Worthy demands lengthy cup run
JONATHAN REDHEAD Norwich City go into tonight's Carling Cup tie at Torquay with manager Nigel Worthington looking for something he has never seen in his time as boss at Carrow Road - a good cup run.
Norwich City go into tonight's Carling Cup tie at Torquay with manager Nigel Worthington looking for something he has never seen in his time as boss at Carrow Road - a good cup run.
The Gulls are latest in a line of opponents who could leave the Canaries with egg on their faces with an early cup knockout.
Since the Northern Irishman took over in the City hot seat at the back end of 2000, City have been knocked out of the country's secondary cup competition by the likes of Brentford, Cheltenham and Northampton in recent seasons.
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This time around Worthington wants a good cup run to back up the decent start to the league season by his side and avoid another dose of embarrassment.
Torquay, managed by Ian Atkins, have a similar league record to the Canaries, with two wins, a draw and defeat from their opening four games.
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And like City, they came away from their away league game on Saturday, a 1-1 draw with Hartlepool, bemoaning the fact they should have picked up all three points after a good performance.
At Plainmoor, they are a difficult side to beat, although they threw away a lead to concede two last minute goals to Lincoln City, in their last league game.
But Worthington has already set his aim high, citing cup finals and European places as up for grabs at the end of a successful cup run.
However, he also warned that cup success would not come at the cost of performances and results in the league, where promotion back to the Premiership is, of course, the ultimate aim.
Tonight's team could see several changes from the one that took the field at derby on Saturday but Worthington is determined there is no let up in the performance levels.
“Regardless of what players play, I want the performance levels as they've been in the last four games to continue, because I think that's the right way to play and if there are any changes to the team, it's a chance for those players to go and carry on the work of the players who've been in the team and show that we're doing it all the way through the squad,” he said.
“Being in the top six, the top two at the end of the season is priority, make no mistake about that and to have a cup run is nice.
“We'd like to try and have that because I've not really had one since I've been here and I'd like to add that to what I've achieved whilst I've been here.
“But make no mistake, the top six come the end of the season and automatic promotion is number one goal at this moment in time.”
He did admit that a good come run would help confidence in his side, but pointed to Neil Warnock's Sheffield United in 2003 as a time when a good cup run could lead to distraction.
That team reached semi-finals in both the FA and League Cups, before losing to Arsenal and Liverpool respectively, but it proved enough of a sideshow for the Blades to see them slip out of promotion contention.
“It can help to a certain extent and then when games start to tally up it can be a distraction,” Worthington said. “I think there is a great advert for that with Neil Warnock and Sheffield United in the last couple of years when they were round about the top six and through being in both cups right up until the semi-finals stage they got distracted.
“Too many games to play in a short space of time caught up with them.
“It's nice having been to finals and semi-finals is wonderful - but everyone at this football club is looking for one thing, and that it to try and be in the Premiership.”
Worthington was keeping any team changes close to his chest, although he did confirm that Joe Lewis would not start in place of Paul Gallacher, while Leon McKenzie is likely to be given the nod up front.
Craig Fleming could come in at right back in place of Jurgen Colin, although there is also a possibility he could make an appearance at centre back for either Gary Doherty or Jason Shackell.
The now fit, Ian Henderson, Andy Hughes and Paul McVeigh are also set to make the long trip to the south west, and any of the three could be in line for a first start of the season.
But whatever the team, Worthington is not expecting an easy ride from Ian Atkins' League Two side, who narrowly escaped relegation to the Conference at the end of last season.
“If you watched Nottingham Forest against Accrington Stanley, there is no easy night,” he said. “In many ways it's some of those players' cup final, playing against the bigger clubs. The players will be well drilled on what to expect, they will be well drilled on what we want and expect from them and if we get that right we will be okay.
“Ian Atkins has been around the circuit. They'll be well organised and well-drilled. It will be a good game for us make no mistake.”