Tetchy Rubin Kazan duel was right up Norwich City boss Alex Neil’s street
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It is no reflection on the Championship but Norwich City can expect plenty of easier days than this high noon duel against Rubin Kazan which was anything but friendly.
Michael Turner earned the notable distinction of being sent-off in a supposed warm-up match while there was a rich seam of competitiveness and running skirmishes stamped through a tetchy 90 minutes in southern Austria.
City admirably refused to take a backward step against the big-spending Russians, with Cameron Jerome and Steven Naismith earning a win which may carry longer reaching benefits than simply a positive result.
“There was a bit of needle in it and our boys rose to the challenge,” said Neil. “In terms of the aggression and how both teams applied themselves you could see it wasn’t really a friendly. You want to try and make these games as realistic as possible. I thought our boys were great, they showed up really well and the competitiveness of the game was excellent. But within that there was some real quality. The second goal we scored with Steven was fantastic. Cameron’s goal was what he does best. He managed to run behind and steal in ahead of the keeper and Steven’s was a lot of link up around the box.”
Neil and his players now have just two friendlies left to fine tune their plans for the Championship opener at Blackburn and the Scot revealed some of his lesser lights have made a compelling case for inclusion.
“We still have another week, we have Coventry City (on Tuesday) and then Hannover on the Saturday. They will be good games for us,” he said. “What we are doing now is trying to get that starting XI in place ready for the first league game. We have to start getting combinations right across the pitch but what I would say is a lot of lads have given me dilemmas, in terms of their performances and how well they have applied themselves in pre-season. It is a good problem to have.”
Neil reported no fresh injuries from a feisty affair with Russell Martin the only major casualty from a trip which saw Jonny Howson make his first appearance since damaging knee ligaments at the end of last season.
“That was perfect for John,” said Neil, after the current player-of-the-year eased himself back into the fold with an hour against the Russians. “We needed to get him up and running. He was a crucial player for us last season. He is going to be a crucial player this season.
“Steven Naismith had to come off at the end but that was just because he winded himself when he had a heavy landing. In general terms we are okay on the injury front from this trip. Russell obviously got himself back home nd had an injection and we are hopeful that will settle things in the next day or two. We have a few other niggles here and there that you get from the work we have done, but nothing major.”
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