For once Lady Luck might have smiled on Bryan Gunn's Canaries as all eyes now turn towards Saturday's trip to Preston North End.
For after watching the Football Association's disciplinary committee make a spot of history on Tuesday by over-turning Gary Doherty's one match ban – the first time, apparently, that their lordships have ever seen fit to uphold an appeal from the depths of the Football League – so Gunn can watch as his opposite number Alan Irvine wrestles with suspension issues.
For the Lilywhites chief will have to make do without his star play-maker Ross Wallace this weekend after the Preston winger picked up his fifth booking of the season against Reading last weekend.
Simon Whaley and one-time Canary target Darren Carter look the most likely candidates to come in for the absent Wallace as Irvine looks to keep Preston firmly in the play-off pack after that highly-creditable 0-0 draw against the Royals last weekend
“Whenever someone in the team gets suspended it is a chance for someone else,” Irvine told the Evening Post. “With Ross out, we need a replacement on that side.
“We have had Chris Sedgwick, Simon Whaley and Barry Nicholson at times out there. Darren Carter has played there in the past as well and, although it is not his favourite position, he has done a good job for us. Whoever gets the job must see it as an opportunity.”
Back in Norfolk and as Gunn waits to discover just how much his round-the-world World Cup trip has taken out of Australian international David Carney in his brief outing for the Socceroos in Yokohama yesterday, so the new City chief has his own big decisions to make – irrespective of the fact that he can now pen 'G Doherty' onto his team-sheet.
Whether or not to hand the newly-returned Jason Shackell an immediate start is one question; as is Sammy Clingan's availability after last month's Fulham transfer target was forced to pull out of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier with minnows San Marino on Tuesday with a thigh strain.
Should City's highly-rated anchor midfield man be forced to miss out yet again on a Canary Championship game on the back of his Northern Ireland adventures it might start to test even Gunn's patience given that it will be the third occasion this season that Clingan has picked up an injury during the course of an international week.
The other area of real interest is up front where Carl Cort now looks to have penned his name onto the team-sheet with three, successive compelling performances from the re-born 31-year-old.
The issue now is who, actually, offers the best 'blend' next to the in-form six-foot four-inch target man.
Certainly the number of big flick-ons he won during last weekend's D'Urso-hit 2-1 home defeat by Bristol City, suggests that Gunn might be best served by partnering him up with someone who's first instinct is to play-off the final defender's shoulder and nip in and behind off any Cort flick.
A Craig Bellamy, in short.
Whether given Jamie Cureton's current, snatchy run of form, Gunn will look elsewhere for Cort's partner is the interesting point – is Alan Gow's first instinct to drop off and into a Hoolahan-type hole? Is Chris Killen too similar to Cort? Or can he work the channel off a fellow target man type?
The real dark horse, of course, is the Essex scaffolder – Cody McDonald. Quick and with a natural eye for goal, he was backed to be a big success in the Football League this week by the man who nurtured his teenage talents at Witham, their chairman-cum-manager Tony Last.
“He is a talented striker and we always knew he could play at a higher level,” said Last, who first managed McDonald as a 17-year-old.
He also sanctioned his switch to Dartford last autumn; from there, of course, it was a swift elevation up the league ladder to the Canaries as Gunn went the Michael Kightly route in last month's transfer window.
“In fact it was me who encouraged him to leave us and go and play in the Ryman League Premier Division at Dartford,” said Last, countering reports that chairman and star striker had fallen out before his switch to the slightly bigger time with Dartford.
“We never fell out as earlier reported and it was always my hope that he would get a chance to play at Football League level and now he's got the chance and I'm sure he will do well.
“It would be great for this club to see one of their youngsters make it at that level,” he added. “We'll be keeping a watch on his progress.”
Having been given a good, non-league 'send off' by Maidstone's finest in his final Ryman League outing a fortnight ago, McDonald may still be nursing a few bruises as a result. But as Irvine ponders his options for this weekend's clash, so Gunn too could be wondering whether or not the time was ripe to slip a scaffolder onto the bench in Lancashire.
Leave a Reply