The Canaries travel to the KC Stadium, Hull, tomorrow with one trick firmly up their sleeve – the knowledge that as far as The Tigers are concerned, it’s now or never play-off wise.
Hull sit five point off the top six ahead of this weekend’s latest round of crunch fixtures.
Coming into the game on the back of recent home defeats to both Cardiff City and Burnley, boss Nigel Pearson knows that to be eight points distant from the play-offs with just eight games to go could prove an ask too far for his Tigers outfit.
Hence, the pressure is piling up on the home side – they really need a big result from this weekend’s game.
For the Canaries – now three points clear in that second, automatic promotion spot – a point would keep them Premiership-bound. Albeit a Paul Lambert rarely travels anywhere with just a point in mind.
“The points you drop at any stage of the season are important,” Tigers chief Pearson, told the Hull Daily Mail today..
“But the perception of where we could go this season has changed since we were beaten by Burnley.
“If we win on Saturday and others around us lose, then people will be looking at us in a different light. That is why we have to try and concentrate on ourselves.”
It is certainly a big weekend of Championship action with an out-of-sorts Nottingham Forest travelling to an equally ill-at-ease Swansea City.
They too are clearly feeling the pressure after a run of just one win in their last nine nPower Championship outings.
Their trip to The Liberty tomorrow will not be for the faint-hearted – they, like Hull, have to start to deliver. And all without hamstring-victim Rob Earnshaw.
As star midfielder Chris Cohen admitted to the Nottingham Evening Post.
“The belief is still there in the dressing room, of course it is,” he said. “But this is a massive game against Swansea. The picture can change massively if we go down to Swansea and win.”
Swansea, of course, lost to Derby County last weekend – one of the clutch of favourable results that enabled the Canaries to drive themselves into that second spot on the back of the Monday night win over Bristol City.
In many senses, that was Norwich’s ‘pressure’ game; that was their gauntlet moment – could they deliver the win that all their nearest and dearest missed out on last weekend?
The fact that the answer was ‘Yes!’ means that – for this weekend, at least – the focus is not on the Canaries to deliver the big result. It will be on the Hulls, the Forests, the Swanseas.
“They [Swansea] will be hurting because they lost and we are hurting because we were held to a draw and because we have not picked up maximum points in a while now,” added Cohen, who insists they are still within ‘touching distance’ of Norwich’s prized second spot.
“It is fantastic to get to 60 points at this stage of the season and be within touching distance of second. Now we just have to make sure that we get back to the kind of form we were in only a couple of months ago.
“If we can do that, we know it will take us to where we want to be. But, as I said, we also know that we have to go and do it and not just say we are going to do it.”
Ditto Pearson at the KC. They have to deliver too – particularly after those successive home defeats to Cardiff and Burnley.
“We know it will be a tough game but we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s our next opportunity and although we’ve lost the last two home games, they have been against decent sides.
“We’ll try and win as many of the last nine games as we can. Whether that will be enough will depend on what happens elsewhere. But we’ll have to concentrate on ourselves.”
No such desperate need for Lambert and Co as one of the Championship’s best travelling outfits head to Hull tomorrow with Aaron Wilbraham a rare injury doubt.
That was the beauty of the Bristol City result; it left the Canaries looking forward – still dreaming the impossible dream.
For the rest, the weekend’s results left them gazing at no more than their own navel – ever more anxious that this is not going to be their year.