City boss Paul Lambert last night insisted that the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest was simply about winning another game of football.
Placing a big marker in front of the likes of Reading, Cardiff City and Swansea City ahead of their own nPower Championship games later today was for others to claim after goals from skipper Grant Holt and Andrew Surman swept the Canaries back into that second, automatic promotion slot.
“There wasn’t a marker there – it was about winning another game,” said Lambert, after a result that left the Norfolk side two points clear again of third-placed Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds play host to Portsmouth later today; Swansea face a tricky test away at Burnley; Reading have an awkward one at home to Leicester City.
For both Leicester and Burnley, the games are running out if they wish to make the top six; for the Canaries, last night’s result makes them all-but certain to feature in the play-offs.
They could – in theory – lose their last four games and finish seventh. Should Millwall win their game in hand away at Coventry, the Canaries would still be ten points clear of the Lions with 12 points left to play for.
Given the spirit and determination on show in last night’s dogged success over a decent Forest side, you would have to bet on at least one more victory being within the locker.
City will finish top six; of that there is now no real doubt.
In itself, a fantastic achievement for a side newly-returned to the second flight.
“We had to win another game against a top, top side,” stressed Lambert. “And they’re as good as I’ve seen down here.
“And what we’ve done is put ourselves into second. We might not be second after tomorrow [Saturday] but as I’ve said before, nobody in their right mind would have thought that this was going to happen to us this year.”
Norwich’s night didn’t get off to the greatest of starts as John Ruddy smashed the ball against an on-rushing Nathan Tyson only to watch the ball loop back over his head and on into an empty net.
And all with less than three minutes on the clock.
Fortunately, Grant Holt’s script-writers were on hand with the stuff of legend as Tuesday night’s hamstring ‘victim’ muscled a hapless Guy Moussi out of the way to head David Fox’s whipped free-kick home for a tenth minute leveller.
Andrew Surman would nick home the second before the interval as the Canaries dug deep into their collective character to keep the club on course for back-to-back promotions and a return to the Premiership.
Lambert said he ‘might take in a game’ come three o’clock this afternoon as the season takes yet another set of twists and turns; the money must be on Craig Bellamy and Co beating Pompey at home.
All eyes then would be on the derby game next Thursday night when Norwich have the chance to return to second spot again before Cardiff play host to champions-elect QPR on the Saturday.
On an individual level, he was delighted for Surman as his injury-hit season finally starts to deliver.
“As I’ve said before, we’ve missed him for a large part of the season and him coming back has been a major plus for us.
“And you’ve got to remember that he’s only played a handful of games, so fatigue is going to set in. And it’s the same for Zak [Whitbread]; not played for a long time. The lads were dead on their feet – but what a desire not to get beat. The desire not to get beat as a group has been great.”
In fairness to both Whitbread and his defensive pal Elliott Ward they put in some big blocks as Forest threatened; come the end and there was a rare outing for the on-loan Rob Edwards as Lambert shored it up with three centre-halves for the game’s final minutes.
“In the first-half Forest were getting in too much for my liking,” said Lambert. “But in the second-half, I thought we defended strongly.
“But that was as big as win as we’ve had this season – in terms of everything. The performance, the desire. Everything you need to do to win a football game – it was there in abundance. And that’s one thing I can never question of the lads is their desire.”
And heaven forbid that whoever runs the Football League’s fixture schedule bumps into Lambert in the near future.
“I think it’s ridiculous the fact that there’s seven games in April – when there’s only the three in March,” said the City chief, after City’s third outing in six days.
“Whoever’s cooked that up must be brain-dead,” he added. “For the modern day player, seven games is too much. Too much.”