Grant refuses to hide behind Earnshaw absence

CHRIS LAKEY Peter Grant refused to blame the absence of hot shot Robert Earnshaw for another below-par performance from Norwich City.


Peter Grant refused to blame the absence of hot shot Robert Earnshaw for another below-par performance from Norwich City.

Earnshaw injured a knee in training and failed a fitness test two hours before kick-off.

“He had a knock on his knee in training on Friday, which was obviously a blow, but we still thought he had a chance of playing,” said Grant. “He was quite upbeat about it, but he came in prior to the game and did a fitness test and wasn't fit enough to play.

“But that would be making excuses. That's what disappoints me more, because people are going to say, 'they missed Earnshaw, they missed this, they missed that'.

“That wasn't the case. I still had players going out there to perform who were way, way below the standard that I expect.”

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Earnshaw will be assessed today, but the signs are that it won't be a long-term problem.

“It is an difficult one,” said Grant. “He could ruin in straight lines, but as soon as he tried to sidefoot the ball his ligament was sore.

“With somebody who is 70pc I just can't take the chance. I don't want to put them out there because you get judged on performance and if someone is struggling with injury it is unfair on him and unfair on the supporters.”

On the positive side Grant is hoping that Lee Croft will get 45 minutes for the reserves at MK Dons (2pm) after being sidelined with an ankle ligament injury for the past six weeks.

“It will be a massive boost which gives us a better balance to the side,” said Grant.

He is also expecting goalkeeper Paul Gallacher to return to full training tomorrow after an ankle injury - and could do without any problems as he finds himself down to his last two keepers, with Lee Camp back at Derby after his loan spell ended on Saturday.

Gallacher did handling and moving exercises on Friday and will repeat that today.

Grant will try and persuade Camp to return to Carrow Road, even though he cannot guarantee his first team football, with galalcher his number one choice.

“I spoke to Lee and told him the situation,” said Grant. “A goalkeeper is a major priority for me but that becomes Derby and Lee because I can't guarantee him number one. His loan is up and he has done enough to stay in the side - so has Gall.

“Maybe other clubs will come in for him now and give him the chance to be a number one and guarantee him that. He has 21 days for other clubs, it is something I have to look at and Lee will definitely be one of those I will look at.”

City number two Joe Lewis is expected to play in the reserves side this afternoon - he had a slight thigh strain last week although it was not enough to keep him off the bench on Saturday.

t Canaries boss Grant has been linked with a second raid on Stoke - for former Canaries midfielder Darel Russell.

The News of the World claim Russell is being tempted by a move to Carrow Road, although Stoke will be looking for a big return on the £125,000 they paid City for the 26-year-old in the summer of 2003.

Russell has just been named the Championship's player of the month for November.