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Norwich City paving the way to Premier League safety

Leon Barnett holds his head after conceding a penalty and being sent off against Stoke in August.

Leon Barnett holds his head after conceding a penalty and being sent off against Stoke in August.

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Paul Lambert insists Norwich City’s ability to learn on the job has been key to their Premier League survival chances.

City go into a testing Easter programme against Everton and Tottenham armed with the security of an 11-point gap to the bottom four.

The Canaries’ current rate of progress is even more impressive given the club’s early-season bid to bridge the gap from the Football League was hindered by an alarming penalty concession rate.

Lambert side’s were conceding a spot kick per game over the first month, but have since given up just two further penalties in the remaining 26 matches.

“You know you can’t make mistakes at that end of the football pitch. If you make mistakes, they tend to get punished because players are much more sharper in the brain and on their feet,” said Lambert. “The run we had in the first five games was killing us at certain times. The higher level you go up, the better players you play against and hopefully you step up with that.

“I’ve got nothing but praise for the team, the way they went about it and the position they find themselves in. It has been an incredible achievement, what’s happened, because we were joint favourites to go down.”

Lambert’s buying policy has also stood the test of time in the Premier League with latest January window recruits Jonny Howson and Ryan Bennett both stepping up into the big time in recent games.

“Some of them haven’t even played Championship football, let alone Premier League football, so they’ve taken it by storm, which is great, and collectively as a unit they’ve been excellent,” he said. “Everybody has an opinion, but a manger’s opinion must depend on what he thinks he can do. I’ve said before, finance dictates an awful lot.

“We looked at lads in Championship football and League One that we thought could enhance our group. My job was to get it working collectively and get them gelled together and get them believing that they could go and win games, and that’s what’s happened.”

Bennett made his debut in a defensive three at Fulham which City also employed to good effect against Wolves, but Lambert dismisses any suggestion he will try to forward plan for next season once safety is guaranteed.

“No, you couldn’t experiment because you have Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham before the end of the season,” he said. “How could you experiment there? Give me 15 players to play them with and you might experiment. It just gives you another attacking threat. It won’t always be that way.

“It’s just whatever team we think, or whatever system we think can go and win a game, we’ll play it. We have never gone anywhere and gone for a point or anything like that. It might not always happen, but we always set our stall out that we try to win.”

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