Worthy defends travelling tactics
CHRIS WISE Nigel Worthington launched a fierce defence of his recent away tactics as he prepared for another tough assignment at promotion-chasing Preston. Norwich City head to Deepdale tomorrow still looking for a first win of 2006 on their travels - and a switch to a 4-5-1 shape in their two previous fixtures has done little to improve that abysmal record.
Nigel Worthington launched a fierce defence of his recent away tactics as he prepared for another tough assignment at promotion-chasing Preston.
Norwich City head to Deepdale tomorrow still looking for a first win of 2006 on their travels - and a switch to a 4-5-1 shape in their two previous fixtures has done little to improve that abysmal record.
The Canaries played well in the second half at Leeds last month and also started the game at Burnley like an express train. But the fact remains that they picked up one measly point from a possible six at a time when maximum hauls were needed to boost a late promotion push.
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Worthington refused to reveal whether he would be playing just one up front against Preston, with Robert Earnshaw once again dropping out to accommodate an extra midfielder. But whether Leon McKenzie has a strike partner or not he expects his side to pose a real threat to the opposition in their latest must-win game.
“You never like to break up a partnership after both strikers have scored goals - but sometimes it's horses for courses and you have got to make a decision,” he said.
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“When we have gone the other way we got a very good performance at Leeds, and a good result, and also had a great 20 minutes at Burnley when we created four chances. There is evidence there to say that it is not a defensive formation.
“When we have done it, it has been more like 4-3-3 when we have had possession of the ball.
“But whatever the formation you have got to go out there and be positive. That is how we have been in our recent away games - and that is how we will be again on Saturday.”
One thing's for sure - City will have to be at their best going forward tomorrow if they are to get any joy at Deepdale. Preston may have struggled for goals since hammering the Canaries 3-0 at Carrow Road in their opening game of 2006, but they have had little trouble in preventing the opposition from scoring.
Since the turn of the year they have kept an incredible 12 clean sheets in 16 league matches to keep moving in the right direction for a place in the end of season play-offs despite netting just six times in their previous nine.
Worthington has every respect for tomorrow's opponents, but still feels his side have got the ability to come away with a positive result.
“Preston have been pretty tight this season - their defensive statistics are very good - so the challenge is there for us to go up there and try and break them down,” he said.
“They played very well against us at Carrow Road. The fact that we had had three games in a short space of time and they had had just two was probably a factor. But they passed the ball well, worked very hard and we were caught out on the day. We know what to expect - and we know what we have got to do away from home - we must be focussed, turn in a good performance and look to get a result.
“If you get the performance right then you have always got a chance of getting a good result. I am expecting a hard game of football - and a good game of football.”
If City fail to register their first away win of the year tomorrow then their outside hopes of reaching the play-offs will be all but dead and buried. A defeat would rule out even a mathematical chance, while a draw would leave Preston still 11 points ahead of the Canaries with just four games left to play - in other words one draw away from making it impossible for Worthington's side to finish in the top six.
Were Norwich to win tomorrow it would keep their slender hopes alive, but only just. Preston would still need just four points from their final four games to finish above the Canaries, even if tomorrow's opponents finished their campaign with four straight wins.
Worthington knows the score - but he is refusing to rule anything out while there is still some hope.
“It's a case of taking one game at a time,” he said. “I'm just looking for good performances, good results in each of our last five matches.”