Things are looking up for the Doc

DAVID CUFFLEY Defender Gary Doherty is hoping to recapture that winning feeling from his first East Anglian derby - if only he can force his way back into the Norwich City side.


Defender Gary Doherty is hoping to recapture that winning feeling from his first East Anglian derby - if only he can force his way back into the Norwich City side.

The 26-year-old Republic of Ireland international was back in full training yesterday as the Canaries stepped up their preparations for Sunday's televised Coca-Cola Championship clash with Ipswich Town at Portman Road (11.30am).

Doherty has missed the last two and a half City matches after being substituted because of a back problem at half-time in the 1-1 draw against Colchester at Carrow Road a fortnight ago.

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With 37-year-old Dion Dublin ably deputising in defence for Doherty and hamstring injury victim Craig Fleming in 1-0 wins over Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, manager Peter Grant may well be reluctant to change his back four.

Doherty is eager to add to his 85 senior appearances for City, but realises he may have to be patient.

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He admitted: “You are always hoping to be involved but the lads who came in did a good job with clean sheets in two tough games and it's down to the manager whether he brings me back.

“I saw the Sunderland game and I thought we defended very well, and the reports I'm getting from West Brom say the same, so things are going well with clean sheets in four games out of six. We're making progress.

“It was unfortunate that the Stoke game came in between but I think there were a few factors why we didn't perform that day that have been ironed out.”

Last year's trip to Ipswich was a turning point in Doherty's season. He won a recall in defence after eight games out of the starting line-up. City won 1-0 thanks to a goal from substitute Darren Huckerby and Doherty was ever-present for the rest of the campaign, earning the player of the season award.

He said: “We had an excellent result down there last season. I remember it well because it was my first game back in the team and we had a good 1-0 win.”

There were no happy memories from the return fixture as Town won 2-1 at Norwich in February.

“I think they caught us at a really good time for them when they came to Carrow Road because we had a few bad defeats in January,” he said.

Doherty said his back problem appeared to have cleared up after more than a week's rest.

He said: “It's something I've had about two weeks now. I went for a scan and tried to get through the Colchester game but it was really painful and I had to come off at half-time.

“I was told it may be nerves pressing into the lower back, so it was a case of resting it and if that didn't work, I may have had to have an injection.

“I've rested it for nine or 10 days and I trained with the youth team on Monday, then I was back in full training yesterday, and it seems OK, so hopefully it will stay that way and I won't need the injection.

“It's always a worry with your back. I think so many long trips in a short space of time, to Birmingham, Port Vale and Stoke, travelling for eight hours, sitting on the bus didn't help. Now it's much better for the rest.”

With City up to ninth in the Championship table, Doherty feels they can do more than grind out 1-0 wins.

He said: “Results breed confidence and sooner or later, someone's going to get a good pasting.”

And while Ipswich, already beaten four times at Portman Road this season, will be desperate to improve their home record and give their fans their first derby win on home territory since 1998, Doherty is hoping City have caught them at the right time.

“It may be a good time to play them,” he said. “They've lost their last two games so if we can go there, put them under a bit of pressure and maybe get an early goal, that would quieten the crowd.”

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