Etuhu has to produce goods consistently

CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City 1, Northampton Town 0: It's been a while since there were 20,000 empty seats to choose from at Carrow Road on a match-day, but that's the nature of the beast that is the pre-season friendly.


Norwich City 1, Northampton Town 0

It's been a while since there were 20,000 empty seats to choose from at Carrow Road on a match-day, but that's the nature of the beast that is the pre-season friendly.

For the paying customers, it's a luxury, and, let's be honest, a bit of a waste of money. For the chaps on the footballing side, the final game of the pre-season schedule is the last opportunity to raise the confidence levels; to lay down some markers; to, figuratively speaking, give the manager the nudge that says “pick me”.

It's their chance to earn the right to be at the sharp end when the real stuff starts. Which in this case is just five days away. At Leeds. And suddenly it all looks very serious indeed.

Nigel Worthington will now have to decide which of his players has passed the summer auditions; which of them have shaped themselves into round pegs for his round holes and which are just not fitting into the collective.

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Dickson Etuhu was as smooth as they come on Saturday and, on that performance, would walk into the side. And there's the crux of Worthington's problem - “on that performance”. Etuhu has had many “performances”, and while you sense there is plenty to come from the strapping six-footer, is it going to come match after match? If in doubt. There's Carl Robinson, who was given a role on the right side of midfield and might just be wondering this morning whether Lee Croft's arrival means he'll be on the bench. Robinson should count himself unlucky if that is the case: he has a sharp eye for a neat pass, sticks his boot in and breaks things up well. But assuming Youssef Safri is a definite starter, either Robinson or Etuhu has to go.

So perhaps pre-season friendlies aren't quite as meaningless, because you sense that both players were keen to take advantage of their last chance to impress on Saturday.

Not that their performances made the decision any easier.

To be fair, they had the run of Carrow Road against a Northampton side that battled valiantly but didn't put up much of a fight. Paul Gallacher was, again, under-employed in goal, to such an extent that you wondered whether a couple of dodgy back passes were sent his way just to keep him awake.

Worthington had sent City out with express instructions to pass the ball, which they did, and there was little evidence of the hoofball that riled so many of his critics last season.

Robert Earnshaw again looked sharp, although he might have done better with a coupe of efforts, while Paul McVeigh was in the mood for some off-the-cuff moments. McVeigh, on form, is marvelous, and there were plenty of hints on Saturday that he fancies himself just tucked in alongside Earnshaw.

In the steamy conditions it was understandable that play came in fits and starts, with a nice spell of attacking ending with Etuhu's goal. Robinson played a lovely little ball down to the byline for McVeigh, who looked up, saw Etuhu, and put the ball on his foot. Textbook stuff.

Darren Huckerby went on a mazy run from left to right - right into the area - and saw his shot stopped by the keeper and McVeigh head the rebound against the crossbar.

Earnshaw had a couple of pops from outside the area in the second half, but it was Cobblers sub Bradley Johnson who came closest to scoring with a left-foot screamer that Gallacher tipped over his head.

That was all the visitors offered, in truth, and for the remaining 20 minutes or so they hardly had a kick as City practised their passing.

Now the real business begins - and friendly will be the last thing on anyone's minds.

Norwich: Gallacher, Colin (Fleming 76), Doherty, Shackell, Robinson (Henderson 60), Safri, Etuhu, Huckerby, McVeigh (Jarvis 76), Earnshaw (Thorne 76). Subs not used: Lewis, Eagle, Halliday.

Northampton: Harper, Crowe (Jess 71), Holt, Dyche, Bojic (Mitchell 83), Doig, Taylor (Johnson 63), Burnell, McGleish (Cross 71), Kirk, Aiston. Subs not used: Bunn, Dolman, Gilligan, Bonner.

Referee: P Miller.

Attendance: 5,060.