Northstander: It’s far more positive, but it’s also a desperate race against time
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Northstander Terry Hunt knows things on the pitch appear better. And asks what on earth has happened to that lot up the A140?
Things are certainly improving – but will we win our desperate race against time?
Both games under Paul Lambert have seen the team playing significantly better, and there have been plenty of encouraging aspects.
We look more positive, more threatening, and the players obviously have a much clearer idea of the jobs they are supposed to do. So, as I said, it’s definitely a big improvement.
So much so that, after the game at Reading, Lambert said the display was as good as any he had seen from one of his teams. That’s some accolade.
But – and it’s a very big but – we’re not yet turning those better performances into wins. We’re still letting leads slip, making mistakes at the back, and ending games with a single point when we should have taken all three.
Looking at the league table is a very painful business at the moment. But, however much it hurts, we can’t ignore the awful facts. One win in 17 games tells you everything you need to know. Meanwhile, at the other end...well, you know the rest.
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I certainly don’t want to dwell on the Canaries’ run of form, but it does make me think. After the derby game, I left Portman Road convinced that both teams would struggle this season.
In fact, I told my mates that it was the worst Norwich side I’d seen in years.
So what’s happened?
I don’t know whether Paul Lambert still has old colleagues at Carrow Road, but if he has it might be worth him having a quick word to find out what’s transformed their form.
I mentioned our desperate race against time, and that’s certainly what it’s turned into. Let’s look at the stats. If we assume we need 50 points to stand a good chance of surviving – and 50 certainly doesn’t guarantee survival – that means getting 39 points from the remaining 29 games.
Well, that’s solid mid-table form, and it’s a million miles away from what we’ve been achieving so far this season.
That’s the enormity of the task facing Paul Lambert and his squad.
There’s another issue as well. It really looks like the relegation battle will turn into a desperate dogfight this season.
All of the strugglers – apart from us – keep picking up wins, which makes the situation even more worrying.
All of which is why we so badly need to start turning better performances into wins.
We’ve had the run of games against our fellow strugglers, and we haven’t won any of them. After the international break, we’ve got what appear to be, on paper at least, a tougher bunch of opponents.
Football being the strange, unpredictable game it is, perhaps playing against better quality opponents will actually be helpful.
We have eight games between now and the opening of the January transfer window, and our opponents include Stoke, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough. Risking stating the ruddy obvious, we need to pick up a decent haul of points from this tricky period. Including some much-needed wins!
To achieve that will mean the progress we’ve seen under Lambert must continue, and some of the remaining flaws will need to be eradicated.
Principally, I’m talking about conceding soft goals. If anything will see us relegated, it’s that.
We simply cannot afford to reach the first day of 2019 cut adrift from the rest of the league. It will be game over if that’s the case, and I wouldn’t blame Marcus Evans for keeping his money in his wallet under those circumstances.
Of course, the gap is already at a worrying five points.
It certainly can’t be any wider come January 1. Preferably, it will be narrower. Perhaps we won’t be bottom! Hope – or is it wild optimism? – springs eternal.
But to stand any chance of being in touch on New Year’s Day, we need to build further on what Lambert has achieved already.