Hucks - We need a settled team
DAVID CUFFLEY Darren Huckerby produced a goal of Premiership quality in non-league surroundings - and then stressed the need for Norwich City to settle on their first-choice line-up as soon as possible in their bid to regain top-flight status.
Darren Huckerby produced a goal of Premiership quality in non-league surroundings - and then stressed the need for Norwich City to settle on their first-choice line-up as soon as possible in their bid to regain top-flight status.
Huckerby's clinical volley from a Youssef Safri cross set the Canaries on their way to a 4-0 victory over Fakenham Town in their first pre-season match at Clipbush Park last night as they used no fewer than 23 players in 90 minutes, despite the absence of five senior men.
But the man who gained top marks in many of City's fitness tests as they returned to training is already looking ahead to the Coca-Cola Championship kick-off at Leeds on August 5.
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Huckerby said: “We've played a lot of kids in today's game but in the next two or three games the gaffer will be putting out his first team and then we've got to start gelling before the start of the season.
“It's important because the lads will be looking for two or three lots of 90 minutes before the start of the season and we've only got four or five games left, so hopefully he will have picked his team pretty soon.”
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Of his own high level of fitness, which has earned glowing praise from staff at Colney, he said: “I look after myself. I'm very lucky. I tend to keep my fitness levels up all the way through the year.
“I think come the season all the rest of the lads will be strong, too. All the lads have been looking brilliant in pre-season, doing a lot of good running, and we've been working really hard so hopefully that will translate into the performances.
“It's difficult for us in the first game when you know you're only going to play 45 minutes, so you've got to try and get your running in, in the first 45. So we were happy just to get the first game out of the way. We scored some good goals and at the end of the day it's about winning the game.”
He said of his goal: “Safs spotted me on the far post and I caught it nicely on the volley. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't. Luckily for me it flew in. It's nice to get on the scoresheet, but I'm not too worried about scoring goals. I'll try to create as many as I score.”
Manager Nigel Worthington said: “We all know what Darren's capable of doing. I was pleased with the goal but I was more pleased with his position because sometimes he's not in that position when the ball comes in the box. He was there, credit to him.
“It's something we've been working on - for him to get on the end of things and try to either score or create goals.”
City's youngsters also earned praise from Worthington, though one of them, Robert Eagle, was substituted with a thigh injury.
“Young Robert, who has had a very impressive pre-season up to now, just started to feel his thigh a little bit, so rather than push and have him out for weeks, hopefully we brought him off early enough. Maybe by the start of next week he'll be fit to travel to Scotland with us.
“I thought Patrick Bexfield at left-back had a very, very good game. Young Bally Smart came on and did very well, Rossi Jarvis had a solid game at centre-half, as did Andrew Cave-Brown.”
Worthington is hoping injured absentees Robert Earnshaw, Craig Fleming, Ian Henderson and Matthew Halliday, who has stitches in a head wound, will all be available for Saturday's game at Cambridge United, leaving him just one on-field worry - City's continuing failure from the penalty spot.
Leon McKenzie had a spot-kick saved by Steve Lewis last night and, asked who would get the job this season, Worthington replied: “Looks like me at the minute.”
Off the field, City's search for new players had still drawn a blank last night.
“There are many calls that go in, many seeds get planted, but some things don't grow as quickly as you would like,” said Worthington.
“We want to sign players. That still remains the case, but loans are always a possibility and I would expect hopefully a mixture of the two.
“There's nothing hard and fast at this moment in time. I'm not the most patient person and neither is the club but we're trying. The one thing I won't do is bring a player in for the sake of making a signing.”