Lambert has headache over defender cover

David Cuffley Norwich City manager Paul Lambert was today sizing up his options for plugging a big gap in defence after admitting that none of his three right-backs was likely to be fit for the League One trip to Stockport County.

David Cuffley

Norwich City manager Paul Lambert was today sizing up his options for plugging a big gap in defence after admitting that none of his three right-backs was likely to be fit for the League One trip to Stockport County.

Lambert will be forced to find a short-term alternative for tomorrow's game at Edgeley Park (3pm) because Jon Otsemobor, Michael Spillane and George Francomb are all sidelined by injury.

But the City boss ruled out switching 18-year-old Korey Smith to the back four, insisting he was too valuable in his preferred role in midfield.


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Otsemobor missed four games with a hamstring problem before returning for the trip to Leeds 11 days ago, but suffered a recurrence of the injury in the 2-1 defeat at Elland Road and missed last Saturday's 1-0 home win over Swindon.

“I don't think Jon will be ready to come back,” said Lambert yesterday, adding that Spillane had not yet recovered from his own hamstring injury after four matches out of action, and that Francomb, whose home debut against Swindon was cut short at half-time, was still suffering from a thigh strain.

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He is reluctant, however, to move Smith, who filled in at right-back for most of the second half against Swindon.

“I can't take him out of midfield because we lose him there, so we have to look at another option,” said Lambert. “We will have to look at other possibilities and try to find the best alternative.”

After attempts to make a loan signing yesterday failed to bear fruit, the options would include switching Darel Russell or Gary Doherty, both of whom have played at right-back, or possibly Jens Berthel Askou, who finished the Swindon game in that position after Michael Nelson's late introduction from the bench at centre-half for his first appearance for nearly six weeks.

Nelson played more than an hour of Wednesday's reserve match at Ipswich, but as for starting a senior game, Lambert admitted: “It's still a big ask.”

Any reshuffle could also depend on whether Matthew Gill is now ready to start a senior match. Midfielder Stephen Hughes has not recovered from the thigh strain that sidelined him last weekend, and Luke Daley is also sidelined by a thigh strain.

Gill, at least, is making strides in his recovery, along with his fellow midfielder and summer capture, Owain Tudur Jones. Both men played the full 90 minutes at Portman Road, but Lambert admitted that Gill, who appeared briefly as a substitute at Leeds, was ahead of Tudur Jones in getting minutes on the field under his belt.

The irony of City's full-back dilemma is that on the opposite flank, Adam Drury is preparing to make his 300th senior appearance for the club and has yet to miss a league match this season.

The Canaries face Stockport - with whom they have never shared a goalless draw - in fifth place in the League One table, with their hosts fifth from bottom.

t Lambert has confirmed that goalkeeper Fraser Forster will not be available for the FA Cup first round tie at Paulton Rovers a week tomorrow. Newcastle do not want him cup-tied.

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