Norwich City’s Elliott Ward and James Vaughan to make return in Premier Reserve League fixture against Chelsea
Fit-again Norwich City centre back Elliott Ward is poised to make his long-awaited return from knee injury in tonight's Premier Reserve League fixture against Chelsea's second string at Carrow Road (7pm).
City boss Paul Lambert confirmed Ward was set for his first competitive outing of an injury-hit campaign following Saturday's goalless draw with the Blues. Ward has missed all of Norwich's league campaign to date after being injured on the club's pre-season tour to Germany. The 27-year-old resumed light training over the festive period and is now ready to step up his bid for a first team return.
Ward was an ever-present during the club's Championship promotion last year following his free transfer arrival from Coventry. Lambert, however, was forced to re-deploy Russell Martin in central defence earlier this season alongside Leon Barnett with Ward joined on the sidelines by current first choice centre backs Zak Whitbread and Dani Ayala. Martin has since returned to right back in recent games with Barnett not featuring since the home league defeat to Tottenham last month – but Lambert believes Ward's imminent return increases competition at the heart of the Canaries' backline.
'I think Whitbread coming back in, being a natural left-sider, and Ayala alongside him doing great has helped us,' said Lambert. 'Russell did an excellent job at centre half when I only had one recognised centre backs for three or four months. Leon was doing well and with Wardy now I've got four centre halves there.'
Striker James Vaughan is also pushing for a competitive run out following his long term injury absence. Lambert planned to make a decision on his involvement this evening after monitoring Vaughan's fitness over the past few days. The 23-year-old underwent knee ligament surgery after a late second half cameo ended abruptly in City's win over Sunderland in September.
Left-back Marc Tierney may also feature this evening ahead of City's FA Cup fourth round trip to the Baggies with the defender now fully recovered from the groin injury that ruled him out of Lambert's plans before Christmas. Chelsea are expected to bring a youthful squad featuring many of the talents who recently edged out the Canaries in the FA Youth Cup at Carrow Road. The Blues' entire first team group flew out to Majorca for a warm weather camp immediately after Saturday's game at Carrow Road.