Still Grounds for optimism

David Cuffley Jonathan Grounds is preparing to team up with his fifth different central defensive partner in his short stay with Norwich City when they visit Preston on Saturday.

David Cuffley

Jonathan Grounds is preparing to team up with his fifth different central defensive partner in his short stay with Norwich City when they visit Preston on Saturday.

The 21-year-old defender, in his second loan spell from Middlesbrough, scored for the second time in three games but it was not enough to prevent the Canaries crashing to a 2-1 Championship home defeat at the hands of Bristol City, leaving them a precarious 20th in the table.

Grounds bagged a first-half equaliser at Carrow Road but then watched fellow centre-back Gary Doherty get his marching orders just before the interval after conceding the penalty that handed the Robins' victory.

Midfielder Sammy Clingan dropped into the back four alongside Grounds for the second half, but with Doherty suspended for the trip to Deepdale, manager Bryan Gunn is already working to find another replacement before the weekend.

Grounds, who has also shared defensive duties with Dejan Stefanovic, briefly, and Elliott Omozusi in only 11 outings for City, had a good view of the incident that led to Doherty's second red card of the season, for tripping Robins striker Dele Adebola.

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He said: “I was right behind it, I didn't see if Doc actually touched the ball but he obviously caught the lad and the linesman's seen it and he's given a penalty.

“Going down to 10 men and 2-1 down just before half-time we gave ourselves a mountain to climb but the attitude of the boys was brilliant and shows that we can push up this league and get out of where we are.

“The battling spirit in the second half gives us something to work on. We've got to go again next week at Preston and look to get three points.

“After the few good results we've had, the unbeaten run has come to an end. We thought we had a chance of three points and moving up the table a little bit with a few games being called off.”

Grounds' 24th-minute goal, which came eight days after his first in senior football in the 1-1 draw at Doncaster, was scant consolation.

He said: “Scoring is another personal high but it's a team game and we've lost so it' not very enjoyable. The defeat is very disappointing. Five unbeaten would have been very good going into a tough away game.”

Grounds felt Clingan's switch to defence worked well.

“Communication is the key playing centre-half and me and Sammy managed to do that very well. As long as we talk to each other,” he said.

But he is making no assumptions about who starts against promotion-chasing Preston.

“We've just got Adrian Leijer in from Fulham who is a centre-half so it's up to the management to make a decision on that.”

Grounds' loan runs out after the trip to Blackpool on March 7, but he could be recalled instantly if Boro' need him. There is no chance of a further loan extension.

Said Gunn: “We did ask the question of Middlesbrough. We asked if we could have him through to the end of the season, but he is a Middlesbrough player and we totally understand their position.

“They can take him back any time from today. Middlesbrough have said they want him to stay here as long as possible, so depending on their injury situation, we will hopefully have him to March 7 but that could be out of our hands.

“We've got Adrian Leijer in from Fulham. He wasn't in the 16 today but again he is someone who is impressing in training.

“We have a friendly match at Birmingham on Tuesday afternoon so it will give me an opportunity to give some of the players who haven't had game time in a Norwich City shirt some minutes on the pitch and there will be players playing in that who will have the opportunity to impress.”

Asked about his own future beyond the loan deal, Grounds said: “I'm not 100 per cent sure - I'm just trying to concentrate on playing games and just let other people deal with that.

“At Middlesbrough I was told first team opportunities might be limited. I spoke to Bryan before Glenn Roeder got sacked and Bryan was influential in bringing me here so with him now being manager it's very good to play under him.”