'He can score goals...we can't lose him again' - Lambert on Norwood's fitness struggles
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Ipswich Town will continue to tread carefully with striker James Norwood as he continues to deal with hamstring trouble.
The 30-year-old showed his predatory instincts at Peterborough on Tuesday night, scoring inside six minutes before exiting the game at the break as the Blues manage his return to action during an injury-hit campaign.
Manager Paul Lambert insisted his No.10 is capable of playing 45 or 60 minutes of games, with the striker likely to be on a minutes restriction again at Shrewsbury this weekend.
“That’s the danger with James because he’s had the two massive hamstring injuries, so we hope he will get better with every game,” Lambert said.
“I’d say 45 minutes to an hour is about right for him at the minute so we have to watch him, so 12 games in five weeks is a lot of football for him to play.
“He can score goals, we know he can, but it’s the fitness thing that’s a concern with him at this moment. He’s doing alright at the moment but we can’t lose him for another six or seven weeks, that would be too much.”
Norwood started alongside Troy Parrott in a front two at London Road on Tuesday night, with Lambert impressed with the Tottenham loanee’s start to life in Suffolk.
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“He’s been brilliant for us,” Lambert said. “His link-up play and his touch have been brilliant.
“He’s a top player and I think he’ll go onto really great things. He’s really clever, really intelligent and brings people into the game.
“He was unlucky not to score at Peterborough but he’s doing really well. We have no issues with him.
Has the 19-year-old been better than Lambert expected?
“Absolutely,” he said. “His awareness and his touch are great and he’s a really clever player who could be a really top player if he keeps progressing the way he is.
“He’s just turned 19 and I can see, because I’m a professional person in the game, things that maybe you guys might not see. What I can see would be different to you but he’s a top player.”
Asked about pairing Norwood and Parrott together again this weekend, Lambert kept his cards close to his chest.
“They started brilliantly (at Peterborough) and we looked comfortable,” he said. “The two of them caused trouble up top which they needed to do, but the game was a close call.”
Jon Nolan hasn’t featured in the Blues’ last three games, while Toto Nsiala, James Wilson and Oli Hawkins are all making progress as they bid to return from injury lay-offs.
“Jon’s fine,” Lambert said: “I’ve got 20-odd guys to pick from and they’re ready to play, so I’ll pick a team I think can win on Saturday.
“Toto’s just come back and trained with us yesterday but he’s doing alright. This one is too early for him.
“James Wilson is training with us as well and I think he needs a game somewhere (in a friendly next week), so we’ll see how he is.
“Oli is doing well and coming along nicely.”
Lambert added: “Everyone seemed to come through it well at Peterborough on Tuesday so we’ll see how they are this morning.
“We play Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday for quite a long time now so we’ll see how everyone is.”