Struggling Saints not fooling us

Simon Lappin is standing by for a switch of roles tomorrow - insisting Southampton's poor start to the season will not lull Norwich City into a false sense of security.

Simon Lappin is standing by for a switch of roles tomorrow - insisting Southampton's poor start to the season will not lull Norwich City into a false sense of security.

The Scot was operating in his favoured left midfield position when he scored his first goal at Carrow Road in Tuesday night's 5-2 Carling Cup defeat of Barnet.

But an ankle injury to left-back Adam Drury could mean that defensive duties take priority for Lappin when the Canaries face the Saints in their first Coca-Cola Championship home game of the season (3pm).

The former St Mirren man covered for Drury in the back four for the final 18 minutes against the Bees, and is ready and willing to do so again if required.


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“I've said before I'll play anywhere that the manager sees fit to play me, whether it be left-back, inside midfield, or wide midfield,” he said. “I'll give it my lot in whatever position I'm playing in.”

And Lappin, 24, is under no illusions about the task facing City - even though George Burley's men suffered a disastrous week with a 4-1 Championship home defeat by Crystal Palace on the opening day followed by a Carling Cup exit at the hands of Peterborough.

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“It's only two games gone. We're not taking anything from that,” said Lappin. “They'll come here tomorrow and they'll make it difficult for us. They're a great side and we need to be on top of our game to get anything from the game.”

The Saints doubled City last season and will return with Moroccan midfielder Youssef Safri in their ranks after his controversial exit from Norwich a fortnight ago.

“It'll be a bit weird,” admitted Lappin. “Every game I played in last year he was playing alongside me but he's there now and we've got a job to do and we're just concentrating on Norwich City. Saf's moved on and he's at a different club now.

“He was a great player. I don't think there was any doubt about that - great on the ball. And he'll be a key player for Southampton.”

Lappin's splendid goal against Barnet, only his second in City colours, answered manager Peter Grant's demand for his midfield men to get on the scoresheet. Mark Fotheringham and Darel Russell also obliged.

“We've got to get goals from all over the park, it's not just up to the strikers,” said Lappin. “It's not just myself. They say to anybody if you get in that area, have a shot at goal. If you don't shoot, you don't score. It was nice to see it fly in.

“We started like a house on fire and it's good to see and I hope we can do that in more games.”

Grant said Lappin's versatility was an asset to the squad.

He said: “We've moved him around. Do you play him in a four, do you play him wide? You've seen him playing at left-back, you've seen him playing inside - and he has a natural left foot. He has very good delivery, he can score goals. He knows there's much improvement still to be done in his all-round game. But he's going the right way about it.

“I think the biggest thing for Simon is he's got to keep playing well. His game awareness has got to improve, that's for sure. His professionalism is fantastic and now he's got to take that on and learn as the game's unfolding.”

Drury and French midfielder Julien Brellier are Grant's two main injury doubts. Brellier, who missed the Barnet game, is suffering from a “tight groin”.

Said Grant: “There's a bit of concern and we'll see how they are over the next couple of days.

“Julien's problem is probably not having enough games in pre-season. He just gets a bit of stiffness and in the game at Preston last week I probably played him more than I wanted to. We'll give him up to the last moment but he says he feels much better.”

Southampton signed defender Wayne Thomas, from Burnley, yesterday for £1.2m.

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Burley's need for a new defender has been heightened by Darren Powell's suspension and Claus Lundekvam's ongoing injury problems. The 28-year-old centre half is expected to go straight into the side.

Goalkeeper Kelvin Davis has recovered from a stomach bug and is expected to play, while striker Kenwyne Jones should also be fit to return.

Grant watched the Saints go down 2-1 to Posh on Monday night.

He said: “I was at the game the other evening but you look at the strength in depth on the bench and the strength that they've not got available and it's still a very, very strong squad. I'd say much stronger than ours on depth even though they've lost a lot of players. There's no doubt they're a good side.”

As for their sorry start, he said: “It's first weeks of the season - George will be delighted it's happened at this moment in time.”

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