Duo’s banter conceals chronic goals problem
DAVID CUFFLEY There has, it seems, been a bit of light-hearted banter between Norwich City defenders Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell about their respective goalscoring records.
There has, it seems, been a bit of light-hearted banter between Norwich City defenders Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell about their respective goalscoring records.
Before today's Coca-Cola Championship trip to Colchester, Doherty had not found the net in his last 73 appearances for the Canaries, stretching back to the 2-1 home win over Hull 18 months ago.
Shackell finally broke his duck on his 72nd senior game for the club, the 2-1 defeat at Preston last month, and followed up his first goal with another a week later in the 3-2 win at Luton.
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Buoyed by his new-found potency in the goalmouth, he has begun to remind his central defensive partner of his attacking responsibilities.
“Shacks has started to get a few goals, so he's letting me know in training that he's scoring and I'm not so I'll have to try and get one on Saturday if selected,” said Doherty before the trip to Layer Road.
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Whether or not either of them has added to his tally this afternoon, the leg-pulling only thinly conceals a chronic problem for City - scoring enough goals from all departments.
Before today's game, 40 of City's 62 goals in all competitions had been scored by four players, Robert Earnshaw bagging 17 in effectively half a season, Darren Huckerby 12, Dion Dublin six and Chris Martin five in just 12 outings. Dickson Etuhu was next on the list with four - the last of them five months ago in the previous meeting with Colchester - while Lee Croft had three. Even the mysterious Owen Goals hasn't scored since his third of the season against Leicester in November.
The rest is a fairly blank canvas.
Take out Shackell's swift double and the fact that a couple of Dublin's goals were scored from centre-half and the defensive share is negligible.
Craig Fleming scored once and it no doubt impressed opponents Rotherham because they signed him in the next transfer window.
Jürgen Colin, Adam Drury and Andy Hughes, sharing most of the full-back duties, have, like Doherty, not scored at all this season. Neither has Paul McVeigh, though in fairness McVeigh started just six matches before his loan move to Burnley. Youssef Safri's sole success from midfield was the free-kick in the 3-1 home defeat by Plymouth.
Teams who win trophies or gain promotion need goals from all departments, as City's own Nationwide League title success of three seasons ago demonstrates.
In that campaign, Damien Francis scored seven times from midfield, McVeigh scored five, wide men Ian Henderson and Mark Rivers four each and Phil Mulryne three - and Malky Mackay and Craig Fleming managed seven between them from the centre of defence.
One hopes that City's additional work on set-pieces will improve the output from players such as Doherty, Shackell and Safri, while Simon Lappin clearly has an eye for goal, given the chance.
By the time you read this, one or more of them may already have improved his goals total at the expense of the U's. Getting them to do so on a regular basis will be the challenge.