Grant sweats on Earnshaw's fitness
DAVID CUFFLEY It is set up perfectly as the showdown between the Championship's top two sharpshooters - but City's Robert Earnshaw may not get the chance to share top billing with World Cup star Grzegorz Rasiak.
It is set up perfectly as the showdown between the Championship's top two sharpshooters - but City's Robert Earnshaw may not get the chance to share top billing with World Cup star Grzegorz Rasiak.
Southampton's 27-year-old Polish striker leads the scoring charts in the division with 14 league goals this season, one ahead of the Canaries' top scorer, who is in second place.
But as the two sides prepare to meet at St Mary's Stadium on Saturday, Earnshaw is struggling to recover from the knee injury that forced him to miss the 2-1 home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.
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Earnshaw missed training again yesterday and manager Peter Grant admits he faces an uphill battle to be fit.
“It's going to go right to the wire and that's a bit of a blow,” said Grant. “You never say never and we must think positively and hope he's going to be fit.
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“But what if he played and lasted only 10 minutes, then missed the next three games? I can't afford to take that chance with a lot of games coming up. If he missed one but was fit for the next three, I might have to take that.”
City's trip to Southampton will be followed, starting a week later, by four matches in 10 days over the Christmas and New Year period.
In the meantime, the prospect of the two international marksmen appearing on the same stage on Saturday may be fading, but Grant is well aware of the threat the 6ft 3in Rasiak - a £2m signing for the Saints from Tottenham in May - poses to his side.
“Rasiak's a terrific player. I've seen him play for Derby when I was at West Ham and he's always a major threat and an awkward customer,” said Grant.
“He has a good goalscoring record, the people round about him are very, very good and he's excellent for this level of football.
“They are very different types of player but both have that wonderful goalscorer's art.”
Earnshaw has missed just two Championship matches this season and has scored 21 times in 36 senior outings for City.
Rasiak, who also played under Saints boss George Burley when they were at Derby together, has 18 goals in 33 outings since arriving on loan at Southampton last February. He has scored eight times in 31 games for Poland and was in the World Cup squad at this year's finals in Germany.