Norwich City’s torrid season on the road comes to an end on Saturday as they travel to face play-off chasing Leeds.
Having recorded just 5 wins away from home all campaign, City’s traveling faithful will be hopeful that their unwavering loyalty will be rewarded with a victory in West Yorkshire. It would be fair to say that we owe Leeds one. In a season of many defeats, Garry Monk’s side have been responsible for two of the most haunting. City’s Wembley dreams were shattered by Leeds in late October as we twice spurned a lead before losing on penalties. Just two weeks later, Ronaldo Viera’s 91st-minute strike saw them escape from Carrow Road as 3-2 winners. The combination of these two results contributed hugely to City fans finally losing faith in Alex Neil. Leeds had all but ended our season before we had even reached December. We now have the opportunity to end theirs (albeit only one game early).
Leeds’ surprise back-to-back defeats have seen them drop from a position of strength down to 7th. They are now left 3 points behind Fulham in 6th with a far inferior goal difference and, as a result, matters are out of their own hands. What either Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday do, however, becomes irrelevant if Leeds don’t win both of their remaining games. Saturday is a must win for Leeds. We need to use this to our advantage.
Elland Road is set to be a 37,000 sell out. The pressure is all on the Leeds players. Their confidence will be fragile, whilst knowing that no less than 3 points will do brings enough pressure in itself. Playing in front of a sold-out and potentially restless Elland Road only cranks this pressure up even further.
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City, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. We go into the game on the back of two impressive victories, whilst star man Alex Pritchard will have full freedom to express himself. Man to man, we are a far better side than Leeds. It is in their effort and commitment that they have out-done us this season. If we can match that – which we failed to do in our two previous encounters – then three points should follow.
Can City show the mental strength we’ve been lacking all season?
The main fear is that City revert to type. There is no doubt that a 37,000 sell-out at Elland Road will make for a hostile atmosphere. The combination of pipping them to the League One title in 2009/10 and then proceeding to poach all of their best players on an almost seasonly basis ever since has generated quite a disdain for City in Leeds. Make no mistake, their supporters will be baying for blood. So far this season, our players have proven incapable of doing anything other than crumbling in such situations – the 4-3 defeat at Newcastle immediately springs to mind.
If Leeds get an early goal then it could get messy. If City get an early goal, however, then maybe, just maybe, the traveling Norwich fans will be able to sign off with a win to remember – making Leeds fans cry in the process…