Hughes set for return to action

CHRIS WISE Norwich City skipper Andy Hughes is poised to return to action at Plymouth tomorrow - less than a mouth after sustaining a fractured cheekbone.


Norwich City skipper Andy Hughes is poised to return to action at Plymouth tomorrow - less than a mouth after sustaining a fractured cheekbone.

The tough-tackling midfielder will be trying out a specially made protective mask on the training pitch ahead of the game, and providing there are no problems he will be included in the squad for the long trip to the south west.

Having only just returned to training after sitting out five games Hughes is unlikely to be thrown straight in at the deep end at Home Park, with Dickson Etuhu, Jason Jarrett and Simon Charlton poised to fill the three midfield positions. But he will certainly feature on the bench if he is given the all-clear to play.

With Youssef Safri away at the African Cup of Nations for the remainder of the month, and Carl Robinson also ruled out until February with cracked ribs, an earlier than expected return for the all-action skipper is a big boost for Nigel Worthington. But the City boss made it clear that he wouldn't by allowing the player's heart to rule his head in the lead up to Plymouth match.

“Health and safety is first and foremost - it's always the most important thing,” he said. “We have got to protect the player as much as we can and it's a case of bringing him back when the time is right.

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“But Andy has got a chance of being involved against Plymouth if all goes well over the next couple of days.

“He is now ready to return to full-contact training for the first time since he picked up his injury. He'll probably be wearing a mask - and he could be playing in one as well.

“That doesn't suit everyone - Damien Francis certainly couldn't get on with it last season - but every player is different. So we will have to see how he gets on.”

Hughes, who has been on the sidelines since taking a accidental kick in the head during City's 3-1 victory over Southampton on December 17, is one of three City players who could make a return to action after injury against the Pilgrims.

Jurgen Colin is fit again after missing the FA Cup defeat against West Ham with a groin problem and looks set to replace youngster Rossi Jarvis at right-back while, up front, Dean Ashton has a reasonable chance of shrugging off a similar injury.

Darren Huckerby is certain to step straight back into the starting line-up after being ruled out through suspension last Saturday but his return will be counteracted by the absence of Paul McVeigh, who has also picked up a one-match ban for accumulating five bookings over the course of the season.

Worthington will also be without Matthieu Louis-Jean (hamstring) and Ryan Jarvis (knee) tomorrow, but with Jason Shackell and Jim Brennan both available for duty the City bench is likely to be a little more experienced than it was against the Hammers, when Academy youngsters Michael Spillane and Andrew Cave-Brown were both called into action.

“Rossi Jarvis and Michael Spillane will travel with us - but if everybody else stays fit we should be okay,” said the City boss when asked if youth could again get its chance at the weekend.”