Canary eyes on play-off prize

THE First Division finishing line is little more than 90 minutes away.Manchester City have long since taken the tape as League champions, with Wolves and West Bromwich slugging it out for the Sunday silver.

THE First Division finishing line is little more than 90 minutes away.

Manchester City have long since taken the tape as League champions, with Wolves and West Bromwich slugging it out for the Sunday silver.

It's the fight for the minor places that is dominating the thoughts of football fans across Norfolk as Carrow Road prepares to host its biggest game since Norwich were relegated from the Premiership seven years ago.

With 45 games gone, only Second Division-bound Stockport County (2pm) now lie between the Canaries and a top six finish.


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In sixth, wobbling Burnley entertain managerless Coventry City, Stan Ternent's Clarets all too aware that one slip, one less goal on the path to victory and the Canaries will steal in.

Even fifth-placed Birmingham City at home to Sheffield United and fourth-placed Millwall at home to Grimsby Town can take nothing for granted. They, too, will be looking over their shoulders and keeping a firm eye on Norwich's dramatic late surge, their ears glued to the radio listening to the news from Norfolk.

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"I think we're in a great position," said City boss Nigel Worthington, as his Canary side time their final dip for the line to perfection and gun, in particular, for Burnley's sixth slot.

"The pressures all on them. They've got a tough home game against Coventry City; they've got it all to lose; we've got it all to gain.

"It's the ideal scenario. All we've got to do is make sure that we're mentally right and treat Stockport County with respect."

It is, insists Worthington, all about Norwich doing their job. Not taking their eyes off the ball and wondering what the others are up to. Just keep their minds focused on prising three points out of County and the rest, Worthington believes, will take care of itself.

"All I'm looking for is the three points and at this moment in time, if we do that then I think we will have done enough to get into the play-offs."

With three points his sole target, grabbing goals by the bucket-load to give City a better goal difference than Burnley would be a bonus. Let's just get the win first is the manager's message.

"Against Sheffield Wednesday we were relentless, kept turning the screw, kept at them – that would be ideal.

"But against Bradford we had to battle for 86 minutes before the one goal came. It doesn't matter when we score, we've just got to get that all-important goal whenever."

He will not, however, be letting the players in on what's happening elsewhere. "I haven't done it in the other 45 games, so why should I do it now?

"If we do our job, we'll be all right. We can't do anything about what the others do. If they all win, then good luck to them. We've just got to focus in on what we've got to do."

Injury-wise Worthington's woes are limited to just three – Iwan Roberts (hamstring), Steen Nedergaard (leg) and Neil Emblen (hamstring).

Nedergaard should be available for play-off duty should City's dreams come true. As for Zema Abbey, though the Canary striker enjoyed a 30-minute run out with the reserves this week after his seven month lay-off with a ruptured cruciate ligament, Worthington is steadfastly avoiding the temptation to hurry the 25-year-old back.

"The next time you'll see Zema Abbey is July 1 and the start of pre-season training," said the manager.

Stockport will be without player-boss Carlton Palmer who is suspended, while Worthington's former Sheffield Wednesday colleague has late injury doubts over ex-Canary Ali Gibb (hamstring) and defender John Hardiker (groin).

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