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We are all marked men at City - Russell

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:08 02 July 2010

David Cuffley

Midfielder Darel Russell believes opposing sides who adopt man-to-man marking on Norwich City's top midfielders are merely paying the League One leaders a big compliment.

Midfielder Darel Russell believes opposing sides who adopt man-to-man marking on Norwich City's top midfielders are merely paying the League One leaders a big compliment.

Wes Hoolahan, at the tip of the Canaries' midfield diamond, was closely policed during last week's 2-1 defeat at Millwall by Jimmy Abdou as the Lions sought to keep his influence down to a minimum.

Russell said he too had been targeted by opponents who pushed a forward closer to him at the base of the diamond to restrict his space.

“Teams are approaching us differently now and they're trying to change their formation to match us or man-marking certain players in our team and that can make things a little bit more difficult than normal,” said Russell.

“But we'll try to cope and work around that as best we can. So far we've managed to do it quite successfully

“Me and Wes usually joke about which one is going to get marked because we prefer to have a bit of a free role and it gets you a little bit of an easier time to be able to play and impose yourself on the game.

“It's been frustrating for Wes but you've got to expect that and it's the same when you drop a forward back on me.

“It's one of those things in the game you have to deal. If they consider we are a threat to their team they're going to try to nullify that as best they can.

“I hope Wes is going to find a bit more space in the coming weeks and he will find different ways to combat that.

“I think after the first four or five games, people have tried different ways to nullify the way we play but not many have been successful.”

Hoolahan's room for manoeuvre may be greater with the return of skipper and top scorer Grant Holt to the side. Holt was available again for today's trip to Brighton after a three-match ban.

Said Russell: “We've got big Holty back and he'll add a dimension that we probably lost over the last couple of weeks, in terms of added strength and being able to hold the ball up a little bit more.

“I hope that will bring the likes of Wes more into the game over the next couple of games.

“Holty's goals are the bit everyone is going to see but there's the other side to his game - and that's what's been great about our team this year. We have so many players with different attributes.

“He holds the ball up and keeps it for us and brings the likes of Chrissy Martin or Wes or Simon Lappin, Korey Smith or myself into the game a little bit more when we get it forward.

“That's a dimension we perhaps missed a little bit, whereas when you have Cody (McDonald) or Oli (Johnson) they'll perhaps want to run with the ball a little bit more and you tend to spend your time trying to keep up with them.

“It is different characters and a different mix of players' strengths and abilities that have helped us move forward.”

Nearly 12 years after making his debut for the Canaries and in his second spell with the club, 29-year-old Russell has seldom known the mood so buoyant, on and off the field.

He said: “It's given the city a bit of a lift and it's nice that they're enjoying enjoying watching us this season because last season was a disappointment. We've given them something to cheer about and I hope we can continue what we're doing and cross the finishing line where we want to.

“We've got a great team spirit within the camp. All the boys have great banter. There are a few jokers but everyone gets on really well and I'm sure when we have down times we'll pick each other up and get forward as well.

“There are going to be blips and dropped points along the way but I think people made too much of this run coming to an end.”

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