Vermaelen ready for vital period

BY foxsports • January 14, 2013

Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson says Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is forgiven after the winger returned to the squad at the weekend.

Mendez-Laing was a surprise inclusion on the bench against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday, coming on as a 87th-minute substitute during the 2-1 defeat.

The 20-year-old, a summer signing from Wolves, was shipped out of the club by Ferguson in November along with striker Tyrone Barnett for his involvement in a city centre disturbance which saw both players cautioned by police.

He was sent out on loan to League One strugglers Portsmouth but returned to London Road last week.

Ferguson told the Evening Telegraph: "I don't bear grudges. Mendez-Laing is back at the club and it's now up to me and the coaching staff to get the best out of him as a player.

"He clearly has ability, but he must also now knuckle down and do all he can to help this team."

Mendez-Laing told Peterborough fans via Twitter on Saturday night: "It felt good to put on a Posh shirt again."

Crewe will assess Max Clayton ahead of the midweek tie.

England Under-19 forward Clayton sustained a toe injury during Saturday's 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient but is expected to be passed fit to feature in the Northern Area semi-final.

Elsewhere, Alex boss Steve Davis has no other selection concerns after son Harry overcame illness to be named as a defensive option among the substitutes at Brisbane Road.

The Railwaymen overcame Doncaster on penalties in the previous round and are now three games away from a return to Wembley, where they triumphed in the League Two play-off final last May.

Crewe were 1-0 winners when the two sides met at Gresty Road last March, with Davis junior scoring the decisive penalty.

Bradford defender James Meredith will miss out after he was diagnosed with glandular fever.

Australian Meredith is expected to be out for several weeks, so new loan signing from Southampton Ryan Dickson should continue at left-back after making his debut on Saturday.

Manager Phil Parkinson is expected to make several changes for the area quarter-final tie with right-back Stephen Darby (foot), winger Will Atkinson and defender Rory McArdle (both knocks) likely to be rested.

Blair Turgott, on loan from West Ham, and fellow winger Kyel Reid could return to the starting line-up, striker andy Gray may continue after his second debut for the club on Saturday and goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin is hoping for a recall in place of Matt Duke.

Forward James Hanson (toe) and winger Garry Thompson (knee) will not be included in the squad, but are hoping to be back in time for the league game at leaders Port Vale next weekend.

City recorded a 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium following an early red card for Vermaelen's defensive partner Laurent Koscielny.

Belgium international Vermaelen, whose compatriot Vincent Kompany saw red for City late in the game, reckons Arsenal's current run of games will be a vital period for the club.

With an FA Cup third-round replay against Swansea on Wednesday evening, and a Champions League knockout tie against Bayern Munich on the horizon, Vermaelen wants to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.

"There are a lot of big, big fixtures coming up against good teams - big games," he told Arsenal Player.

"This [the defeat to City] was the first one, we wanted to have a good start and that is why it is more disappointing we could not get a good result."

"But against Swansea, I am confident the group will respond on this defeat, and I'm confident we can get a result on Wednesday."

Arsenal's fans have been criticised in some quarters for turning on both the players and manager Arsene Wenger at certain stages of the season.

But Vermaelen reserved special praise for the supporters who stuck by the team during the defeat to City, despite the visitors easing to victory.

"That [the fan's backing] is really important and I'm pleased with that," he said. "That can give us a massive boost that they're behind us, and they did that through the whole game."

"It was difficult for us because we had 10 men, and for them as well, but they supported us through the whole game."

The defeat leaves Wenger's side six points off fierce rivals Tottenham in fourth place with a difficult trip to Chelsea following the cup replay with Swansea.

A win against the European champions will put the Gunners right back into the fight for third spot, with their rearranged Boxing Day clash with West Ham taking place the following Wednesday.


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