Thorne: Players need to make up for Stoke horror show

DAVID CUFFLEY Peter Thorne is desperate for a first start under new boss Peter Grant in a bid to make up for lost time in his Norwich City career.


Peter Thorne is desperate for a first start under new boss Peter Grant in a bid to make up for lost time in his Norwich City career.

The 33-year-old striker has started just one first team match so far this season - and ended up being substituted at half-time despite scoring the opening goal.

With the Canaries' attacking options severely limited by injuries and suspension ahead of tonight's Coca-Cola Championship match against Colchester United at Carrow Road (7.45pm), Thorne is hoping for more than just a bit part as one of Grant's extras.

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No fewer than 16 of Thorne's 30 senior appearances for City have been as a substitute, a trend that continued with a brief appearance at the end of extra time in last week's Carling Cup tie at Port Vale, plus 35 minutes after coming off the bench against his old club in Saturday's 5-0 drubbing at Stoke.

Said Thorne: “It was tough to watch that. It was nice to get half an hour to try to get a bit of match fitness because I've got nothing at the moment.

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“The first half didn't go well for us at all but there was a period in the second half for about 20 minutes where I thought we started pegging them back, but once the 'keeper got sent off it was game over.”

With winger Lee Croft the latest to join City's casualty list - out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury - and Darren Huckerby (back) and Robert Earnshaw (rib) both rated 70-30 against being fit tonight, Grant is short of attacking firepower. Paul McVeigh is still sidelined, completing a three-match ban tonight.

Thorne's last City start came six weeks ago in the Carling Cup second round at Rotherham under former boss Nigel Worthington.

Despite scoring with a header in the first five minutes, only his second goal since his move from Cardiff in summer 2005, he was replaced by McVeigh at half-time.

He said: “It's been very frustrating. Even on the Rotherham game, I'd not played for a good few months. I've got zero match fitness and that's the problem. I don't feel as if I've had any match fitness since I've been here.

“It is tough. I would have liked to have carried on in that game but because I had no match fitness, the manager said half a game was enough. But I'd scored a goal and I wouldn't have minded staying on and I've not really had a sniff since then. You've just got to bide your time.”

But whether he plays or stays on the bench, Thorne is certain Saturday's nightmare at the Britannia Stadium will not have a Halloween horror sequel.

“The lads were devastated. Five-nil is a disaster for anybody,” he said. “It's a good thing we have this game because the last thing we want to do now is mope about for a week. But we won't be allowed to do that anyway. That was the first thing the gaffer got on to at the end of the game on Saturday - to get our heads up because we've got a big game on Tuesday. It's very important we go back out there with a positive attitude.”

If Huckerby and Thorne's former Cardiff striking partner, Earnshaw, fail to recover, Grant must to decide whether to persevere with 37-year-old Dion Dublin up front, bring in Thorne, or go for younger options such as Ryan Jarvis and 19-year-old Robert Eagle, who could add to his three senior outings away from home with a home debut.

Said Grant: “Young Eagle has done himself justice in the last few games, so it's definitely a possibility. It will bring a freshness in the team, there's no doubt about that.

“Ideally, I'd want players with more experience at this moment in time, if I'm losing that amount of players. But beggars can't be choosers. If someone's got to play, someone's got to play. I'll not be moping and moaning about it, in that the kids have shown to me that they have ability.

“I would rather have a full complement of players and be able to make a decision like that. Unfortunately football doesn't work that way. Sometimes people come in and surprise you and all of a sudden the ones that are injured you didn't miss as much as you thought you would.”

McVeigh's absence after his sending-off against Cardiff is particularly galling for Grant.

He said: “Discipline's massive and it's come back to bite us. You can't afford to lose any players through silly suspensions. There's a possibility Paul could have started against Port Vale last week and, who knows, he could have played against Stoke at the weekend and he could have played tonight, so that's three games he's missed out on in a week. Hopefully other players will learn from that and hopefully Paul will.”

One definite change will be in goal where Paul Gallacher returns to the starting line-up in place of on-loan Jamie Ashdown, serving a one-match ban for his red card at Stoke.

Youssef Safri is also expected to return in midfield. He was back in training yesterday after a groin injury.

Colchester give late tests to midfielder Kevin Watson and striker Richard Garcia, both struggling with ankle injuries.

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