New Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler has told his players they must relish their Carling Cup trip to Carrow Road tonight.
With City looking to bounce back from their opening day defeat to Watford, and Paul Lambert insisting he’ll pick a team “to win the game”, the smart money is on a Canary victory.
But Gills chief Hessenthaler – in his second spell in charge at the Priestfield – insists the pressure is off. And that could spell trouble for Norwich.
“It’s a game we should enjoy – it’s a fantastic stadium and a lovely pitch. I believe they went there last year and did quite well up to a spell and then Norwich scored.
“We’re capable; the boys should be looking forward to it. It’s a good game for us, with no real pressure. I’d love to go there and put a good show on, try to pass the ball and enjoy it.”
None of the Gills squad’s injured players will recover in time, so the squad will be unchanged from Saturday’s opening day 1-1 draw with Cheltenham on their League Two return.
The one exception could be new signing Stanley Aborah – with the club waiting on international clearance before giving the midfielder his debut – but Cody McDonald will not be making a swift return to Norfolk.
The City striker, who is on a season-long loan at the Priestfield, missed the Gills’ first game with a foot injury and it is also understood that he wouldn’t have played anyway under the terms of his loan agreement.
Fellow new boy Adebayo Akinfenwa is pushing for a start after scoring as a substitute against the Robins, but the former Northampton striker is not thought to be ready to last the full 90 minutes.
Hessenthaler – who replaced Mark Stimson in the summer – enjoyed several famous cup runs during his first spell in Kent. And the former battling midfielder admits he would love a repeat in 2010/11, for both the glory and financial rewards.
“I’m hoping that by coming back, I’m a sort of lucky omen,” he added, some six years after leaving the Gillingham hot-seat. “We’ve had some really good runs when I was at the football club before.
“Maybe that could happen tonight and we can cause an upset. Having a decent cup run can only be good for the financial side of the club as well.”
For the home side, I think it’s safe to assume that chief Lambert will send out a strong side, with all concerned keen to get the first win on the board this season.
With Simeon Jackson unavailable after the two clubs made a “gentleman’s agreement” when finalising his switch from Kent to Norfolk in the summer, Grant Holt is expected to boost his match fitness with a start alongside Chris Martin.
Andrew Crofts is away on Wales duty so Korey Smith is the likeliest candidate to step into his shoes and Zak Whitbread is still missing, so expect Elliott Ward and Michael Nelson to continue in central defence.
“We have got to try and win the game that’s for sure,” said City boss Lambert, speaking the club’s official website before tonight’s cup clash.
“We’re not going to take it lightly or anything like that. I’ll pick a team that will go and win the game. Andy Hessenthaler has been a favourite there and been there before and it’s a tough game there’s no doubt about it.
“But if we play the way we can hopefully we can go through. We were in the same league last year and obviously Gillingham were unfortunate to go down and we went up, but we are at home and we’ll be trying to win.”