Sven hails Canaries performance

PUBLISHED: 12:37 26 September 2007 | UPDATED: 10:35 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson expects Norwich City to start climbing the Championship table sooner rather than later - after it took his Manchester City side until the final minute to deliver a Carling Cup knockout blow.

Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson expects Norwich City to start climbing the Championship table sooner rather than later - after it took his Manchester City side until the final minute to deliver a Carling Cup knockout blow.

A goal from striker Georgios Samaras finally settled last night's third round tie at the City of Manchester Stadium as extra time loomed large.

Samaras pounced on a through-ball from substitute Kelvin Etuhu - brother of ex-Canary midfielder Dickson - to beat David Marshall and book the Blues a place in Saturday's fourth round draw.

But Peter Grant's depleted side, with Darren Huckerby becoming the eighth senior absentee because of an ankle injury he suffered in training on Monday, more than gave Eriksson's men a run for their money, and the Swede admitted he could not understand their lowly league position.

“I think Norwich played well. They kept the ball and they made life difficult for us because they had three central midfielders, so they could keep the ball,” said Eriksson.

“They created chances - they're a good team. I know that their situation in the table is not that good but when you see them here I'm surprised that they are not higher up. But the season is long. I think they played well.”

Eriksson, who rested many of his top stars, as in the previous round against Bristol City, said he was relieved to see that 90th-minute goal go in.

He said: “I'm pleased that we are through. I'm pleased that we finally scored a goal. I can't say that we played excellent football because I would be a liar.

“But even after 85 minutes I didn't regret that we made so many changes because I think in a match like this we have to look at what we have, not only 11, 12, 13 players which we normally use. You have to look at some of the young players we have and it's a real test for them. It's good to see that we can handle it.”

Grant was delighted with his team's response after their desperate performance in the 2-0 defeat at Wolves on Saturday. But he now has fresh concerns over the fitness of Huckerby and defender Gary Doherty ahead of Saturday's televised Championship game at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

Grant said: “Gary Doherty could have come off at half-time. He was struggling badly with his groin but he continued on. That's the spirit you need.”

Huckerby was determined to face his old club last night, but had to admit defeat.

Said Grant: “He got a training injury yesterday. He blocked a ball and twisted his ankle, but typical Darren, he comes up and wants to try it. He tried it this morning but he couldn't even jog on it, so that was a blow for us.

“The only concern now is whether Darren is going to be available for the weekend. That seems to be the way things are.

“Gary is going to be struggling and at this moment in time that leaves me with probably three centre-backs who won't be available for the weekend.”

Despite last night's disappointment, Grant insisted: “The most important game for us is Sheffield Wednesday. I think we're going into that in good spirit because of the performance tonight.

“The big disappointment was the result, not the performance. The performance was excellent.

“It was the complete opposite to the weekend. We showed a bit of character, with the fact that we lost more players before the game.”

Michael Spillane, 18, and Rossi Jarvis, 19, earned special praise after starting their first games of the season.

“For the young boys to come in and play the way they did was very, very pleasing,” said Grant.

“Tonight they've come to a place like this against very, very good players and shown they can play. I know they can play, but with the make-up of the team, sometimes it would be cruel to put them in.”

He said of City's last-minute exit: “It's a cruel game. There are ways to lose a game and if we're going to lose a game I'd rather lose it playing that way.

“I thought we deserved more. We looked the most threatening, we created chances. That's all you can ask for - there were a couple of times where maybe we needed to be more clinical.

“But I've got to look at the big picture and the big picture was the performance and the response to the weekend.”

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