Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor, Camara, Shackell, Doherty; Gibbs, Pattison, Fotheringham, Huckerby; Evans, Cureton. Subs: Dublin, Chadwick, Velasco, Pearce, Russell.
Evidence that City boss Glenn Roeder is not one to shy away from the big decisions arrived in no uncertain fashion at Carrow Road this afternoon as he made four changes in the wake of the non-events at Portman Road last weekend.
One was enforced as the on-loan Ryan Bertrand duly succumbed to post-traumatic Danny Haynes disorder – or rather the tweaked hamstring that Roeder revealed in the pre-match Press conference at Colney yesterday.
The other three, however, were entirely of Roeder's own making as Dion Dublin, Alex Pearce and, most surprisingly of all, Darel Russell all found themselves left on the bench for today's visit of title-hunting West Bromwich Albion.
And while Jason Shackell's return for Pearce and Mark Fotheringham's arrival in – kind of – Dublin's stead made certain sense, it was the sudden re-appearance of on-loan Arsenal youngster Kieran Gibbs that raised more eye-brows than most.
For until a ball was kicked in anger, which way Roeder intended to play his midfield four was for him to know and for everyone else – Baggies boss Tony Mowbray included – to guess.
Skipper Fotheringham was the one certainty in the middle. Otherwise, 18-year-old Gibbs could play right, left or middle; Matty Pattison left or middle; Darren Huckerby left or right.
Given the Baggies' deserved reputation for playing more football than most in this division, perhaps Roeder felt that a footballing contest of this ilk was far more tailor-made for Gibbs' clear abilities than the straight, physical scrap offered by the Stokes of this world.
Or perhaps, as he picked up the phone to see what else his big pal Arsene Wenger had up his sleeve for next season loan-wise, perhaps he felt the England Under-19 youngster was over-due an outing – better this week than next weekend's home game against Queen's Park Rangers when the pressure really would be on for the Canaries to deliver the one result they need to secure their Championship status for another year.
On the bench and Spaniard Juan Velasco made his return from his recent groin niggles, while for Luke Chadwick today's outing on the bench was his first sight of competitive action since the away trip to Blackpool at the end of November.
The damage was, of course, actually done in the 5-1 home defeat by Ipswich Town in the reserve game a fortnight later. Either way, his re-pinned and re-built shoulder joint was now finally ready for its first proper test.
As for the visitors – backed by 2,300 travelling supporters in their quest for an automatic ticket to the Premiership – Mowbray opted to rest Ishmael Miller on the bench as Roman Bednar partnered one-time Baldock Town right-back, Kevin Phillips.
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