Grant faces defensive conundrum

CHRIS LAKEY Peter Grant will conduct a head count as his injury-ravaged Norwich City board the plane for Southampton on Friday afternoon. The Canaries boss admits it might be another 24 hours before he can name a team for the St Mary's challenge and that he will break his own rules to give players every chance of making it.

CHRIS LAKEY

Peter Grant will conduct a head count as his injury-ravaged Norwich City board the plane for Southampton on Friday afternoon.

The Canaries boss admits it might be another 24 hours before he can name a team for the St Mary's challenge and that he will break his own rules to give players every chance of making it.

By this time Grant would usually have revealed his line-up to his players, but such are the injury problems that that is simply impossible.


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Leading scorer Robert Earnshaw is doubtful because of a knee injury - but even his possible absence is overshadowed by the central defensive conundrum facing Grant.

Of his four established central defenders, one is suspended and three have spent the week in the treatment room.

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Jason Shackell misses the trip after collecting five bookings, his most recent partner, Dion Dublin, has a groin injury, and Craig Fleming and Gary Doherty spent this week easing their way back after injuries.

“Dion will be left until the last moment,” said Grant. “I have to be careful now because obviously the pitches are heavy, even at the training ground, so if it means that extra 24 hours I would give him that.

“I can't take a chance with the likes of Shackell being out through suspension and Flem and Doc just coming back from injury. It is a big decision I have to make there.”

What is clear is that Grant will have to play Fleming or Doherty - or both if Dublin is ruled out - with teenager Michael Spillane on standby.

“I will definitely have to play one of them, maybe two of them depending how Dion is,” he said. “They have both trained this week, both seem fit. I just hope they don't pick up knocks because I know the first few days are fine. So far so good, I have had no complaints about soreness.”

Earnshaw - who missed the weekend defeat by Sheffield Wednesday after failing a late fitness test - may be excused training if Grant thinks he can make it, with match fitness not a concern.

“He is close, but it is a difficult one,” added Grant. “You feel great running in straight lines, but once you have to twist and turn and strike the ball, that's the problem. Walking you won't feel it - I have had the injury myself and I know what they're like. It just takes a knock on the end of your toe and you feel completely different.

“But I will give him as much chance as I possibly can. He is not going to lose that amount of fitness, because he trained right up until Friday last week so that is not going to be a problem.”

The only plus signs are that goalkeeper Paul Gallacher and right winger Lee Croft are fit - although Grant is reluctant to throw Croft straight back into the fray after a six-week absence with ankle ligament damage. Youssef Safri returns to the squad after a one-game suspension.

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