Erratic City target FA Cup boost against PNE

Kyle Lafferty moves away from Souleymane Doukara.'Norwich City v Leeds United.  SkyBet Championship.  21 October 2014.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Kyle Lafferty moves away from Souleymane Doukara.'Norwich City v Leeds United. SkyBet Championship. 21 October 2014. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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It is with a mixed bag of recent results that Norwich City come to Deepdale for their FA Cup meeting with Preston North End.

Hovering just outside the Championship top six, this weekend’s trip to Lancashire is a brief break from the Canaries’ primary objective of regaining their Premier League place.

Their form has included a bit of everything over the last few weeks.

November was win-less for Norwich, with three defeats and a draw.

That run was halted by a 1-0 win at Wigan on the first weekend of December.

They put five without reply past Huddersfield a week later and then got a creditable 2-2 draw at Derby County.

On Boxing Day, Neil Adams’ men thumped Millwall 6-1 but a 2-1 defeat at Reading 48 hours later brought them back down to earth.

With the quality and depth of the Norwich squad, you would expect them to be in and around the promotion mix in May.

And their Championship status sees them start the cup clash with North End as favourites.

Canaries boss Adams, in his first full season in charge, was understandably disappointed with defeat at Reading on Sunday.

They fell 2-0 behind in the first half before a Bradley Johnson goal reduced the arrears with 19 minutes remaining.

Reflecting on the loss, Adams tried to put his finger on the reasons why – and felt a touch of quality had perhaps been lacking.

Adams said: “It definitely wasn’t complacency.

“ It definitely wasn’t two games in three days and the physical effects of that.

“The performance just wasn’t there. The players always work hard but the quality was missing.

“You can normally tell with this group of players that sooner or later we will get it down and play and we’ll edge our way back in and dominate it.

“We had a lot of the ball but it wasn’t really meaningful possession in the second half.

“But we came up short without a shadow of a doubt.”

Adams now wants a good response from his players as they look to make progress in the FA Cup and push back into the top six.

He said: “The message has to be go again.

“The games come thick and fast now. It will return to a Saturday, Tuesday schedule as it was before.

“We have to make sure we look after ourselves and not worry about anyone else.

“We did it before when Reading won at our place in November.

“ We said we needed to get back on track and the Wigan game was key.

“We went solid at Wigan, followed it up and you could see the confidence in the players because that style from the early part of the season was back.”

Norwich’s squad looks strong enough to sustain a promotion push.

While Robert Snodgrass and Leroy Fer were sold for big money to Hull and Queens Park Rangers respectively, some of that was reinvested in Cameron Jerome, Lewis Grabben, Kyle Lafferty, Carlos Cuellar and Gary O’Neil.

And a number of players signed during their stay in the Premier League still remain.

Jerome was signed from Stoke and is the club’s leading scorer with 11 goals in the league and one in the Capital One Cup.

Grabben, who joined from Bournemouth, and Bradley Johnson have both scored seven goals.

Johnson is one of three players in the Norwich squad previously managed by PNE boss Simon Grayson.

Him and Johnny Howson played under Grayson at Leeds, with Wes Hoolahan in the Blackpool squad when Grayson set off down the managerial path.

Adams could shuffle his pack for the PNE clash following the busy Christmas programme.