City boss Paul Lambert today held out some hope for luckless striker James Vaughan – in that the 23-year-old may yet feature again before the end of the season.
The one-time Everton starlet has yet to start a game for his new employers since that summer-time switch from Merseyside; his one and only appearance since picking up that knee injury in September coming in the FA Cup defeat by Leicester City.
Since then, however, he has been sidelined with a hamstring injury and, once again, will not be involved in this weekend’s Premier League action as the Canaries travel to London to face Fulham.
With just seven games of the season remaining after that, time is running out for Vaughan to make an impact. But this morning Lambert was suggesting that Canary fans may yet catch another glimpse of Vaughan before Norwich disappear for the summer – their Premier League status now all-but confirmed following last weekend’s 2-1 win over near-doomed Wolves.
“James [Vaughan] is still a wee bit away from actually playing matches, but he’s doing well with the physios,” said Lambert, speaking to the Press ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Craven Cottage.
“And he’s working hard with the physios, so he might get some games before the end.”
The irony is, of course, that Grant Holt’s red card after his two-goal heroics against Wolves ensures that there is a large situation vacant at the head of Lambert’s side.
Chances are, of course, that Steve Morison will simply step up into that slot – potentially to partner Simeon Jackson. But such opportunities would have been tailor-made for Vaughan to prove his worth had injury not intervened.
Last weekend and Lambert went into battle with three players at the back and a midfield stacked with ball players in the likes of Wes Hoolahan, Jonny Howson and David Fox.
Whether that is a horse for a home course and whether Lambert can afford to be quite so light at the back away from home is something for him to ponder overnight.
What isn’t in doubt is the comfort such characters have on the ball and the way that Norwich found themselves pinging the ball about for fun for long periods. As ever, though, there needs to be an end product.
The manager was well aware that City do – on occasion – looks as if they are intent on scoring ‘the perfect goal’. That might need a little tweak.
“You’ve got to take that moment – there’s no point in playing brilliant football and not getting anywhere.
“But I thought some of the movement on Saturday – some of the one-twos around the box – were incredible. And it’s also easy to stand there and think: ‘Go on! Go and hit it!’ because they see a different game to you out there.”
The question was whether Lambert would – should Norwich complete the mathematics safety-wise – then look to experiment with a few fresh faces and systems with one eye on the start of next season. For example, bed England Under-21 centre-half Ryan Bennett into his thinking.
It brought a swift response from Lambert; one eye fixed firmly on the fixture list following this weekend’s trip to Fulham.
“You’ve got Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham – how can you experiment against them?” he asked.
“You can give me 15 players to play against them – let me experiment that way!”
Injury-wise and Daniel Ayala’s run-out for the Reserves this week has, it appears, come too late to book him a place in Lambert’s starting plans. In fairness, neither Zak Whitbread nor Elliott Ward look too out-of-sorts at the heart of that Norwich rearguard.
Marc Tierney is due to resume full-time training again on Monday following his lengthy groin lay-off; all of which should ensure that Kyle Naughton continues where he left off against Wolves in that left-back slot.