As all eyes gaze ever upward on that race for one of the two, automatic promotion slots following Norwich’s latest away-day success this weekend, there is one other race that is, likewise, coming firmly to the boil.
Because, to many a mind, the 2010-2011 Player of the Season Trophy could be an intriguing contest.
Skipper Grant Holt and his derby hat-trick heroics has got to be the bookies favourite, but at least two other candidates have pushed themselves to the fore of late.
Full-back Russell Martin has dug out four points against first leaders Queen’s Park Rangers and then Cardiff City; as well as hitting a rare level of consistency in that right-back berth.
The other dark horse, however, is Andrew Crofts who did himself no harm at all with that double strike at Bramall Lane as the Canaries dug themselves ever deeper into the play-off pack.
They remain a whisker away from one of the two automatic promotion spots – even if Rangers’ 2-1 home win over Coventry City yesterday kept the Londoners in command of their own destiny.
“It’s another three great points and we just want to keep building on that,” said Crofts, speaking after his two, second-half strikes gave Norwich that 2-1 win and sent 2,000 travelling supporters home very happy.
The A17 will have whizzed by as the Norfolk faithful continued to dream the impossible dream.
For the 26-year-old former Brighton skipper – lauded as one of the best midfielders in the nPower Championship by City chief Paul Lambert afterwards – the pleasure came not from goals No5 and No6 for the season, rather another three, big points on Norwich’s travels.
“I was happy with the goal, but more pleased with the three points,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
Two, deep David Fox corners set the ball rolling as Blades found themselves twice floored by a sure Crofts finish – the ball falling just where the lurking midfielder would have wanted as he hung around the penalty spot waiting for such opportunities to knock.
“I’ve always said that goals are a bonus – I like to think that I give other things to the team, but six ain’t bad,” he admitted, now two ahead again of right-back pal Russell Martin.
As much as those six goal will push him up in the Barry Butler running, it is Crofts’ broader contribution to the party that most recognise; he is, in short, a very good all-rounder. With attitude to match.
“Every game that I play in I want to give it my best – that’s all you can do and, hopefully, people appreciate that,” said the Welsh international, well aware of the rapport that he’s earned since his free transfer move last summer.
“The fans have been different class to me and the team and, as I say, we just want to keep working, keep building and keep going,” he said.
“And they have been unbelievable since I’ve been here; the atmosphere is always great – and they’re now getting their rewards.”
That, in large part, owes much to the efforts of Lambert as his players – as much as the manager would insist it is all about those that cross the white line week after week.
After a flat first-half – livened only by Chrissy Martin’s blistering free-kick against the Blades bar – the Canaries hit top gear after the interval; once more spurred on by the manager’s half-time thoughts.
“He’s a great manager – he always knows the right things to say; we re-grouped at half-time and came out fighting in the second-half,” said Crofts, as the Canaries racked up their first double of the season against the struggling Blades.
“It was a tough battle out there, but the boys are a pleasure to play with – they never give up,” said Crofts, a quality that time and again has risen to Norwich’s rescue this term.
“We’re always in the game and it’s a ‘Never say die!’ attitude. We keep going to the end – and we get our rewards,” said Crofts, whose sure finish ten minutes from the end proved decisive.
“I think in the second-half it opened up a bit, we started to play our stuff and we kept going right to the end,” he added, as United’s howls of protest were drowned out by the screams of delight from the watching Canary supporters as Crofts partied with the best of them – oblivious to a referee’s whistle that, rightly, never came.
“I was just reeling off to the fans – I was buzzing and I didn’t get called back which was the main thing,” he said.