Defensive headache for Norwich City boss Paul Lambert
Defensive injuries are piling up for Norwich City ahead of an attractive Carrow Road double-header.
Manager Paul Lambert may be without four or five of his senior defenders when Leicester City visit for Saturday's FA Cup fifth round tie, but he hopes the situation will have eased by the time reigning champions Manchester United arrive for a Premier League fixture on Sunday, February 26.
With centre-back Daniel Ayala (hamstring) and left-back Marc Tierney (groin) already sidelined, Lambert revealed centre-back Zak Whitbread was not even close to making the trip to Swansea because of his hamstring problem.
And the 3-2 victory at the Liberty Stadium, which took the Canaries to the heady heights of eighth place in the Premier League, took its toll on two more full-backs. Adam Drury was substituted after less than an hour with a groin injury, while Kyle Naughton hobbled badly through the last 10 minutes after a bang on the knee.
The on-loan Naughton is not, in any case, available for FA Cup duty, so it will mean a head count later in the week for Lambert as the Canaries bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 20 years – though the United game is clearly uppermost in the manager's mind.
'Kyle Naughton was on his last legs but it speaks volumes that they carry on through it. He just got a bang at the side of his knee so we need to see how he is feeling,' said Lambert.
'With Adam it was his groin. Elliott Bennett also got a knock in a block tackle but the good thing is now we have a bit of respite before we play Manchester United.'
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Asked how he would approach the Leicester tie, Lambert said: 'I'll just see how the week goes. We only have that small team Manchester United the following week, so Manchester United is probably the priority.'
One bonus for Lambert was the performance of centre-back Elliott Ward on his senior recall after suffering a knee injury on the pre-season tour of Germany.
'Wardy, for his first game back since July, was fantastic.
'It was a massive, massive performance,' said Lambert. 'He was terrific, he really was. It has been a long road for him to get back.'
In addition, Leon Barnett made only his third senior appearance in 13 games as a second-half substitute for Drury.
With City just four points behind Liverpool, Lambert laughed off questions about a place in Europe, but said: 'I thought we deserved to win. I thought from the off we were excellent, the passing was brilliant.
'Swansea scored against the run of play. Surman should've made it 1-1 before half-time but in the second half I thought we were terrific. I told them at half-time not to worry because we were well in the game, even at 1-0 down. The way we played the game was excellent so I wasn't too down-hearted at all. We changed it round a little bit because Swansea got a grip of it after they scored. We just thought we're down a goal so we'll try and get one ourselves.'
In the end, City could have had a hatful but two goals from skipper Grant Holt and one from Anthony Pilkington sufficed.
'I think Wes (Hoolahan) maybe should have scored and made it 4-1 and that would have been the game dead and buried.
'But we were hanging on towards the end when they got the penalty.'