Doherty fighting to finish

David Cuffley Defender Gary Doherty is determined not to miss out on the last leg of Norwich City's promotion bid despite picking up a fresh knock in the 1-1 draw against Milton Keynes Dons.

David Cuffley

Defender Gary Doherty is determined not to miss out on the last leg of Norwich City's promotion bid despite picking up a fresh knock in the 1-1 draw against Milton Keynes Dons.

Doherty, recalled after missing the Easter Monday home win over Stockport with a “dead leg”, was hobbling again on Saturday night as he left Carrow Road with his man of the match champagne.

But the centre-half expects to carry on regardless at Leyton Orient tomorrow (7.45pm) as the Canaries look to move a step closer to returning to the Championship. “The ankle's a bit sore. I went over on the ankle, but I'm sure we'll get it strapped up. The games now are so important you don't want to be missing out,” said Doherty.

“Thankfully the dead leg is OK, that I missed the game on Monday with.”

The point secured by Chris Martin's last-minute equaliser left Paul Lambert's men eight points clear of second-placed Millwall, needing a maximum of seven points from their last five games to be sure of promotion.

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But they were very nearly doubled for the first time this season as MK Dons led from the 20th minute thanks to Aaron Wilbraham. Said Doherty: “It got a bit nerve-racking towards the end. I've played in plenty of games in my career where you completely batter them and create countless chances but they end up getting the one scruffy goal and you end up losing 1-0. But I think we showed terrific character.

“They made it difficult towards the end, giving away a lot of free-kicks and it kind of upset our attacking rhythm, so that was tough but it gave us the chance to get the ball in the box a lot and if you keep putting the ball in the box you're always going to put pressure on teams.”

Wilbraham was involved in the two key moments of the second half - a handball from Doherty's attempted cross that referee Kevin Friend deemed was not a penalty offence, then the trip on Oli Johnson that earned him a second yellow card, followed swiftly by red, and provided the free-kick from which Martin equalised.

“I thought it was a stonewall penalty,” said Doherty, who had the best view of the first incident. “I tried to kick it in the box and the lad got his hand up in the air and kind of punched it. I don't know why the ref didn't give it because I turned round and he seemed to be in a great position and he was kind of just staring at me.

“I thought 'I'm sure he's going to give it' but he ended up giving a corner instead. He ended up pointing to the corner flag.

“That was disappointing. We've been on the end of a few poor refereeing decisions of late.”

Martin's goal ensured it was not a fruitless afternoon.

Said Doherty: “How good was Chrissy Martin's technique to do that in the last minute? We kind of all knew what was coming but to get the power and side on it, it was a terrific finish.”

Doherty almost scored twice in the opening minutes when his headers were kept out by a goalline clearance by Mark Carrington and a fine save by 'keeper Willy Gueret.

“With the first one I was just trying to concentrate on getting it on target, but because the 'keeper missed it I probably should have buried that one,” he said. “The second one I think he pulled off one of his numerous good saves. Sometimes you have one of those games where the 'keeper pulls off saves and things just go wide of the post so we're just happy to get a point in the end.”

Doherty returned in place of Zak Whitbread, who seems unlikely to play again this season.

“I've got to watch because he's been out for 10 months, which is a long time,” said Lambert. “We can't rush him back and him being fit is when he comes back in pre-season. Gary came in and was excellent.”

Wes Hoolahan, who has missed two matches, is a doubtful starter at Orient because of a thigh strain. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster will be available after a two-match ban, though Declan Rudd performed well once again and made one crucial save from Jermaine Easter.

“Declan's done great since Fraser's been out. It's a big place to fill the way Fraser's been playing,” said Lambert.