Roeder: Rusty needed break
David Cuffley City boss Glenn Roeder defended his decision to leave out midfielder Darel Russell for the first time since he became manager - after the home defeat by leaders West Bromwich Albion left his side's Championship future still up in the air.
City boss Glenn Roeder defended his decision to leave out midfielder Darel Russell for the first time since he became manager - after the home defeat by leaders West Bromwich Albion left his side's Championship future still up in the air.
Saturday's 2-1 reverse against Albion left the Canaries still at risk in 18th place, just three points clear of third-from-bottom Sheffield Wednesday, who they visit on the final day of the campaign on May 4.
Roeder made four changes to his starting line-up and there was a double surprise with the omission of Russell and veteran striker Dion Dublin, both of whom had to settle for second-half appearances as substitutes.
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Russell has missed six previous games since Roeder's arrival in October - but all through suspension.
The City boss explained his decision to put Russell on the bench, saying: “I don't think he's been at his best recently and it won't do him any harm sitting one out.
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“We'll see how everyone trains this week and then we'll make a decision on the starting line-up for next Saturday.”
Victory over Queen's Park Rangers at Carrow Road on Saturday would guarantee survival by taking City to 55 points, because Leicester and Sheffield Wednesday - who play each other on the same day - cannot both get to 55.
A draw against QPR will be enough for Norwich if Leicester beat the Owls, but results have been notoriously unpredictable in the Championship. And defeat by QPR would certainly take the Canaries' relegation battle to the last day at Hillsborough.
Against Albion, Matty Pattison partnered fit-again skipper Mark Fotheringham in central midfield, while 18-year-old Kieran Gibbs, on loan from Arsenal, was recalled to the starting line-up for the first time in five matches.
“He did very well. He's 18 years old, massive game, he's a good footballer,” said Roeder.
“I'd like to have played him more, but for different reasons I haven't. But he's going to have a good career. All he lacks at the moment is he's physically not particularly strong, but if he develops that physical strength with the weights programme and natural development as he gets older, he's a hell of a player.”
Gibbs' loan runs out after next week's game, however, and he will not be eligible for the trip to Hillsborough, but winger Luke Chadwick could have a key role in the final two games.
Chadwick's reappearance as a second-half substitute, after nearly five months out of action following a shoulder operation, gave Roeder some cause for cheer after medical opinion suggested he would not be back this season.
“He's fought so hard to get back on to the pitch today with three games to go,” said Roeder.
“They didn't think he would make it. I thought he would make it and obviously so did he, and he deserved that run-out today. I was pleased with his contribution because he's only really been back for a couple of weeks since he's had that shoulder sewn back in.”
Chadwick, whose recall nudged Lee Croft off the substitutes' bench, could feature next week if Roeder makes further changes to his starting eleven.
Ryan Bertrand, who missed the Albion game with a hamstring injury, will be fit for the QPR game as Roeder takes on his former club, insisting he does not have the calculator out to study how many points City may need.
He said: “I haven't even looked at that. I've only thought about one thing and that's beating QPR next week, and then we'll have a look at it. We're getting to the end of the season - you get mad results now.
“My only focus for the players this week will be winning next week in our last home game of the season and if we play like we did today and create the same number of chances, you just hope, fingers crossed, they go in next week.”