Norwich United bid to handle striker crisis
Norwich United chief Paul Chick will again put his faith in youth against Haverhill today in the Ridgeons Premier Division to soften the injury blow of a striker crisis.
The Planters' frontline has been shorn of experienced trio David Cory (back injury), Ross King (ribs) and Andrew Claydon (back) in recent weeks, but fifth-placed United got back to winning ways at Clacton last weekend.
'While you try to cover every eventuality it's difficult to try and compensate for losing 60 goals from your front three,' said Chick. 'David Cory hasn't kicked a ball all season. He is awaiting back surgery. Ross King has been out with cracked ribs for three or four weeks.
'Andrew Claydon has been out for four or five weeks with a back injury. That is quite a large dent in your striking force.
'To go to Clacton, who have picked up at home, and come away with not just three points but a clean sheet shows the youngsters coming through are progressing well.
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'It was all the more satisfying given we had a 17-year-old called Adam Bennett in midfield. George Wilson is 19 and Ian Hunter is someone we signed from junior football in Yarmouth.'
Chick is putting no pressure on his evolving squad to better last season's top six finish ahead of this afternoon's latest test against a side who inflicted a heavy FA Vase exit earlier in the campaign.
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'We want to finish as high as we can but to be honest at this time of the year the league table doesn't really matter,' he said. 'I want three points from the next game and maybe with four or five games left we'll look at the situation and see what we can achieve.
'What we have to do is consistently improve the squad by bringing in young hungry players allied to maintaining the enthusiasm of the older ones. Last year we finished strongly, lost something like three games in 17 but when you lose players it makes it hard to push on.
'Haverhill is a good side to be truthful. They have won the last two games on the trot. They gave us a bit of a seeing to when we went there in the FA Vase.
'We weren't at the races and they were better than us. They are a no nonsense Ridgeons League side and our youngsters will have to be counted. But we are quietly confident, we are ticking along nicely in the top four.'
Chick insists injuries are not the only thing that impact on a squad by highlighting a trend that has been accelerated over recent seasons.
'What is happening now, is the Ridgeons is suffering a little from the invasion of Ryman League sides, very much like the Anglian Combination suffered with the Ridgeons ten years ago,' he said. 'Within the area of Norwich United there must be six Ryman clubs within an hour and a half. Those who have pushed through in recent years look to get the best players from our league to help make that step up.
'Good luck to the likes of Bury, Lowestoft, Needham, Leiston and those sides. We all aspire to that and you can't blame players for aspiring to want to play at the highest level they can.'
Chick has managed to bolster his squad with the return of experienced defender Adie Ager.
'He was outstanding last weekend and rightly the man of the match,' said Chick. 'He is fully committed, very passionate about his game and we are pleased to have him back. He is a typical Ridgeons League defender who will always give 100%. Very solid, very strong. He'll put his head where I wouldn't put my foot.'
Leaders Wroxham face an intriguing Norfolk derby at Gorleston. David Batch's side moved a point clear of the chasing pack with a 7-0 demolition of Yarmouth in midweek.
The Bloaters aim to bounce back against Walsham at the Wellesley. Kirkley host Hadleigh with Dereham at Stanway looking to keep the pressure on the Yachtsmen. Diss bid to end a run of five league games without a win at Wivenhoe and Wisbech travel to Woodbridge.
First Division title challengers Thetford head to Ipswich Wanderers. Downham travel to Debenham, Swaffham visit Halstead and Fakenham complete the quartet of Norfolk clubs on the road at league leaders Whitton United.