Norwich City keep rivals guessing

Chris Lakey Lincoln City 0, Norwich City 0: Norwich City completed the away obligations of their pre-season schedule last night - drawing another blank, but putting valuable minutes under their belts.

Chris Lakey

Lincoln City 0, Norwich City 0

Norwich City completed the away obligations of their pre-season schedule last night - drawing another blank, but putting valuable minutes under their belts.

Manager Paul Lambert used 18 players, gradually strengthening as the game went on, as he attempted to ensure that all players reach the same level of fitness before next week's opening game.

Lambert has insisted that nothing can be read into pre-season friendlies and, therefore, presumably, by the lack of goals - City have now drawn blanks in three away friendlies, after the visits to Stevenage and Dagenham. Instead, switching formations, trying players in unfamiliar positions - and then watching them come through unscathed - are the priorities.

There were no clues as to what he might do against Watford a week tomorrow and Scunthorpe boss Nigel Adkins - whose team face City a fortnight on Saturday - will have learned little from his seat in the Sincil Bank stands.

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Lambert went with just two starters - Elliott Ward and Simeon Jackson -from Saturday's home win over Newcastle, with eight of that team making up the subs' bench.

If the starting XI is essentially his second string line-up, given that he has made it pretty clear who makes up his preferred starters, then Lambert appears to have put together a more than decent squad.

Stephen Hughes returned after an ankle injury to partner Matt Gill in the middle, with Lambert going for a three-man defence, four across the middle, and Anthony McNamee playing just off the top two of Jackson and Oli Johnson.

Teenager Josh Dawkin won the first corner on five minutes, Owain Tudur Jones' header caught by keeper Joe Anyon. City keeper Jed Steer did well to tip a cross of the head of battering ram striker Drewe Broughton as the game settled into a good rhythm - the big man then flashing a shot wide after Josh O'Keefe had charged down a Jens Berthel Askou clearance.

City moved to a more familiar 4-4-2 with 20 minutes gone, with George Francomb switching to left-back, Askou on the right, and Tudur Jones and Ward in the centre.

Albert Jarrett wasted a good break with another greedy effort before the Canaries enjoyed a good spell of pressure, Johnson not quite catching a shot on the turn and then McNamee firing over after a lovely move involving Dawkin and Francomb. But Lincoln brought the home crowd to their feet 10 minutes from half-time with a sweeping move which ended when Steer did well at his near post to smother a shot by O'Keefe.

While honours were even at the halfway stage, it was Lambert's men who finished the half stronger - and with the big guns yet to come.

Lambert stuck with the same XI for the start of the second half - presumably with the big home friendly against Everton on Saturday in mind - and it might should have paid off within three minutes of the restart, when Dawkin's shot was blocked and fell kindly for Johnson, but his tame effort hit the keeper's legs. But Lincoln had just as good a chance on 55 minutes when Mustapha Carayol broke down the left, cut inside Tudur Jones and curled an effort just inches wide of the far post.

Lambert made his first changes on the hour mark, Ward and Jackson replaced by Russell Martin and Chris Martin, but Lincoln were proving a tough nut to crack, although Broughton's hopes of scoring against the club which launched his career 14 years ago were ended when he was replaced on 68 minutes.

Andrew Crofts and Andrew Surman and then Wes Hoolahan and David Fox made their entrances as the game - inevitably given its nature - became scrappy

Chris Martin, Surman and Crofts had opportunities near the end to snatch a winner, but it would have been rough justice on a game Lincoln side, who themselves went close when Adam Watts headed just wide from a corner.

t Lincoln: Anyon, Green (Clapham 46), Watts, Swaibu, Anderson, Hughton, Kerr (Keltie 68), O'Keefe, Carayol (Hutchinson 76), Jarrett, Broughton (McCallum 68). Subs not used: Clarke, Facey, Musselwhite.

t Norwich City: Steer, Askou, Tudur Jones, Ward (R Martin 60), Francomb (Drury 81), Gill (Surman 70), Hughes (Crofts 70), Dawkins, Jackson (C Martin 60), Johnson (Hoolahan 75), McNamee (Fox 75). Subs not used: Ruddy, Nelson.

t Referee: Jock Waugh

t Attendance: 1,727 (469 Norwich)