Blackpool shock is off Cup menu
DAVID CUFFLEY Norwich City winger Lee Croft returns to the north-west on Saturday hoping to erase the memory of last season's FA Cup disappointment. Croft and his Manchester City colleagues had their sights on going all the way to the final in 2006 after being drawn at home to West Ham in the quarter-finals.
Norwich City winger Lee Croft returns to the north-west on Saturday hoping to erase the memory of last season's FA Cup disappointment.
Croft and his Manchester City colleagues had their sights on going all the way to the final in 2006 after being drawn at home to West Ham in the quarter-finals.
But the Hammers, with a certain Peter Grant as assistant manager and ex-Canary striker Dean Ashton scoring twice, won 2-1 to reach the last four, en route to a memorable final against Liverpool - leaving one half of Manchester distinctly blue.
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Croft was a second-half substitute for good mate Bradley Wright-Phillips as City mounted a vain bid to force a replay.
He recalled: “I had played the year before in the FA Cup, but only a bit part, so it was good to get to the quarter-finals and good to have played a part in it. Cup football creates a lot of excitement.
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“But we felt we should have gone further and it was very disappointing on the night to lose to West Ham.”
Now the 21-year-old Wigan-born forward is hoping a return to his native Lancashire will bring better fortune in the competition as the Canaries prepare for their fourth round tie against League One promotion hopefuls Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.
“I've never played at their ground but I'm told it's a sell-out. We've got a lot of fans going so it should be a good experience and quite an occasion,” said Croft, who identified one potential danger man for the Seasiders.
“The one player I know in the Blackpool side is striker Scott Vernon, who was at Oldham when I was on loan there. He's a good player and certainly a very good finisher - at least he was when I was playing with him.”
The statistics for the current season suggest Vernon hasn't lost his touch, with the 23-year-old already bagging 12 goals, including the opener in the 4-2 win over Aldershot in round three.
Croft and City will be desperate to find a winning formula after two wins in the past nine matches in all competitions, and having to sit it out last Saturday when the Championship game at Burnley was postponed.
He said: “We were gutted after travelling all the way to Burnley. We had been working hard after losing to Plymouth and we wanted to put it right.”
Instead, it was a case of running schedules and heart monitors as City's players had to complete their own Sunday routines.
“We just had to work hard over the weekend doing our own training,” said Croft.
“After being out with the injury, I looked forward to playing again and I have enjoyed it, but you're always a bit down when you're not winning. We're not as high in the table as we hoped we would be. We need to start winning and we need to start on Saturday. If we can do that it can have a positive effect on the league matches.”
Next Tuesday's visit of Wolves starts a run of six Championship games in the space of 26 days for City, subject to FA Cup commitments, but Croft has no complaints about that.
“I just love playing and I'm happy if we're playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday,” he said.