City boss Paul Lambert will again make full use of his Canary squad this week as Norwich prepare to entertain MK Dons in the Carling Cup tomorrow night.
Indeed, tomorrow night’s starting line-up could see wholesale changes to the team that drew 1-1 against Stoke yesterday – a team that, again, saw six changes to the starting personnel from the side that drew City’s opening Premier League game against Wigan a week earlier.
One change, of course, is enforced in the case of Leon Barnett – the luckless Canary defender will now sit out the cup game courtesy of the one-man ban that followed yesterday’s sending off.
Lambert this morning confirmed that the club will not be appealing against that decision; more trouble than it was likely to be worth, appeared to underpin the Scot’s thinking.
“I don’t think we’d win it,” he admitted, after the Canaries gave their all against Stoke this weekend – only to find Lady Luck not quite playing ball. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, would be the general consensus when it came to Barnett’s coming together with Jon Walters.
“We’ll just take the consequences of it and if it’s a one-match ban then he’ll miss tomorrow night.”
As will a whole raft of others was the gist of Lambert’s thinking; daft to push people too far with two games in less than 72 hours – particularly what lies in wait next for the Premiership new-boys.
Equally, Lambert has a wealth of alternatives up his sleeve – all of whom will be looking to catch the manager’s eye ahead of the trip to Chelsea.
Russell Martin, David Fox, Andrew Surman, Wes Hoolahan, Aaron Wilbraham, Adam Drury, Simeon Jackson, Simon Lappin and Korey Smith could all feature after a quiet weekend; likewise new-boy Daniel Ayala could get another 90 minutes under his belt; young keeper Declan Rudd could sharpen his reactions with a spot of competitive game-time and give John Ruddy a well-deserved breather following his weekend heroics against the Potters.
“There will be changes – no doubt,” he said. “The lads that played yesterday had a hard, hard game and we can’t turn them around that quick. And the squad is big enough that I can change it around and that is what I will continue to do.
“So it is very unlikely that the lads who played yesterday will play. But whatever team I play, will be strong. And everybody will have a part to play this season.”
Lambert certainly wasn’t taking the game lightly; recognising the responsibility the club owes its supporters, if nothing else.
“There’s a big crowd coming again tomorrow night and we’ll do everything we can to try and win it,” he vowed. “And that’s the way that I have always viewed it – if you’re in it, you might as well go and try and win it.”
Whether they will be treated to a full, competitive home debut of new-boy Steve Morison is another matter.
Having taken one of the starring roles in the opening draw at Wigan, the former Millwall hit-man reported a slight groin niggle in training on Friday and may yet find himself saved for bigger occasions. One on Saturday, for example.
“We will see how he is this morning,” said Lambert, speaking at the official Press conference before the players got down to work.
“He hurt his groin on in training on Friday and we left it until Saturday to see how he was – and I took the decision out of his hands. He could have played and broken down after five minutes and I’d have had to have made a substitution that I wouldn’t wanted to have made.
“I just think the league is too big to carry anybody with niggling knocks. We certainly can’t afford to do that – and I thought Chrissy [Martin] came in and did great for us.”
Of the two longer-term injured, James Vaughan is nearer an appearance than Elliott Ward.
“He’s doing great James,” said Lambert, as the one-time Everton wonder kid looks to shrug off summer knee trouble.
“He’s not too far away – he’s doing really fine. The Chelsea game is too early for him, but the international break will also help him.”
Overall, however, and the City boss is still quietly satisfied with the start his side has made. Early days and all that, but so far, so good.
“I’m delighted with the start – I really am,” Lambert said. “I thought we were excellent yesterday and then to go down to ten men changed the course of the game. We were up against a really good side and up until when Leon [Barnett] get sent off, we were well in the game.”