Norwich City’s squad can expect no favours from Alex Neil

Norwich City striker Gary Hooper was restricted to late cameo at Birmingham. Picture by Paul Chester

Norwich City striker Gary Hooper was restricted to late cameo at Birmingham. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil warned his Norwich City players he aims to keep them on their toes after a major overhaul to his starting line up for the 0-0 Championship stalemate at Birmingham.

Seb Bassong's internal promotion looked increasingly likely after Neil's initial rapprochement and City's vulnerability at the back in the opening weeks of his reign, but Lewis Grabban's inclusion at the expense of Cameron Jerome and Gary Hooper marked a signal of intent.

City may have endured a rare blank in the search for greater solidity but Neil insisted Grabban had earned his shot in a new-look formation.

'Lewis has trained really well since I came to the club and he looked eager to get his chance,' said Neil. 'I didn't think the system I was playing was suiting Gary Hooper so I chose to put Lewis up top and felt he was another who did relatively well after not playing for a while. It is a difficult trade-off but I think in terms of leading the line as a one I am not sure that suits Gary.

'I think he is more of a 10 in behind but we gave a little bit of that threat away in order to dominate the ball and if we had moved it a bit quicker in the final third we could have got a goal.

'Cameron had not really trained all week with a hamstring problem and even when he was warming up he felt it was a bit tight. It doesn't matter who the player is here. The bottom line is if I don't think they are playing well enough or they are not giving me what I want they won't play.'

Russell Martin and Nathan Redmond went close in either half before the Blues held on for a second consecutive goalless league draw.

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'Russell had a good chance in the second half, Nathan had one from distance in the first half and we had a few others that flashed across goal and different things but the final third was the key,' said the Norwich boss. 'I think it was a case of us dominating the ball, if I am honest, for most of the game and Birmingham sitting in for the majority. As far as we are concerned it is two points dropped rather than one gained.'

• Norwich City loanee, Louis Thompson, is poised to link up with Neil and his parent club over the coming weeks, according to his Swindon boss Mark Cooper.

Thompson sealed a Norwich transfer move in the previous summer transfer window before returning to the League One title hopefuls for the rest of the campaign.

'I'm in constant contact with the technical director at Norwich, talking about his development and Louis will be going up there in the next couple of weeks to meet the new manager and have a couple of days' training with them so he still feels part of it,' said Cooper.