Start me at Preston - Earnshaw

CHRIS WISE Robert Earnshaw maintained his hot scoring streak at Carrow Road last Saturday - and now he is hoping to be given the opportunity to open his account on opposition territory.


Robert Earnshaw maintained his hot scoring streak at Carrow Road last Saturday - and now he is hoping to be given the opportunity to open his account on opposition territory.

The Norwich City striker scored his fourth goal in six home appearances to help his side to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Leicester, but he has still to find the net in away games since his £2.7m move from West Bromwich Albion.

Earnshaw's cause has hardly been helped by a recent switch to a 4-5-1 formation, which has seen him relegated to the bench for the games at Leeds and Burnley, and he would clearly be less than impressed if he was again handed a back-up role against Preston this afternoon.

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“I was disappointed when I was told I would not be playing from the start in the last two away games,” said the Welsh international, who opted to move in January because of a lack of first team opportunities at his previous club.

“I don't want to go too much into it but, yes, I want to be playing, it's as simple as that.

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“I want to be playing in every game, that is no secret. I came here to play football - and, like all players, I want to be involved week in, week out.

“I'll travel up there with the rest of the lads and we'll just have to see how it goes.”

Manager Nigel Worthington has to decide whether to stick with a 4-4-2 shape at Deepdale or leave Earnshaw out to accommodate an extra midfielder, with Dickson Etuhu a strong contender for a recall against his former club.

Having three men in the centre of the park gave City a sharp attacking edge at Leeds, and also worked well during the early stages at Burnley - but the diminutive frontman feels the best way forward for the Canaries is to play two up front on a regular basis.

He is itching to play against Preston - and clearly fancies his chances of finding the back of the net against a side who have conceded just six goals in the league since the turn of the year.

“Goals are my thing,” he said. “I want to score in every game I play in, whether it's at home or away. It just so happens that all my goals for Norwich so far have been at Carrow Road but, given the chance, I'll be looking to put that right at Preston. I want to score there - and I want to score in the next game after that. That's what I love doing - putting the ball in the back of the net.

“I want to score in as many games as possible - but obviously it is not going to happen all the time.

“If I don't score then I have got to make sure I play well, do a good job for the team. That is also very important to me.”

Although he would obviously prefer to be starting every game Earnshaw made it clear that he was thoroughly enjoying himself in his new surroundings. Like all new players at Norwich he has been welcomed with open arms, while on the pitch he feels he is beginning to build up a good understanding with strike partner Leon McKenzie, and all his colleagues come to that.

“I have been pleased with the way I have settled in,” he said. “The more games I have played the better I have got, I think. I am getting used to everyone now and they are getting used to me as well. That showed on Saturday when Youssef Safri put me through for my goal. Those are the type of things I want.

“It was a great pass - I really appreciated that. When you play in my position you love being put clear, you love being given a chance to score. All I had to do was finish it off.

“I enjoy playing alongside Leon - I don't think you necessarily need a big target man. The best teams in the world don't play like that, it's all about playing football. In this country you are supposed to have a big man up front - and then people complain when you hit the ball long.

“You have got to think about keeping possession, passing the ball and putting it in the back of the net. It's got nothing to do with how big people are, it's how good they are and what they can do with the ball. That's the most important thing in football.”

City go into today's game 11 points behind Preston with just five games left to play. So if they lose then even a mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs will disappear. If they draw they will also be as good as dead and buried - only four Preston defeats and four Norwich wins would then give Worthington's men a chance.

Only a first away win of 2006 will keep the pot boiling for the Canaries, and even then their opponents would only need to take four points from their remaining four games to ensure a higher finish.

Reaching the play-offs is clearly an outside bet to say the least, but while there is still some hope Earnshaw says City will keep on fighting.

“To have even the slightest chance I think we have got to win every game now, starting with Preston,” he said. “It's not over but they are in a very strong position, and will still be in a very strong position even if we beat them on Saturday.

“Looking at the table if we reached the play-offs now we would fall into it because it is dependent on other results. If Preston win a couple of games between now and the end of the season there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

“It's a long shot, of course it is, but we can keep things alive on Saturday - and that is what we will be trying to do. We'll keep going until it is dead and buried.”

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