Grant taking no chances on Hucks

CHRIS LAKEY Canaries boss Peter Grant is refusing to compromise the fitness of star man Darren Huckerby. The Canaries star turn missed the opening pre-season match of the summer - a 2-1 defeat at Exeter on Saturday.


Canaries boss Peter Grant is refusing to compromise the fitness of star man Darren Huckerby.

The Canaries star turn missed the opening pre-season match of the summer - a 2-1 defeat at Exeter on Saturday - and Grant insists he will wrap the flying winger in cotton wool rather than risk losing him for vital Championship matches.

Grant says he hopes to see Huckerby at either Lowestoft tomorrow night or King's Lynn on Wednesday - but not at the expense of the big prize.

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“I am hoping - but as I said to Hucks the other day, I am not going to take any chances,” said Grant. “You know what he is like, he wants to play and wants to train, but I just can't take that chance.

“We know the problems we had last year with injuries and I think if you get them in pre-season it is very, very difficult to catch up because you miss out on all the fitness work that is going on, you miss out on the time on the pitch.

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“But Hucks has been working ever so hard during the summer so missing this game and two or three days - I see no problem.”

City travel to Lowestoft tomorrow night but while Grant was happy with the Exeter blow-out, he was disappointed with the sloppiness which led to Exeter's two goals in the space of a couple of first-half minutes.

“You could see it was the first 90 minutes,” he said. “I know Exeter have had a couple of games, but there was a rustiness there.

“They have been working very, very hard and it has been tough on their legs. We expected that, but obviously disappointed with the way we started the game.

“I can understand and that is why I am a wee bit more reserved about it than usual, because I knew it would be tough. There is a complete difference to all the fitness work you can do and when you are trying to combine both, plus the games, it is tough, but we still expected better with the goals we lost in that period.”

Grant was forced to leave behind midfield trio Dickson Etuhu, because of a dental problem, Mark Fotheringham (blisters) and Simon Lappin (sister's wedding) while keepers David Marshall and Matty Gilks, midfielder Julien Brellier and defender Jon Otsemobor stayed back for more work at Colney.

“Brellier has done all the fitness work with us and all his fitness work is good, but I still felt he had missed out some leg work and I think the only way he is going to get that is by doing fitness work back home, so he stayed back there,” said Grant. “Jon Otsemobor the same, even though Jon has does all the work with us I just felt with him missing a part of the end of last season there was still a bit of work to get into his legs yet.”

Every one in the squad of 20 played, but Grant said nothing should be read into team selection which saw Dion Dublin start the match at centre half, with Gary Doherty in midfield. New boys Jamie Cureton and David Strihavka were paired together from the beginning, with Chris Brown making his first appearance since February after the break, along with Youssef Safri.

City travel, to Holland at the end of the week and it is then that the Grant's preferred line-up should become more clear.

“That is the time you start looking at it, you start thinking of things and start putting things in the players' minds,” he said. “There has been a lot of fitness work in there, a lot of leg work, it has been four times a day some days. It has been tough on them.

“I look at the next two games - it will be a bit like today, it will be mix and match, people coming in and getting 45 minutes here and there, which is not ideal - that's a thing I hated as a player as well - but I think once we go over there you will see people get a bit longer time.”

Strahavka and Cureton look favourites to occupy the front slots, with Grant happy with the Czech newcomer's first run-out in England.

“I was impressed by him - he hardly knows the players and he's getting to know them,” Grant said. “You could see some great movement, especially in the first half I thought he made some terrific movement and never received the ball, but he is a powerful lad and is quick over the ground and had or two strikes at goal, which is important for strikers. The same with Curo - I am quite happy for these guys to have shots at goal and miss, I don't mind that, because I know they will take opportunities and will score them. I was pleased with them, I think they shaped up well considering the small period of time they have been here.”

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