Keegan puts faith in Flood to turn tide

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The Independent Online

Kevin Keegan admits his young players may have to drag Manchester City out of their current dip in form because some of his senior squad members are being gripped by panic.

Kevin Keegan admits his young players may have to drag Manchester City out of their current dip in form because some of his senior squad members are being gripped by panic.

While Danny Mills, Antoine Sibierski and Steve McManaman have seen their form dip over the last fortnight, City's first-team rookies have risen to the challenge. The teenagers Nedum Onuoha and Jonathan D'Laryea were among the few Keegan exempted from criticism following the Blues' disappointing League Cup exit to Arsenal last week.

At the City of Manchester Stadium on Monday, the 19-year-old Dubliner Willo Flood, a product of the Cherry Orchard junior club in Ireland, was man of the match after a well-taken goal on his first Premiership start. In contrast to some of the older players, Flood played with the freedom of youth and darted up and down the right flank with unbridled enthusiasm, causing the Norwich defence no end of problems.

"For someone of his size, he has the vital ingredient of having a big heart," Keegan said. "He is tenacious and never shirks a challenge."

Flood's outstanding performance down the right flank seems certain to earn the Irish Under-21 international a place in the City starting line-up for Sunday's Manchester derby at Old Trafford, where fellow youngster Stephen Jordan will be handed the left-back role in the absence of Ben Thatcher.

"I wouldn't say the senior players are letting me down but I do think they are feeling the pressure more than the younger ones," Keegan said. "With half an hour left, some of the experienced players were rushing round to take free-kicks and throw-ins as though there were only two minutes left. There was a bit of panic.

"The effort was there but not the guile or cleverness you need to open up Premiership defences."

Claudio Reyna, Joey Barton and Sun Jihai are all definitely out of the Manchester derby, with Trevor Sinclair and Jon Macken struggling to be fit after missing Monday night's game. Thatcher will join the sick list for an extended spell as the Welshman contemplates surgery on his ankle problem.

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