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Lambert is pleased with Whitbread's overall contribution

PUBLISHED: 12:55 12 December 2011

Zak Whitbread leaps above Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Zak Whitbread leaps above Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +44814 482222

Manager Paul Lambert praised the performance of defender Zak Whitbread in Norwich City's 4-2 win against Newcastle as he returned to first team action for the first time in 15 weeks.

Whitbread, 27, was recalled at the expense of Leon Barnett for his first senior appearance since the 3-1 defeat at Chelsea in August, when he suffered a hamstring injury.

And although the former Millwall man was at fault for Newcastle’s second goal, when he was caught in possession by Shola Ameobi, Lambert said he was well pleased with his overall contribution.

“It was a big ask. I think we did it with him last season against Queens Park Rangers and he came in and did great. He never looked back,” said Lambert.

“And I thought he came in today and he was excellent. We took him off because we thought he might have been tiring towards the end. The goal, I think, he’ll know that was a mistake but his general game, considering he’s been out for a long, long time, I thought was excellent.

“They were a handful, the Newcastle lads, they’re big and strong. Russell Martin and Zak I thought were very, very good.”

Three of City’s four goals – two from Grant Holt, one from Steve Morison – were headers, and the other, from Wes Hoolahan, came after Andrew Crofts’ header was blocked on the goalline, as City cashed in on Newcastle’s lack of a recognised centre-half by pairing two big strikers.

“Ian and I discussed it during the week, what we thought, and we went with that team and that system and it worked,” said Lambert.

But he insisted there was no special emphasis on the aerial approach in training.

“We don’t practise them. If the ball’s there to be won, the boys have got a great desire to go and put their head on it,” he said.

“It’s not rocket science. But if the ball goes into the box you’ve got Morison who wants to go and head it, Holt wants to go and head it so if you’ve got two lads like that in the box you’re just hoping one of them might get on the end.

“Everybody knows David Fox can deliver a ball and Andrew Surman can deliver, but it’s important if you do have that delivery that the lads can try to get on the end of it and thankfully that’s what happened.”

Holt and Morison now have six Premier League goals each this season – and Holt’s overall tally for City is 59 in all competitions.

“Grant is every bit as important as he was two years ago when I joined. He’s done that for two and a half years. He’s been a handful. I think he and Morison were excellent today,” said Lambert.

The City boss felt they should have been awarded a first-half penalty before either side had scored when Newcastle defender Davide Santon cut out Kyle Naughton’s cross with his right arm.

“I think the only thing he never did was catch it,” he said. “I saw it on the tape and it was a penalty but the linesman for some reason never saw it. But some you get, some you don’t.”

As in the wake of a defeat, Lambert said he did not intend to dwell on celebrating the victory over Newcastle with a trip to Everton to prepare for.

He said: “We move on to the next one. You don’t get time to breathe, let alone anything else. Before you know it, you’re bang at it again. Up at Everton next week is another really tough game, so I’ll let it go and then I’ll concentrate on the next one.”

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