Ward return is a big boost for Norwich City

AUDIO: Paul Lambert admitted he is glad to have Elliott Ward back for the visit of managerless Middlesbrough to Carrow Road tomorrow (3pm).

Centre-back Ward served a one-match ban in the disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Tuesday night – a game in which some of City’s second half defending left a little to be desired.

Before City’s midweek loss, City – with Ward in tow – had kept successive clean sheets at Bristol City and Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers, where the 25-year-old picked up booking number five of the campaign and his subsequent ban. Up to Tuesday, Ward had played every minute of City’s competitive action this season.

Lambert said: “Elliott and Leon Barnett I think have been rocks at the back. The two of them have been absolutely terrific for us and when you lose somebody like Elliott then there is a massive void in it.

“He told me he had never been suspended before – that’s what he says. That’s an achievement for a centre-half – but I’m glad he’s tackling! He’s very good on the ball and having him back will be a big plus for us.”

Left-back Adam Drury out for a couple of weeks with a calf strain and Michael Nelson, Zak Whitbread and Andrew Surman joined by Stephen Hughes as long-term injury absentees – Hughes is set to be out for a couple of months.

Lambert confirmed Owain Tudur Jones is set for a third month at League One Yeovil, and that he is yet to discuss Matt Gill’s future with counterpart Gary Johnson following the end of the midfielder’s loan spell at Peterborough after this weekend.

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“I had a chat with the players yesterday and they’ve always bounced back, they always give me everything they’ve got,” added Lambert.

“I might freshen it up tomorrow because the same group have been going week in week out for weeks on end. Then it’s up to them to come in and do what the others have been doing.”

Scotland international Kevin Thomson should be declared fit to return for Middlesbrough.

The �2m midfielder suffered a hairline fracture of his fibula earlier this season but is back in full training.

Julio Arca is in light training after a knee problem and may also be fit to travel.

But Justin Hoyte has not fully recovered from a hamstring injury and will not be available.