City’s astonishing record of never having lost back-to-back league games under Paul Lambert’s charge will – ideally – ride to their rescue on Tuesday night as the Canaries travel to Malky Mackay’s Watford ‘fresh’ from today’s painful 3-0 defeat at promotion rivals Swansea City.
With Cardiff City comfortable victors at Doncaster Rovers, the two, fierce South Wales rivals are now just a point behind the Norfolk side with just six games to play.
To compound the sense of a nasty day at the office, there were reports tonight of supporters coaches being stoned as they prepared to leave The Liberty.
All-in-all, not a trip for the promotion scrap-book – even if Norwich’s fate remains firmly in their own hands ahead of the trip to Vicarage Road this Tuesday.
“You pick yourself up – and you go again,” Lambert told the BBC afterwards, a simple philosophy that has worked wonders for the club in the past.
Return to winning ways against Malky Mackay’s Hornets – now eight points off the play-off places – and the Canaries can keep the Welsh pack at bay for at least another week and move just that little bit closer to bagging that prized, second automatic promotion spot.
“On another day the chances go in, but they never went in,” added Lambert, with skipper Grant Holt in particular failing to get much joy on another topsy-turvy day at the top of the nPower Championship.
Who, in their right mind, would have thought Scunthorpe United capable of beating top-of-the-table QPR 4-1? Forest’s season continues to implode with a 4-3 home defeat to the form team of the moment in Reading, while Millwall continue to add another cat amongst the pigeons with a 3-2 win over Leeds United.
“Of course, I’m disappointed to lose, but we’ve also got to remind ourselves that we’re still sat in second. We’re still in the race for it,” stressed Lambert.
“And at times I thought we gave as good as we got against a good side.”
The loss of playmaker Wes Hoolahan to the hamstring injury sustained in that 6-0 home win over Scunthorpe United last weekend hardly helped.
But, that said, Henri Lansbury is hardly the poorest of replacements.
And, likewise, the Canaries had more than enough chances to haul themselves back into the contest as goals from Swansea’s on-loan Italian Under-21 star Fabio Borini, Mark Gower and Town’s Tamas Priskin gave the Swans a big, big victory in what proved to be an increasingly tetchy and frustrating contest for City players and travelling supporters alike.
Lambert wasn’t slow to make big changes – Andrew Surman failed to re-appear after the break, while Andrew Crofts and Dani Pacheco both disappeared on the 65-minute mark as Lambert sought a way back into the contest through a three-man front-line of Holt, Simeon Jackson and the on-loan Sam Vokes.
With the Canadian unable to repeat last weekend’s hat-trick heroics against an obdurate Dorus de Vries in the Swans goal, it was left to Priskin to wrap up proceedings with the third and final goal deep into injury-time.
“We should have scored before the lad hits the free-kick,” muttered Lambert afterwards, with Borini’s 20-yard, top corner conversion in the fifth minute giving a pumped-up home faithful just the early lift they needed.
For with rivals Cardiff having already picked up three, huge points of their own with that 3-1 away win at Doncaster, so the Swans knew it was getting to a ‘Now or never…’ moment in the race for that second spot.
It could all have been very different had de Vries been off his game as both Pacheco and Holt pressed early on.
“Dani forces the keeper into making a good save and then Grant has the follow-up which the keeper gets to – and then Swansea get the free-kick which you can do nothing about as it flew into the top corner,” said Lambert. “And that’s football.
“Grant had a couple of chances in the second-half; young Korey Smith had another which the keeper again made a double save – and on another day, they go on.
“As I say, they’re not going to be too disappointed.
“And the pleasing thing is that we never wilted – they kept going. And the most positive thing is that we’re still sat in second and we’ll keep going.”
Starting at Watford on Tuesday night.