Doherty's praise for defensive partner

PUBLISHED: 07:10 04 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:06 14 September 2010

Gary Doherty has paid tribute to Canaries club captain and fellow central defender Craig Fleming. The 34-year-old Fleming lost his place in manager Nigel Worthington's starting line-up when Calum Davenport moved to Carrow Road on a three-month loan deal from Spurs.

Gary Doherty has paid tribute to Canaries club captain and fellow central defender Craig Fleming.

The 34-year-old Fleming lost his place in manager Nigel Worthington's starting line-up when Calum Davenport moved to Carrow Road on a three-month loan deal from Spurs.

But he has partnered Doherty in City's last five games - four of them victories - and is clearly in no mood to relinquish his position again.

Doherty blossomed alongside Davenport and there were some who feared the change of partner could affect his game - but another City man of the match award for his performance in the 3-0 home defeat by Preston on Monday proved those fears unfounded.

The new partnership would appear to be just as much to Doherty's liking.

"Flem has been fantastic since he's come in," said Doherty. "It is testament to him - I think he was out of the team for maybe three months but he came in and has looked brilliant.

"He has kept himself fit and has trained really hard when he's been out of the team and it's great that he is reaping the rewards of playing well week in, week out."

Doherty believes manager Nigel Worthington got it spot on when he said City were tired by the Christmas programme, particularly against a team who had played one game fewer in the space of eight days - a crucial fitness factor in such a short period of time.

"They had one less game and I think that showed," said the Republic of Ireland international. "We ran out of steam - it was a really tough game on Saturday. They came here and looked far stronger than us and deserved the points.

"Obviously winning five on the bounce is good, but just the way it has come to an end is a bit disappointing, but it's a tough league and it is grinding out results.

"Our form has been really good, we have been scoring goals of late, but we were dead on our feet towards the end. Now we have to regroup and look forward to Saturday."

If there was any consolation in defeat it might be found in Doherty's assertion that Preston's performance was the best by any Carrow Road visitors this season.

"I think they are," he said. "Obviously the way Reading are going is unbelievable, but they weren't great when they came here. But Preston were strong, very physical and are a decent team."

Worthington's squad has been hit hard by injuries and illness as well as Youssef Safri's departure for the African Cup of Nations, but Doherty is optimistic about the rest of the season.

"We have just got to keep battling," he said. "We have got a few players to come back, a few lads getting over illnesses and getting over injuries, (Jason) Jarrett coming back, so hopefully the squad can be bolstered a bit, obviously with it being January as well.

"I think there is a lot we can achieve - the play-offs is our focus now and winning the play-offs, that has got to be our belief. The front two are way ahead at the moment and it's going to be difficult to catch them, but with the form of late and getting some freshness I think we could put a few good results together again."

The Canaries can go a long way to erasing the memories of the Preston defeat when they entertain Premiership side West Ham in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday - apart from the venue, a repeat of last year's tie.

"We went up to Birmingham (League Cup) and they beat us 2-1 but we performed quite well and that was probably when we were at our worst as a team," said Doherty. "Now we are on a high and West Ham have to come to our place so we're going to make it difficult for them."

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