City’s proud unbeaten record of late will be tested again on Wednesday night as the Canaries roll into St Mary’s to face a suddenly in-form Saints side.
This weekend’s 2-0 win against Newcastle United saw the South Coast side batter the struggling Magpies; hitting the woodwork on three more occasions.
It was a success that lifted Nigel Adkins’ men out of the bottom three and dropped Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa back into the danger zone.
And on Wednesday night they entertain Chris Hughton’s Canaries with their tails up and the belief flowing.
It will be another tough test of City’s recent defensive resolve if they are to make it seven games unbeaten following Saturday’s last-gasp 1-1 draw at Everton.
And given the attacking ambition Saints play with, sub keeper Mark Bunn could be in for a lively night if John Ruddy fails to recover from this weekend’s thigh injury.
Their £12 million record buy – the Uruguayan Gaston Ramirez – looked to be finally finding his feet in English football, whilst Rickie Lambert has long known where the goal is.
“You’ve got Adam Lallana, Gaston Ramirez, Jason Puncheon and Rickie Lambert there,” Adkins explained after this weekend’s success piled the pressure on Toon chief Alan Pardew as it, likewise, eased on him.
The pressure, one assumes, will also be piling up on ex-City boss Lambert. Villa may well have demonstrated an improvement in the 0-0 home draw with Arsenal at the weekend, but they need wins. Wigan and Sunderland also need to find a bit of wind in their sails.
Certainly those that put their money on Adkins winning this season’s Premier League ‘sack race’ reckoned without the cut-throat world of London football club owners – and Saints own commitment to high-energy, attacking football now starting to come good.
“They all contribute in a massive way and they’re exciting,” added Adkins. “They get supporters off their seat, there’s a flair about them, a fluidity of movement and there’s goals about them. Some of the attacking football was really, really good.”
By the same measure, of course, City’s own defensive record is really, really good of late. And the ‘shifts’ that the likes of a Bradley Johnson and an Alexander Tettey deliver in front of that back four may yet find Southampton lacking the time and the space they love to play in.
And, of course, they will need to find a way round ‘Seb’ Bassong if they are to see the whites of Bunn’s eyes on Wednesday. The Canary centre-half merely added to his burgeoning reputation with that 91st minute leveller against Everton. On that rock has Norwich’s own return to form and fortune been built.
With an open, attacking game in store, it ought to suit Wesley Hoolahan down to the ground – and the counter-attacking threat posed by both Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass.
A rare, mid-week game will also see Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg return to action following his suspension in the wake of the allegations that followed the Manchester United-Chelsea encounter.
City boss Hughton was clearly hoping that it would be back to business as normal for all concerned; that the official would not be the centre of attention on a night that promises to be rich in entertainment.
“I think everyone will be delighted to see him back but there’s no pressure,” Hughton told BBC Radio Norfolk.
“Referees are the same as players and managers, we’re all under pressure in these games and he’s an experienced referee.
“The only pressure he’ll be under will be from making the right decisions, but they go through that every game. It’s not a game on television. So the spotlight will just be from within.”