City face massive test of mettle
David Cuffley City boss Glenn Roeder has thrown down the challenge to his fringe first-team players ahead of next Saturday's Championship home game against Barnsley - a match three of his key men will miss through suspension.
City boss Glenn Roeder has thrown down the challenge to his fringe first-team players ahead of next Saturday's Championship home game against Barnsley - a match three of his key men will miss through suspension.
The Canaries' biggest defeat of the season, 4-0 at Leicester in front of 3,000 travelling fans on Saturday, ended a 13-match unbeaten league run and was made all the more miserable by a straight red card for midfielder Darel Russell and fifth yellow cards for skipper Mark Fotheringham and striker Dion Dublin.
All three will miss the Carrow Road meeting with Simon Davey's FA Cup giant-killers, Russell starting a three-match ban, with the other two suspended for one game.
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But Roeder insisted one man's absence was another's opportunity.
He said of Russell: “The double whammy is that he now misses the next three games, which gives someone else an opportunity.
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And, as all the players know, if people come in and do well, it's not always easy to get your shirt back.
“Fozzy and Dion also miss next week's game, so there will be a few of the lads in and around the squad who haven't started recently who are going to get a start next week. They've been waiting, they've been patient and next week there will be an opportunity for two or three players to stake a claim to a shirt permanently for the rest of the season.”
Reading winger James Henry, making his full debut for the Canaries after a brief outing as substitute against Preston, was a late replacement for Ryan Bertrand, who was ill and spent the afternoon at the team hotel, while Matty Pattison was left on the bench.
“He took ill overnight with flu' symptoms, not just a cold. Really achy muscles, his bones are aching, but typical Ryan, he wanted to give it a go, but I don't think he'd have lasted 10 minutes. It would have been foolhardy to even think about starting him.”
Henry later made way for Pattison, another candidate for a recall next week, when Roeder expects City to bounce back.
He said: “I believe that we will zip this unbeaten run and we will start another run next week against Barnsley, and hopefully that will continue right to the end of the season.”
Asked about City's chances of an unlikely play-off challenge, he said: “I don't predict in football. All I predict is that next week against Barnsley you'll see a vastly different Norwich City team, and I don't mean players, I mean in terms of performance.
“It is all about how you handle a defeat. You can lay down and cry like babies or you can stand up like men and march on and for me there's only one alternative and that's the latter.”
Only goalkeeper David Marshall was exempt for Roeder's blunt verdict on the performance.
He said: “It's a little bit of an understatement to be just disappointed. We're all pretty angry with ourselves, but I'm not going to sit up here and criticise those players who have done so well over the last three months. They're not machines and human beings will come out sometimes and have a poor day.
“I suppose if they're going to have a poor day, they might as well all have it at the same time, except the 'keeper. The 'keeper in the first half made some stunning saves.
“But generally speaking we were well below par and, having seen the goals already on the video, we haven't defended as poorly as that for about three months either.
“The defending, generally speaking, irrespective of whether we had three strikers on the pitch or not, was nowhere near as good as it has been recently. We've hardly let a goal in recently.”