McDonald or Johnson? Lambert has a big decision to make

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:57 10 September 2010

Cody McDonald hit the back of the net on consecutive nights this week, but manager Paul Lambert is unlikely to take his reserve team goal into account when he names his team to face Hartlepool in what could be a record-breaking outing today.

Cody McDonald hit the back of the net on consecutive nights this week, but manager Paul Lambert is unlikely to take his reserve team goal into account when he names his team to face Hartlepool in what could be a record-breaking outing today.

With leading scorer Grant Holt serving the second of a three-game ban, it's between McDonald and Oli Johnson for the role alongside the in-form Chris Martin as City go after a club record 11th consecutive home win.

Johnson started at Walsall on Tuesday, but it was McDonald, pictured right, who ended the night as the hero, his 85th-minute goal clinching another valuable win.

Twenty-four hours later McDonald was on target at Stevenage Borough, leaving Lambert with a welcome headache today, and although the clues are sparse, there was one.

"Reserve games won't really influence the team I pick," said Lambert. "If that was the case I would still play myself.

"The lads do great and give me everything they've got, but what happens on a Saturday when it's for real is the time, I always think, to be judged on."

McDonald hasn't started a game under Lambert - hardly surprising given the form of Holt and Martin.

"He has always been around and about," said the City boss. "He has waited patiently to try and get in. It's been really tough, whether it's Oli or Cody, to get in front of Grant and Chrissy. I hear people clamouring, but it's different coming on as a substitute to playing from the beginning, the expectancy levels are on you all the time.

"It's totally different, but it's really tough with Grant Holt, Chrissy Martin and Wes Hoolahan in front of you. You have to be patient and once you get your chance you have got to try and take it.

"He (McDonald) did great the other night when he came on and we felt he still needed some game time to get his legs going again and he did really fine in the reserve game."

Whoever he chooses, Lambert believes both have the most important attribute.

"It would be easy to go down the loan route and bring lads who are 30 years old-plus and coming down from the Championship or whatever and not really caring, whereas these two are trying to make a career in the game and what you've got is hunger and enthusiasm, which is great.

"It's great for me because I know the lads will go in and give you everything they've got. As long as you work hard for it and if you do get your rewards brilliant, and the two lads have, they've been a big part of it.

"If we do something this year everybody will be a part of it."

City are unbeaten in their last 15 league games, since losing at Leeds in mid-October, and haven't lost at Carrow Road since the opening day.

The pressure increases with every game.

"I think the fear of failure drives you on," said Lambert. "That's always the case. The crowd will drive it on - I say that every single week, but they have been phenomenal."

City's promotion rivals Leeds yesterday signed Birmingham striker Gary McSheffrey on loan until the end of the season.

The 27-year-old, who scored 20 goals in 94 appearances for the Blues, goes straight into the Leeds squad to face Colchester today.

"Gary brings plenty of experience and he is a good signing," said manager Simon Grayson.

"He's coming from the Premier League to League One and he will add quality to the squad.

"He is a threat, he can play a number of positions, and we're delighted to have him here."

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