if, for example, Leicester City slip up at Barnsley and the Canaries manage to throw a spanner into the Baggies' title works, so everyone can sleep soundly come Saturday night – a big, big job done given the almighty mess the club found itself in at the start of November.
Given the potential importance of this week's game, City boss Glenn Roeder opted for a spot of team-building at the home of racing on Wednesday – a trip to Newmarket that left Messrs Marshall and Pearce with a smile on their faces.
“We went to Newmarket races,” revealed Otsemobor, with Roeder having already taken his troops ten-pin bowling – a day in which Jamie Cureton proved the ten-pin king.
Come Wednesday, however, and it was Canary keeper David Marshall and the on-loan Alex Pearce who emerged victorious.
“I don't gamble, but Marshy [Marshall] and Pearcey [Pearce] got a few tips, so they won a few quid,” said Otsemobor.
Should Roeder pull off his 'Great Escape' in the next three weeks then perhaps – somewhere in the murky mix that is what makes a dressing room tick – then such away-days may have played their part in hauling Norwich back from the brink. The players also, of course, enjoyed a four-day sunshine break in Spain – all part of Roeder's attempt to build a team from the unholy mess that he inherited five short months ago.
“The gaffer's been getting the team together over the past couple of weeks,” said the one-time Liverpool apprentice. “We normally have a day off on a Wednesday, but rather than us all having a day off he decided to have an activity day.
“And it's good – the lads are all together; we're not at the training ground; we talk about other stuff. So it was good – it's good team-bonding; it keeps us all together and we have a laugh.”
The counter-claim is, of course, that this merely fortifies the impression of a 'Costa del Colney'; that after events of last Sunday, it should be round-the-clock punishment drills and not days at the races.
As ever, of course, the proof comes in the pudding. You do whatever it takes to stay out of League One and if a trip to Newmarket takes the pressure off, then so be it. Either way and Otsemobor knows that the 2-1 defeat at Ipswich hid a multitude of sins – many of which are not yet forgotten as the Canary faithful look for a suitable response back on home turf.
“I think the fans are expecting a big response because I think it's fair to say that against Ipswich none of us really turned up,” admitted the Canary right-back, who – in fairness – wasn't the worst culprit. He, at least, didn't have to spend his afternoon falling in Danny Haynes' wake.
“I don't know why, but we never,” said Otsemobor, at a loss to explain the no-show. “Which was a shame because especially in away games in the past couple of months we've played really well – up until last week.
“It's very disappointing – it's a local derby so regardless of how you play, you want to get something out of the game and we didn't so it's been very disappointing.”
Now, however, Norwich need something from this game. If not, then definitely the one after – the home clash with Queen's Park Rangers. No-one, but no-one wants to be heading to Hillsborough on the final day of the season looking for a result.
“The table doesn't lie – we're still in there, but I think – personally – that another win will keep us clear of the drop zone,” said the Canary defender, with the likes of Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday both having their work cut out to keep League One at bay. The Foxes' final game of the season away at Stoke is the stuff of real relegation nightmares.
“We've got a big game Saturday and QPR the following week, so hopefully we can take three points from one of them. And if we can beat West Brom then it does send out a big signal to the rest of them,” said Otsemobor, with Norwich's performances not always reaping the points they deserve. Last week and they got exactly what they deserved – diddly-squat, in short.
“I feel we should have been well safe by now – regardless of the start to the season that we had. We should be well clear of it now. But like I said, the table doesn't lie and we are where we are for a reason and, hopefully, we can take as many points as we can from the next three games and avoid the drop zone.”
Prising three points out of the Baggies isn't exactly a walk in the park. The Norfolk side may have to hope that six games in a frenetic 18-day spell may have taken both an emotional and physical toll out of Tony Mowbray's players; that the likes of Zoltan Gera, Kevin Phillips and Ishmael Miller might not be firing on all cylinders following Tuesday night's sapping, Black Country derby success.
“They are the best team in the league and – going on watching them – I feel they play the best football as well. But everyone knows that they are beatable – Preston have beaten them; Leicester have beaten them. So we're going into the game confident that we can take all three points,” said the City full-back, well aware of the threat that the 24-goal Phillips and Co present.
“We've been doing work on the back four this week – and I'm sure we'll do more today ahead of the game and it's something that we're all prepared for; all the defenders. And if we can take it into the game then, hopefully, we can get the right result,” he said.
And the secret? “I think it's basically just getting in their faces – not just with the danger-men, but all round the pitch. Make them work for every ball. And if we do that – and play our football – then I think we've got a good chance.”
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