City boss hails safe hands Forster

David Cuffley Goalkeeper Fraser Forster has not been exactly overworked in his first two matches for Norwich City - and manager Paul Lambert hopes it stays that way in front of the TV cameras tonight.

David Cuffley

Goalkeeper Fraser Forster has not been exactly overworked in his first two matches for Norwich City - and manager Paul Lambert hopes it stays that way in front of the TV cameras tonight.

The 21-year-old, on loan from Newcastle until January 2, kept clean sheets for the Canaries against Hartlepool and Walsall and is effectively first choice at Carrow Road after their other loan 'keeper, Ben Alnwick, returned to Tottenham because of a hip injury.

Forster has dealt capably with the odd moment of alarm up to now, but could have more to do in tonight's League One meeting with Milton Keynes Dons at stadium mk (7.45pm).

“I certainly hope he's not going to be any busier than that, but with two clean sheets and the presence he has got, he's been great for us,” said Lambert.

“The one he pushed out against Walsall when it came out across the face of the goal, he had a strong arm at it and thankfully he's as big as he is because I'm pretty sure the lad might have knocked it in. And his instinctive save at Hartlepool was terrific.”

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The City boss believes Forster could have a Premier League future ahead of him if he wants it badly enough.

He said: “I've spoken to numerous people about him and I saw him playing a few times. He's only 21 so I think he has a terrific future in the game.

“A lot will depend on him - if his career keeps on blossoming and getting going it will be a big test for him to go to that level but he has the capabilities to do it.”

Lambert is unlikely to make many changes tonight as City bid to stretch their unbeaten run to four league matches.

Full-back Adam Drury has reported no problems from a swollen cheekbone after a nasty collision against Walsall nine days ago, while midfielder Darel Russell, who might have been pushing for a start in midfield, is doubtful with a calf injury.

Said Lambert: “The nucleus of the team will be similar. The lads have done great so far. We had to change something when we first came in because the club was getting beaten quite heavily and it was on a rocky road. We changed it and thought, 'Let's see how these lads do', and went and got a result and it just kind of snowballed from there.

“So the lads in there at the minute are justified to be round about it again. There might be one or two things that might change, but the nucleus of the squad will be the same.”

Senior players currently out of the first-choice eleven took the opportunity to impress in City Reserves' 5-0 win over Southend last Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether Wes Hoolahan, Simon Whaley or Gary Doherty have any part to play tonight.

“It's OK having really good players, but the balance of the team has to be right. If you have good players, and many of them, people think it must be an easy job, but you have to fit them into the balance of the side,” said Lambert.

“You've got to build a team and that's what we are trying to do and the results so far have proved that the current group of lads justify being back in.

“There is a massive gulf between reserve football and first team football. There are loads of scenarios - you don't have a crowd really much behind you with the pressure like first team games. Reserve games you can play with a little bit of freedom which is fine.

“If you are doing well and I think you are justified to go in then I'll put you in. I don't have a problem with lads playing well - just go and do the best you can and then give me a problem.”

Midfield pair Matthew Gill (knee injury) and Owain Tudur Jones (calf strain) are still sidelined.

Gill is weeks away from a return, while Tudur Jones is making progress but has not featured since the Carling Cup defeat by Sunderland three weeks ago.

City boss Paul Lambert prepares to pit his managerial wits against Paul Ince again tonight - with nothing but praise for the former England star.

Ince is in his second spell as MK Dons boss and the two men enjoyed previous battles when Ince led the Dons to the League Two title in 2007-08 and Lambert's Wycombe reached the promotion play-offs. Both games finished in draws, 1-1 at Wycombe and 2-2 in the return fixture.

“I never played against Paul but I knew him when I was at Wycombe,” said Lambert. “Top lad he is, really top lad. I've had a few conversations with him on the phone - a really nice guy.

“He's done a brilliant job at MK Dons. He did well at Macclesfield and well at MK Dons and got a massive opportunity at Blackburn - I don't know how many games Paul got there, but it wasn't enough. For somebody just going into the Premier League it simply wasn't enough games to get his stamp on it.

“He's found himself back at MK Dons and he's doing well there again.”

Lambert knows that City's next two opponents - they entertain Charlton on Saturday - are among League One's leading lights, but believes every game has to be treated with the same thorough approach.

“There is no doubt that, no disrespect to other teams, they are bigger teams,” he said.

“But in this league, I've been in it long enough to realise that when you play your Walsalls and Wycombes and Brentfords it's tough - sometimes they're harder to play against than the bigger teams are.

“So I'm under no illusion how hard it is, but I take every game as being as difficult as each other. I don't prioritise who's better because I think if you do that you're in danger of being complacent. So every game I go into I think it will be really tough.

“The league is really unpredictable. Whoever gets promoted will definitely earn the right to get out of it. They're a good side, MK Dons, that's for sure.”