Lambert keeps Hornets guessing

Paddy Davitt Dagenham & Redbridge 1, Norwich City 0: Quite what the Watford scout made of it all was anyone's guess. Paul Lambert kept the majority of his big-hitters in reserve until well into the second half of City's latest friendly outing in deepest Essex.

Paddy Davitt

Dagenham & Redbridge 1, Norwich City 0

Quite what the Watford scout made of it all was anyone's guess.

Paul Lambert kept the majority of his big-hitters in reserve until well into the second half of City's latest friendly outing in deepest Essex.


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George Francomb and academy prospect Remy Gordon started in a backline which saw Owain Tudur Jones press-ganged into replacing Zak Whitbread after the American had initially been named on the pre-match teamsheet.

Elliott Ward made his first competitive appearance since arriving on a free from Coventry City in a rearguard that bore no resemblance to last season's all- conquering League One title triumph.

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The Hornets' scout - cunningly disguised in a blue Watford training top and club crest - would have been well down the first page of his notebook before casting his eye over City's midfield diamond.

Anthony McNamee slotted into the hole vacated by Wes Hoolahan behind new-look front pair Simeon Jackson and Chris Martin with Matty Gill operating in the anchor role.

Captain Grant Holt, Steven Smith and Stephen Hughes again all missed out through injuries picked up in the early weeks of pre-season.

Dagenham fielded eight of the players who had clinched promotion via the League Two play-offs in late May including one-time reported City target Danny Green and Paul Benson - goalscorers in that historic Wembley 3-2 win over Rotherham. Former Histon youngster Gareth Gwillim was also included on the bench following his summer move.

Norwich skipper-for-the-night Simon Lappin led his men out into one of the more homely football league outposts. What the catchily-titled 'London Borough of Barking and Dagenham' stadium lacks in atmosphere it made up for in a billiard-table flat playing surface conducive to passing football.

Strange then the first home threat came aerially with Damien McCrory's hopeful half-volley gathered by John Ruddy. Tudur Jones' bloody injury halted proceedings after 10 minutes - the Welshman suffering a small cut to his forehead in a stooping challenge with Benson.

Daggers' new signing Gavin Tomlin showed plenty of attacking intent on the counter to ease Francomb off the ball but Ward was sharply around to bail out his young colleague with Ruddy beaten. The former Yeovil striker then checked inside Ward seconds later but lashed into Ruddy's midriff from an acute angle. Tomlin was keen to make a good early impression with his new pay masters.

Romain Vincelot moved effortless into ample space between City's backline and midfield to test Ruddy with a sharp effort before Tomlin, who else, helped on Green's cross six yards out to nudge the hosts ahead.

Stung into action Lappin's low drive was parried behind by Chris Lewington. Chris Martin's header from the resulting corner cleared off the line. More worrying for Lambert was the sight of Korey Smith clutching his lower left leg after a crunching collision with Vincelot. City's manager took a leading role in the mini medical conference on the touchline before Smith was allowed back out to play.

Ruddy superbly gathered McCrory's free kick through a forest of bodies with the hosts continuing to press at high speed urged on by Daggers' legend John Still at the front of his technical area.

Russell Martin's half time introduction triggered a defensive reshuffle with Francomb switching to centre half for the departed Ward. More scribbling for the man from Hertfordshire. Tellingly it was Lambert's voice to be heard from the dugout area in the opening minutes of the second stanza. Clearly unhappy with his charges to that point.

Benson's glancing flick gave Ruddy his first meaningful touch of the second period. Now it was Norwich trying to force the pace. Chris Martin attempted to carry the fight. Literally, after a minor flashpoint on halfway involving Smith and his marker erupted into a full-blown shoving match - followed by the obligatory lecture for the ringleaders from the official.

Any lingering resentment was replaced by the pre-season ritual of mass substitutions on the hour mark. Nine for City. Four for Dagenham. Only Francomb and half time arrival Russell Martin survived the cull. New players. Same system. Hoolahan supporting Josh Dawkin and Oli Johnson - Jackson getting little chance to showcase his wares with Norwich's starting midfield decidedly second best.

Vincelot's thumping near-post header shuddered the underside of Jed Steer's bar on 71 minutes before City cleared their lines. City's teenage keeper deserved his slice of luck for a smart point-blank stop to deny Vincelot again with Dagenham a constant menace on the counter. David Fox's 20-yard free-kick clipped the home wall and rolled through to Lewington after Dawkin was upended.

Lambert stood and watched. Hands in pockets. Precious little for him or City's opening-day Championship opponents on August 6 to get carried away with.

t Dagenham: Lewington, Ogogo, McCrory (Antwi, 60), Doe (Bingham, 60), Vincelot, Arber, Green (Currie, 60), Lewis (Montgomery, 81), Benson (Gwillim, 60), Tomlin (Scott 71), Gain. Subs (not used): Sambridge, Wilkinson, Osborn, Wootton, Femi. Goal: Tomlin (24)

t Norwich City: Ruddy (Steer, 60), Francomb, Tudur Jones (Nelson, 60), Ward (R Martin, 45), Gordon (Drury, 60), Gill (Crofts, 60), Smith (Fox, 60), Lappin (Surman, 60), Jackson (Dawkin, 60), C Martin (Johnson, 60), McNamee (Hoolahan, 60). Subs (all used)

t Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)

t Attendance: 1,092 (254 away supporters)

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