Swans boss Brendan Rodgers had an interesting line on the back of their 3-0 home win over Leeds United this weekend – one that will, no doubt, be repeated over the forthcoming weeks as the race to the nPower Championship finishing line gathers in ever greater intensity.
For now is not the time for the faint-hearted; now is the time to start delivering the big results – just as Norwich did on Saturday with their own 2-0 away win at Barnsley.
Coming on the back of that frustrating 1-1 home draw with struggling Doncaster Rovers, Paul Lambert’s men once again answered the next set of questions posed of them; when the pressure was on to deliver another result to keep the Canary pot boiling, they delivered.
Pressure of a Donny Rovers sort will, however, return this weekend when fellow strugglers Preston North End head for Carrow Road.
Norfolk will once again expect; you can’t help but wonder whether the visit of say, a Leeds, doesn’t make life slightly easier.
In fairness, to second-placed Swansea they looked to have few fears as they set about Simon Grayson’s men. Leeds are probably the ones on the wobble now; back-to-back draws against first the Canaries and then Barnsley and now a resounding away defeat to one of their big play-off rivals…
The pressure is mounting on the Whites to get their show back on the road again as Rodgers insists his team can cope with the cauldron that awaits over the final dozen or so games of the 2010-2011 season.
“This is the time of the season when there’s not so many games left – they’re going to be very, very tight. So the ability to handle pressure is going to be important,” said the former Reading and Watford chief, with the Swans now three points clear of the fourth-placed Canaries.
“I think we’ve shown we can handle the pressure,” said Rodgers, happy to indulge in a few mind games – happy to play the under-dog; play the no-one-gives-us-the-credit-we-deserve card.
It was the same card that Grayson accused Lambert of playing in the midst of last season’s League One title tussle.
The other point to this is the fact that you can peak too early in the promotion race; timing your run to the line right is crucial.
Likewise, keep your focus forward is no bad thing either. There’s nothing worse than looking anxiously over your shoulder the whole time. Which is why the seven-point gap now back to Leicester City in seventh spot will help the Canaries.
At some point their place in the play-off mix will – at the current rate of progress – come to be guaranteed. At that point, they can relax, top six spot secured and drive on again for second.
Rodgers hasn’t given up on over-hauling leaders QPR who again set out their own marker with that all-too easy away win at Middlesbrough.
“We’ll do everything we can – we say to the players: ‘Never look behind – look forward!’ and that’s what we’re trying to do. So whoever is in front we will chase,” said Rodgers, a line that Lambert will, no doubt, repeat to his own players as they continue to pursue the Swans this weekend.
Individually, this weekend’s results produced two, big winners – Swansea’s Scott Sinclair hitting the 20-goal mark as Norwich’s Andrew Crofts took his tally to eight. No mean feat for a central midfielder all-too often charged with mopping up duties in front of his back four.
His second strike, in particular, will have sent his confidence soaring – as witnessed by the low, skimming strike after the interval that came within little more than a yard of giving him his hat-trick.
“I’ve scored a few decent ones in my time, but that’s up there,” Crofts himself told the BBC afterwards.
It was a goal to really dine out on as the former Brighton skipper displayed all the touch and technique anyone could wish for to all-but kill the contest before the half-way mark.
“It was great to see it go in but the most important thing was the three points and a great performance from the boys,” he added, as the Canaries continued to breath down the neck of Swansea and keep Nottingham Forest on their toes following their lame draw away at Millwall.
“I took a touch, swivelled and caught it well,” added the Welsh international, likely to be one of the real dark horses for this year’s Player of the Season honours.
“I thought: ‘It’s set-up nicely to swivel on to it with my left…’, I caught it sweetly and was buzzing to see it go in.”
As was everyone else of Yellow and Green blood, in fairness.
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