City’s hold on that second, automatic promotion spot lasted little more than 24 hours as Cardiff City tonight leap-frogged back into second spot courtesy of a 2-1 home win over Leeds United.
Michael Chopra’s second-half strike proved the difference – ending Leeds’ own, 12-game unbeaten run in the Championship.
Victory for the Yorkshire side would have seen them steal into second themselves; a draw and Paul Lambert’s men would have stayed in second thanks to that hard-earned point at The Riverside on Bank Holiday Monday.
Further proof – if any more were needed – that the race to the finishing line is going to be nip-and-tuck all the way.
The worry, however, is that money will talk – particularly the kind of money that Cardiff, somehow, appear to be able to throw at the problem after the on-loan Craig Bellamy gave Dave Jones’ side an early lead.
His services do not come cheap.
He will also be paying a return visit to Norfolk in ten days time for yet another mouth-watering clash at Carrow Road – Cardiff being the visitors once the third round FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient is out of the way this weekend.
Given the nature and importance of that contest, you wonder whether the likes of a Wes Hoolahan might not be given an extra weekend off to ensure that his troublesome groin is fit to entertain Bellamy, Chopra and Co.
Meanwhile Boro boss Tony Mowbray was expressing his disappointment that they only came away with a point from yesterday’s 1-1 draw as an injury-hit Canary side dug in for what Lambert would go on to describe as a ‘mammoth’ point.
“After the way we played, we are disappointed again that we haven’t won the game,” the former Town coach told the Middlesbrough Gazette afterwards.
Boro had drawn with Leeds 48 hours earlier as they desperately try to stave off a second, successive relegation season. To his mind, however, Norwich were a ‘top of the table’ side.
“Some people might say that is two good points against top of the table sides but we feel it could and should have been six points from those two games,” said Mowbray. “The way we have played and the fact that we have come away from those games believing we should have won both shows we are more than capable of competing with the top teams in this league.”
The Canaries, in part, had keeper John Ruddy to thank for keeping Boro at bay.
After the heroics of Fraser Forster last season, the one-time Cambridge keeper always had a hard act to follow; and in the shape of Declan Rudd and Jed Steer he has two, young wannabes snapping at his heels.
“I was a bit shaky to start with, but I think I’ve settled in nicely,” the 24-year-old admitted to BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards, making the point that of late it has been all-change in front of him.
Gone are the days when the Elliott Ward-Leon Barnett combo ruled the roost.
A combination of injury to one and suspension to the other has seen Michael Nelson, Jens Berthel Askou and Zak Whitbread all take to centre-stage.
“It’s never easy when your centre-halves keep changing all the time, but with the quality we’ve got in that position you never worry.
“We’ve stopped the flow of goals we were conceding a few earlier in the season, but we’re looking solid,” said Ruddy, with the new-look Nelson-Barnett pairing holding firm – albeit with the exception of Barnett’s luckless deflection to wipe out Grant Holt’s opener.
The Canary keeper was swift, however, to extend the praise to beyond just the defensive department.
“It’s a credit to the management, coaching staff and players, we work for each other and we all want to be in the same position and that’s in the Premiership,” he added.
“If we keep playing as we are and keep picking up points, who knows, but we’re content with playing every game as it comes.”