Dion poised to solve defensive crisis

Dion Dublin could be poised to solve Norwich's central defensive injury crisis ahead of Sunderland's Championship visit on Saturday.

Dion Dublin could be poised to solve Norwich's central defensive injury crisis ahead of Sunderland's Championship visit on Saturday.

Canaries' boss Peter Grant admitted yesterday both Gary Doherty and Craig Fleming were 'struggling' to face the Black Cats.

Doherty aggravated a back problem during Tuesday's 1-1 East Anglian derby draw against Colchester.

Fleming hobbled away from Carrow Road with a niggling hamstring strain after replacing the crocked Republic of Ireland international at the break.

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Grant admits the duo are doubtful for the Wearsiders' visit, leaving the versatile Dublin in prime position to partner first choice centre back Jason Shackell.

"Hopefully one of them will make the weekend," he said. "Gary was struggling with his back before the game. He had a little bit of difficulty and couldn't continue. Craig came on and did well second half until he got injured and ended up doing his hamstring. That's a bit unfortunate and it's a worry having both centre-backs struggling."

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Dublin earned his defensive spurs in a highly successful Premiership spell under Gordon Strachan at Coventry City during the late 1990s capped by a PFA player-of-the-year nomination.

The Leicester-born hitman featured in central defence for his hometown club during Norwich's 1-0 win at The Walkers Stadium last December.

The veteran has been deployed in a more accustomed striker role during his brief Carrow Road stint since arriving in late September.

Grant introduced the former England international from the bench against Colchester after a thankless 90-minute shift leading the line at Stoke.

"He's a fantastic pro," said Grant. "I like his ability, but I also listen to what he has to say because he has worked under a hell of a lot of experienced managers and coaches.

"Some people say you judge the quality of the squad you have by the experienced players. He is international class when it comes to that - passing on his experience and trying to help youngsters."

Grant's threadbare squad was boosted on Tuesday by the surprise return of star striker Robert Earnshaw and influential wide man Darren Huckerby.

"The two boys were desperate to play," he said. "The morning of the game was the first we knew there was a possibility. They got in that morning and felt a lot better. We played them but you could tell they didn't have their usual sharpness - they were stiff and sore.

"Hucks was dead on his feet with 25 minutes to go. That's the spirit within the group. The boys are desperate to play. I can't fault them for that which is why I gave them the chance until the last moment. I thought it was worth taking the risk."

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