Decision time over Norwich City skipper Holt

Chris Lakey Paul Lambert has been forced into two changes tonight - but how many others sit out the game against Gillingham isn't as clear-cut. Definitely out are midfielder Andrew Crofts - on international duty with Wales against Luxembourg tomorrow night - and striker Simeon Jackson, who won't play against his former club as part of a gentleman's agreement between City boss Paul Lambert and his Gills' counterpart Andy Hessenthaler, when the transfer deal was concluded in the summer.

Chris Lakey

Paul Lambert has been forced into two changes tonight - but how many others sit out the game against Gillingham isn't as clear-cut.

Definitely out are midfielder Andrew Crofts - on international duty with Wales against Luxembourg tomorrow night - and striker Simeon Jackson, who won't play against his former club as part of a gentleman's agreement between City boss Paul Lambert and his Gills' counterpart Andy Hessenthaler, when the transfer deal was concluded in the summer.

There is little likelihood that defender Zak Whitbread will be fit as he recovers from a calf injury, while Lambert has to make a big decision on striker Grant Holt.


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Holt played the final 18 minutes of Friday's home defeat by Watford, but has featured little in pre-season because of a thigh injury.

Lambert must now decide whether to rest his skipper and last season's leading scorer and avoid any unnecessary injuries - or take a risk and build up his match fitness.

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“I think it is a balance between the both of them,” said Lambert.

“You have to be careful, but you also know that he needs game time so it is just whether I start with him or not.

“Grant, as everybody knows, has missed a good bit of pre-season and we just can't throw him in right away where he can do more damage, but he's slowly but surely getting there.

“I thought he did fine when he came on the other day. It gave the crowd a lift as well when he came on. Crofty is away with Wales so there is going to be a change there - there might be one or two others.”

Crofts' absence means Korey Smith comes into contention for a start, having missed part of pre-season because of injury.

“Korey will be in the squad,” said Lambert. “He's doing fine. He's probably been unfortunate not to start, but I know what I get from him every week.

“It's another big jump (to the Championship), it's another bit of his development, where sometimes you take knocks where you think you are going to get a game and you don't. It's how you come back from it, and he will be fine. His attitude in training has been great and I don't have a problem with Korey.”

Stephen Hughes may have claims, although the midfielder is struggling for fitness.

“Stephen missed a bit of pre-season as well,” Lambert explained. “He got a kick in a challenge with Tom Adeyemi and it flared up a little bit in Germany so he missed a good bit of the games as well, so he's another one who needs some game time and some more training.

“His ankle is still a little bit sore at times, but this squad is big enough. He has been training - I don't think he is 100pc with his ankle. The game time has not been in his favour but he will be in the squad.”

Lambert insists that the decisions to be made today won't stand in the way of the objectives - to win the game, to put Friday's mistakes to bed and create a winning feeling for the league.

“You look at the results from Saturday throughout the league, there were some strange ones,” he said. “We went to a few games ourselves at the weekend and saw who we were coming up against later on. Going forward we are a threat, there's no doubt about it. We have to defend better throughout the team. Not just defenders, but all over the pitch.

“Defending wise the three goals should have been preventable. I don't mind if somebody scores a fantastic goal against us - there's nothing we can do about that.”

Lambert knows just what to expect from a side managed by Hessenthaler.

“He's been a favourite there and been there before and it's a tough game there's no doubt about it, but if we play the way we can hopefully we can go through,” Lambert said.

“We were in the same league last year and obviously Gillingham were unfortunate to go down and we went up, but we are at home and we'll be trying to win.”

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