The only way is up – Hucks

PUBLISHED: 12:29 14 September 2007 | UPDATED: 10:33 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

Darren Huckerby looks set to start his first Championship game of the season for Norwich City tomorrow, warning: “It's time to get our fingers out.” The Canaries' star forward, troubled by groin and hip problems that ruled him out of the entire pre-season programme, has had just 20 minutes' league action, as a substitute in the 2-1 home defeat by Cardiff City a fortnight ago.

Darren Huckerby looks set to start his first Championship game of the season for Norwich City tomorrow, warning: “It's time to get our fingers out.”

The Canaries' star forward, troubled by groin and hip problems that ruled him out of the entire pre-season programme, has had just 20 minutes' league action, as a substitute in the 2-1 home defeat by Cardiff City a fortnight ago. Four days before that, he played the full two hours in the Carling Cup tie at Rochdale.

Now he's eager to make up for lost time against Crystal Palace at Carrow Road (3pm), where nothing less than three points will satisfy last season's player of the year.

“It's a massive game. We've got to win,” said Huckerby. “If we want to be doing anything this season, we can't lose games at home. It's as simple as that. We've got to crack on, start a run, get the points we should be getting.

“We've got to start putting in performances. We haven't played as well as we can do this season, it's obvious. So whoever's playing, it's time to get our fingers out. It's easier said than done but we've got to start picking up points.

“Having said that, we haven't had our strongest team out yet, I don't think. So hopefully when everyone's fit we should be getting to where we want to be.”

Huckerby, 31, was disappointed not to start the Cardiff match after his successful comeback at Rochdale.

He said: “I'm ready to play. It's been a tough three months but I hope now I can get a few games under my belt and we can start winning a few games.

“I was ready to play the last game. I want to play every game and if the manager had said to me last time 'Do you want to play?', I would have said yes.”

Palace, unbeaten in their last seven matches against City, provide the opposition for the first of six games in 18 days for Peter Grant's men.

Huckerby was on target the last time City beat Palace, scoring a penalty in a 2-1 home win four years ago this month, only his fourth match for the club. He also scored the first goal of the Premiership campaign of 2004-05 in a 1-1 draw at home to the Eagles.

He said: “We've played them a few times. I remember at their place we battered them a couple of times in the first half. And we were 3-1 up in the Premier League season when we kind of chucked it away, so it's not that we haven't been trying.

“I'd say we need to put on a performance and we need to get the place buzzing again. It's not happening at the minute so I hope we can change that.”

Grant said he had no doubts about Huckerby's fitness.

“Injury wise, it's no problem. Now it's just a matter of getting out there. He's been training great, he's been looking great and you know the way Darren plays, he works in bursts and sometimes you can get away with that,” said Grant.

“He's available and if I wanted to start him tomorrow I'd have no problems about it.

“I'm hoping I've got a big problem when everyone's fit.

“If it means people have got to be left out for different reasons, I will do that. People know that. The most important thing is the team.”

Grant will make a late decision on skipper Jason Shackell.

Shackell missed the defeat by Cardiff because of an ankle ligament injury.

“He's progressing. He feels good in himself which is a massive plus,” said Grant.

“He's been on the training pitch, but not with us yet. That's a very good sign. We'll see how he is.

“He's been kicking a ball the last few days but he's still not joined in with us yet, so that gives him a problem for selection. But thankfully he's not going to be out as long as we first thought.”

Ian Murray, David Strihavka and Lee Croft, all of whom played for City Reserves at Milton Keynes on Monday after bouts of illness, have shown no ill-effects from the game and are also available for selection.

Grant had good news, too, of on-loan midfielder Jimmy Smith's progress as he recovers from an ankle injury.

He said: “I've spoken to Chelsea and they're talking about Jimmy coming back here before the end of the month, so at the end of September or hopefully in the first 10 days in October, he'll be available again.”

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