Date: 4th January 2013 at 12:05pm
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Nick Sellers returns with his preview of the FA Cup 3rd round trip to London Road…

2012 was another banner year for our football club. There were one or two sticky patches, like a manager leaving and a new shirt being leaked, and the odd spanking by the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but otherwise we’ve had it all rather rosy. Survival in the top flight, a ten match unbeaten run and wins over Man United and Arsenal will live for a while in the memory I’m sure.

Hopefully 2013 will bring similar moments of joy, even if it started with a rather annoying 2-1 loss to West Ham. Mark Clattenburg’s decisions, right or wrongly, changed the momentum and complexion of the game and we never really got going. Grant Holt’s absence in the side was notable, but then you can apply that to any instance where he’s not on the pitch for Norwich. Russell Martin, oddly, seems to have become our new goalscoring machine, which in itself shows that there’s a slight problem up front.

Whilst I have no problem with Martin (“In his pants! In his pants! Russell Martin in his pants!”) being prolific (In his pants), I think some extra cover in January would be a big help. Harry Kane should have a good second half of the season but he needs time to get into a run of games. I rate Simeon Jackson and would love to see him get more opportunities, but he doesn’t seem to get many. Morison is next to Holt on the treatment table, and Chris Martin will only be out of favour again when he returns from Paolo DiCanio’s madhouse at Swindon.

What we really need is an extra body just to beef up the numbers in this department, and if you get a proven goalscorer then competition for places will increase too. It’s a win win situation all round, I’d say.

Elsewhere there isn’t really an area of the pitch that concerns me. Mark Bunn is doing an admirable job of keeping John Ruddy’s gloves warm and Declan Rudd will always be on hand if he’s needed, we’re ok at the back as long as Sebastien Bassong doesn’t get crocked, and we’ve always got approximately 1,000 different options in midfield. There was even a David Fox sighting at Upton Park!

Despite the four league defeats on the trot, I remain totally, utterly positive and upbeat about where our season is headed. We’re on the exactly the same points (25) as this time last season, and although we’re two places lower than that period (we were 9th then, 11th currently) we also made it through to our first Cup Quarter final in more years then I care to remember, in addition to the previously mentioned big scalps and the unbeaten stretch. Oh, and we’ve kept several clean sheets this year already, when we STILL hadn’t kept one in our first season back at this level until later on in the month.

These aspects are made all the more positive when you consider that Chris Hughton has had to put his own stamp on things in the wake of Lambert’s departure. He’s not only steadied the ship, but he’s kept it on virtually the same course with a number of sizeable icebergs swept aside along the voyage. Progress, progress, progress.

It’ll be nice to put the League to bed this weekend though and contest a team which actually has it’s fair share of connections with Norwich in terms of players throughout our respective histories. The media may try to hype it as an East Anglia derby, but in reality there’s no rivalry whatsoever. Actually, I’m quite fond of them. Maybe it was their 7-1 demolition of Ipswich last season that endeared me to them.

We’ve already fared well in the other Cup competitions this season, so there’s no reason why we can’t repeat the trick in this one, getting through a couple of rounds and think “Wembley this year!” before the crushing disappointment of defeat in the latter stages and the Canary Callers spewing on the airwaves with cries of “They weren’t trying!”

Let the A47 derby commence!

Last time we met-

The two sides have never, ever met in a league fixture. They haven’t done battle many times at all in competitive play, which seems remarkable considering how long they’ve both been around and their relative locality. The last time Posh hosted a competitive game against Norwich took place as far back as 1986 in the second leg of a 2nd Round League Cup tie. It finished 0-0 on the night which saw Norwich progress to the 3rd round after they’d recorded a 1-0 win in the previous leg at Carrow Road. More recently however, the two sides were paired in a pre-season friendly at London Road. Steve Morison and James Vaughan scored the goals in a 2-0 win as Chris Hughton’s men continued their preparations for the new campaign.

This excellent blog entry from Sing Up The River End goes into more detail about previous clashes between the two clubs-

Key opposition threat?

George Boyd is something of a cult figure there after his 6 years of good service. He often acts as a catalyst for them, so we’ll need some steel in midfield to keep him under lock and key. They’ve got some goals in them with the likes of Bostwick and Tomlin which have gone a long way to helping them escape the Championship relegation zone, at least temporarily, which has also helped to mask their defences frailties. To be frank with you though, that’s about it. On paper, this should be a victory for the more well-rounded Premier League squad. But then the FA Cup by its very nature is a threat on its own, and the Blues will hope one of the competition’s fabled giant killings is on the cards.

What’s in store this time around?

I’d be surprised if a few punters didn’t have this one down as giant killing. Let’s face it, we don’t traditionally fare brilliantly in Cup competition, and Posh seem to have undergone something of a resurgence recently after a horrible start left them down in the Championship basement.

But all being well, we should put those doubts firmly to rest with a comfortable win. We’ll be well backed by just over 5,000 travelling supporters (I’ll see you there in the terraces) and despite our recent downturn in form against some tricky opposition, I don’t see the hangover extending to 5 defeats on the bounce. Posh will be up for it, but I think our quality will ultimately be just a little too much for them.

Happy New Year.