One-time City loan star Ched Evans will be hoping for a birthday bonus this afternoon as Norwich’s festive programme finally resumes with a home clash against struggling Sheffield United.
A frozen pitch at Selhurst Park ensured that the Boxing Day trip to Crystal Palace fell foul of the weather.
Today, however, and courtesy of City’s under-soil heating Paul Lambert’s men can look to make the most of the more clement conditions in Norfolk and push on from their current fifth spot.
Evans will be celebrating his 22nd birthday today and having bagged six goals already this season will certainly be one to watch. He grabbed two in the 3-2 home defeat by Nigel Pearson’s Hull City; a result that didn’t do wonders for spirits in South Yorkshire.
He is also likely to be afforded a warm welcome on his return to Norfolk after proving such a smash hit on his loan spell with the Canaries – a spell that included an absolute screamer of a goal away at Cardiff City.
Evans’ form is one bright spot for a United side that is flirting dangerously with relegation.
Without a permanent manager, the weekend defeat merely piled the pressure on. An injury to full-back Andrew Taylor ensured that stand-in boss John Carver didn’t enjoy the greatest of festive breaks.
“At the moment we think it’s going to be a least a fortnight. But that’s at the very least. It could be much more than that,” Carver told the Sheffield Star newspaper ahead of this afternoon’s trip.
United stalwart and skipper Chris Morgan will also be missing – as is fellow defender Stephen Jordan.
All of which should find youngster Matthew Lowton poised to start against the Canaries – still fresh from their weekend off.
Striker Richard Cresswell can return following suspension; ditto Daniel Bogdanovic.
“Having those two available again gives us more room for manoeuvre up front. That’s something we’ve not had much of recently.”
By contrast, Lambert’s riches positively floweth-over – even if he will now be without defender Leon Barnett for two games following his petulant reaction to the red card he was awarded in the dying minutes of the home defeat by Portsmouth.
Michael Nelson looks all-but certain to continue alongside Elliott Ward in the heart of that Canary defence.
Whether the game still comes too soon for a fit-again Adam Drury is one, big selection poser; he has, after all, been out since the middle of October.
As ever Lambert will have to decide just who partners the in-form Grant Holt up-front, while Andrew Crofts has shrugged off the virus that ruled him out of the trip to the Ricoh and could be in line to return alongside David Fox in the centre of the Canary midfield.
Either way, given Sheffield’s sorry state and City’s recent run of form, Lambert would be sorely disappointed if this afternoon’s game didn’t yield the expected three points and further cemented Norwich’s place among the genuine play-off contenders.