De Laet will learn from mistake, says Norwich City boss
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Norwich City boss Paul Lambert believes Ritchie De Laet redeemed himself with an excellent display in the second half after his mistake led to Wigan's opener at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
De Laet was caught in possession midway through the first half by Franco Di Santo and in trying to make up for his mistake, hauled down the Argentinian striker inside the penalty area and Ben Watson despatched the spot-kick.
However, De Laet produced a majestic display in the second period to keep Wigan at bay as the Latics staged an onslaught in the last 10 minutes.
Last-ditch blocks denied both Victor Moses and Hugo Rodallega when their efforts were set for the back of the net and Lambert was pleased with how the Belgian defender responded to his first half gaff.
“Ritchie has made the mistake but he has also redeemed himself towards the end with the two blocks,” said the City boss, who said he couldn’t see the penalty incident clearly from his viewpoint.
“He is only a young player and that’s what happens when you’re young. Sometimes you make mistakes in vital areas of the pitch especially against top players.
“Hopefully, he’ll learn from it but you have to give him enormous credit for his blocks at the end.”
Lambert also paid tribute to the all-action display of Steve Morison, whose tireless running of the channels helped lead to City’s equaliser when the striker’s cross was fumbled by Ali Al Habsi and Wes Hoolahan was on hand to ram home the equaliser.
The fact that Morison had to leave the field for stitches after just five minutes merely added to his commitment to the cause.
“I thought he was brilliant – he was a handful for the whole game,” he added. “He was excellent – the cut on his eye was a nasty one. But he was determined to carry on and he was a handful.
“He can run the channels – for his first game I thought he was excellent.”
Hoolahan had the honour of scoring City’s first goal back in the big time and although it was from close range, Lambert praised the Irishman for his composure in lashing the ball home.
“I don’t think the goal was comfortable. When you’re that close then you can easily miss it.
“The hardest thing in the world is to put the ball in the back of the net. His performance was really fine and Wes has been like that for the last three years for me.”
Lambert admitted his side were a little too open for his liking at times, particularly as the second half wore on and Wigan threatened to snatch all three points.
But the Scot believes the good habits of the last two seasons stood his side in good stead as they refused to buckle under the pressure to preserve a point.
“I think the game was just a bit too open for us at certain times,” he said.
“We still drove on to get a winner but when you’re up against better players and better opposition, they can hurt you and I think we just have to be a bit careful not to be too gung-ho.
“Great credit to them though and they showed a great desire not to get beat. I said last year if you can’t win a game then make sure that you don’t lose it. They kept on going for me. The spirit is there.”
The one blot on the landscape was a knee injury sustained by Zak Whitbread, but it was too early to judge yesterday how long the defender will be out.
Daniel Ayala’s arrival should soften that blow after the Spaniard came through a medical with no problems at the weekend and Whitbread’s injury demonstrates exactly why Lambert has moved to bring in another centre half with Elliott Ward also out with a knee problem.
“He (Ayala) is a young player – he is a tall lad that will go and defend.
“It just shows with Elliott Ward out and Zak having a problem then you’re down to three centre halves if Daniel comes.”
City’s travelling supporters will certainly be relieved to hear of Ayala’s arrival with Leon Barnett and Ritchie De Laet the only fit, recognised centre halves.
And Lambert praised the 4,500 hearty souls who made their way to the DW Stadium yesterday to roar on their side.
“The supporters always come like that,” he said. “I’ve seen it in League One and the Championship – they were buoyant again today.
“It’s extraordinary what they do for the club. It’s a hell of a long distance to get anywhere.”
Lambert admitted even he has to pinch himself to realise just how far the club have come since his arrival. Just over two years ago he was part of the Colchester set-up that reduced Norwich to their lowest ebb on the opening day of any season.
“Two years ago we were in League One – that’s the magnitude of it,” he said. “If you had told me that two years on you would be drawing at Wigan in the Premier League I would have had you taken away in the straitjacket.”