Martin could get chance in midfield

DAVID CUFFLEY Striker Chris Martin could be in line for a midfield role when Norwich City take on Sven-Goran Eriksson's Manchester City in the Carling Cup third round tonight.


Striker Chris Martin could be in line for a midfield role when Norwich City take on Sven-Goran Eriksson's Manchester City in the Carling Cup third round tonight.

The 18-year-old has been reduced to a bit part role so far this season, starting just one first team game, in the second round of the same competition at Rochdale four weeks ago.

Martin's stint as substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Wolves on Saturday was his first Championship outing of the season, but with four of his senior squad injured and three suspended, manager Peter Grant has to consider every fit professional for the tie at the City of Manchester Stadium (7.45pm).

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With Julian Brellier suspended for one match, Luke Chadwick sidelined by a hamstring injury for at least a week and Jimmy Smith and Mark Fotheringham long-term casualties, Grant admitted Martin was a candidate for a midfield outing.

He said: “Yes, because he takes care of the ball. It's ironic when we lost the two players at Wolves it was the time we had the ball most.

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“That was our best period of the game with the ball. We put 10 or 15 passes together and that was probably the first time we'd done that."

Winger Lee Croft will also be hoping for a recall as one of two players facing his former club. The other is Darren Huckerby, who could captain the side tonight.

In defence, City have problems, too, with Dion Dublin and skipper Jason Shackell suspended and full-back Adam Drury rated “95 per cent” certain not to travel because of a sore back.

Gary Doherty and Ian Murray look set to be paired in the centre of defence with Simon Lappin a logical replacement for Drury, who did not train on Sunday or yesterday.

It will certainly be a case of all hands on deck.

“Everybody that's fit at the club will be travelling - that's all the pros from the youngest to the oldest. The suspensions don't help us in that respect,” said Grant.

But the City boss has not given up hope of bringing in a loan signing in time for the game.

He said: “We're still waiting for a few phone calls back because you can still get an emergency loan three hours before the game, I'm led to believe."

However, it needs to be someone who is eligible for the Carling Cup and whose club will allow them to play in the competition.

“Most of the Premier League clubs have just come in for the first time so some of their players have not been involved, so that gives you a chance to maybe get someone. But yet again some of them will not want them cup-tied,” said Grant.

“No matter who's available, we want a much improved performance on what we had on Saturday.

“I'd love to say it was a one-off, but I don't think we've been anywhere near second gear, performance wise. There have been bits and bobs - 30 minutes against Southampton, a period against Cardiff, and we could have won 5-0 against Crystal Palace without playing anywhere near what we're capable of.

“We've got to move on and hopefully the boys that come in will put up a much better performance.”

City face a daunting task tonight, Grant admits.

“If I had everybody fully fit, it would be a tough call. But it will be a fantastic arena to play in. Sometimes in life, a surprise is around the corner,” he said.

"If I was Manchester City I would be playing my strongest side because I'd want to win everything possible.”

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