Young guns are fired up

David Cuffley Academy manager Ricky Martin is confident his Norwich City Under-18 side will be firing on all cylinders in tonight's FA Youth Cup fourth round tie at Carrow Road (7pm).

David Cuffley

Academy manager Ricky Martin is confident his Norwich City Under-18 side will be firing on all cylinders in tonight's FA Youth Cup fourth round tie at Carrow Road (7pm).

The young Canaries have not played for 25 days since they won 2-1 in their FA Premier Academy League fixture away to leaders Arsenal to extend their unbeaten run to six matches.

But as his youngsters prepare to face Stoke City, bidding for a place in the last 16 of the competition, Martin said the Christmas break had left them fresh for this evening's battle.

He said: “They knew they had something to play for after Christmas. That is something we wanted to get from the win over Wigan in the last round and that's certainly something that's been in their minds over the Christmas and New Year period.

“They've had a few days off because the academy league does shut down, but it's certainly given them something to focus on when they've come back. They've got a bit of a buzz about them.

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“We've ensured that we've kept in shape. There was a reserve team game played at Colney just before Christmas that a lot of the players were involved in and there has been some in-house activity that I've put on.

“If anything, it's probably freshened them up a little bit, the few days they had off over Christmas, because you've got people like Dario Dumic, who comes from Denmark, who hasn't seem his family since July, Johnbull Omoregie, from Manchester, and Tyree Clarke, from Birmingham, so those players have had an opportunity to go home.

“They all look really fresh. They've not let themselves slip, they've all had their own individual programmes that they've done at home and maybe a few days off the training ground has helped.”

Skipper Korey Smith, 17, was among the seven substitutes for the first team's FA Cup tie at Charlton on Saturday, and is one of several players with an added incentive to perform well in front of manager Glenn Roeder in the hope of featuring in the squad for next Tuesday's third round replay.

Said Martin: “Korey was on the bench for the senior game on Saturday and now he will be captain and play, hopefully, a starring role in the Youth Cup.

“And if he plays well there he may well be back in the seniors the following week. It's a chance for him to impress in front of the manager and stand out and the manager will hopefully then select him for the 18-man squad and he could

possibly make the pitch as well.”

The same applies to the rest of the side.

“If they stand out and play really well, if a striker goes and bangs in a hat-trick, he might want to put him on the bench because he's on form,” said Martin, who is hoping for an early goal tonight after Josh Dawkin struck the 55th-minute winner against Wigan at Carrow Road in round three in December.

“In the Wigan game I thought we started very brightly but it took a long time to get that first goal, the only goal,” said Martin. “What we need to do this week is get that goal earlier to give us more confidence and then make them chase the game more.”

Norwich City Under-18 (likely team, 4-4-2): Rudd; Francomb, Stephens, Dumic, Brindley; Omoregie, Adeyemi, Smith, Dawkin; Kelly, Davey. Subs: Steer, Reeves, Clarke, Ball, Habergham.

Admission tonight is �4 for adults, and �1 for over-60s and under-16s. There is no free admission to season ticket-holders. The Lower Barclay and Jarrold Stand will be open for spectators. City's under-soil heating should ensure the game goes ahead.