Lupoli eager to take on Roeder's challenge

David Cuffley The strikers in Norwich City's first team squad were issued with a challenge by manager Glenn Roeder after the arrival of Leroy Lita on loan from Reading.

David Cuffley

The strikers in Norwich City's first team squad were issued with a challenge by manager Glenn Roeder after the arrival of Leroy Lita on loan from Reading.

In his Norwich Evening News column yesterday, Roeder said he wanted to see the rest of his front men respond positively to the extra competition. Barring a change of formation, the latest signing effectively leaves five players competing for two places in attack.

He said: “I want to see a reaction. I'm not saying I am disappointed with the strikers we have because I have no wish to criticise individual players, but the fact is they have not scored goals this season . . . there comes a time when you have to find a striker who can score when the chances come his way.

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“There is only one way for the rest to respond and that is to fight back.”

He added: “It's up to the strikers who are already here to react to Leroy coming here. He has not come here to twiddle his thumbs, that's for sure.”

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The team for today's Championship home game against Derby had not been announced at the time of writing, but unless City adopted a different system, it seemed most likely that Lita and Antoine Sibierski would be Roeder's chosen front pair to take on the Rams, with Omar Koroma, Arturo Lupoli and Jamie Cureton battling it out for places on the bench.

After a goal on his debut at Plymouth, Sibierski did not score in the next four matches, but was unlucky not to do so at Barnsley and Southampton when his goalbound headers were kept out by Heinz Muller and the woodwork, respectively.

Cureton is the one survivor from last season's strike force following the retirement of Dion Dublin, the release of Darren Huckerby, the return to Manchester City of Ched Evans and the exit of Chris Martin for the whole season, on loan to Luton.

But last season's top scorer has looked increasingly on the fringe of things in recent weeks.

Until today, Cureton had appeared for at least part of every match this season, but the 33-year-old has not started a game since the 2-2 draw at Cardiff and his involvement in the 2-0 defeat at Southampton on Tuesday night was a mere seven minutes.

Koroma started a Championship match for the first time at St Mary's Stadium and, once he had changed his boots early in the game, the 18-year-old was full of energy, producing one excellent piece of work to set up a first-half chance for Lee Croft and being denied twice in the space of a minute by the excellent Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davis after the break.

Roeder, no lover of missed chances, felt he should have scored at least once, but it is unlikely to be Koroma's last opportunity to impress.

All of which leaves Lupoli. For what it is worth, he was City's leading scorer going into today's game with three of their meagre tally of seven goals, but had yet to complete 90 minutes in any of his nine appearances.

It raised questions over his fitness even before a hamstring injury cut short his appearance as substitute against Sheffield United and ruled him out of the trip to Barnsley.

But the Italian, on a season-long loan from Fiorentina, was keen to dispel any doubts about his fitness at Colney yesterday.

“I feel good - I played 20 minutes on Tuesday and now I am ready to play a full game, so I am fit,” he said.

“I did only two weeks with the team before starting the season.

“I played only one half against Colchester before the season started, so I was a little bit behind fitness wise.

“Now I feel really good. I feel I'm like the other guys, so I hope I will get better and better.”

The manner in which Lupoli conjured two goals out of nothing to earn a draw at Cardiff - and very nearly had a hat-trick - before setting up Darel Russell's equaliser against Birmingham suggested he would prove a valuable addition to the squad.

That seemed to be confirmed at Plymouth where he scored a cracking goal, had another disallowed and rattled the crossbar with a volley in the second half.

He was substituted early in that match, partly to protect him from a second yellow card as he began to get frustrated with certain decisions, and was then replaced at half-time in the home game against Queens Park Rangers, when he was caught offside a shade too often.

Lupoli's injury has pushed him into the background in the last three matches and his cause was not helped when he was foiled by Davis when a late opportunity presented itself at Southampton, but one hopes we will get more chances to demonstrate the kind of finishing he displayed at Plymouth.

He said: “I came here to score goals and I am doing OK on this side of the game, but I need to play more games and more minutes.

“But I had a chat with the manager and everything seems to be good.

“I had the problem with my hamstring, which took me out for two games, but now I am ready to score more goals and ready to make sure that the team get points from my goals.

“I am an honest person and I think I'm doing well. I know when I don't score and I don't play well.

“I think at the moment I am doing well. I could do much more, but my fitness level is getting better and my game will improve.”

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