Lambert: No buckling, no wilting - this is what we live for
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You could tell from his body language that Paul Lambert relishes a big match - and tonight's trip south of the Waveney is as big as they come in this part of the world.
The glint in the Norwich City manager’s eye said it all, and that is how you keep the pressure off a side heading to their arch rivals with a win the only possible way to boost their hopes of an automatic promotion berth into the Premier League.
“I think the team is playing really well,” said Lambert. “We are playing without fear and the confidence is really high. Sometimes teams can get edgy, but my team at the minute seems to be thriving on the position they are in.
“Whether they are going to do it you have to wait and see, but with the way they are playing, there is great confidence around them. It is just a matter of ticking them over and hopefully they go and win more games than not.
“Everybody in the city will handle it differently from everybody else – but it’s just about how I handle it and how the players handle it.
“On a personal note I have been involved in massive games before and this is every bit as big as every game I have been involved in, but my demeanour is just the same.
“Whoever sits in the manager’s chair at Norwich should always have it. You have got to have pressure anyway – if you don’t, you don’t perform.
“That is just my view on it, people might view it differently. The lads know the pressure is there but the beauty about them is they are seeing it through. They are not buckling and they are not wilting in any way.”
Aside from any hint of pressure, Lambert was once again keeping his cards close to his chest over the fitness of skipper Grant Holt ahead of Norwich City’s highly anticipated East Anglian derby clash at Portman Road tonight.
City’s leading scorer played through the pain barrier with a slight hamstring tear in the 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest, an injury he suffered in the previous 2-2 draw at Watford.
And while most expect Holt will be fit to face Town, who he scored a hat-trick against in November’s 4-1 win, Lambert was intent on keeping City’s arch rivals guessing.
“Don’t know, wait and see – well I’m not going to tell you, am I?” said the City boss when asked about his 22-goal striker.
The game could also be the last of Sam Vokes’ loan spell from Wolves, after manager Mick McCarthy suggested he may recall the forward to help out his Premier League strugglers – something he can only do after Thursday.
However, Lambert is yet to take a phone call from his opposite number at Molineux.
“I haven’t heard anything from Mick,” said Lambert. “Sam is Wolves’ player and if Mick phones me there is nothing I can do. You’ve got to respect what they want to happen and Mick’s been good enough to let him come in the first place.
“I don’t have a problem if Mick calls me whenever, that’s what happens when you loan players. We needed somebody and Sam fell in our lap.”
The good news is Chris Martin played in a behind closed doors friendly during the week and could be considered for a return to the bench after two months out with a hamstring injury.
“He’s only played 70 minutes the other day in over two months, so it’s a big, big ask that (for him to return), but he’s doing OK,” said Lambert. “I think he’s fully recovered from it, it’s just a lack of matches that’s a bit of a concern.”
Lambert reiterated there is no chance either Leon Barnett and Aaron Wilbraham will be seen again this season, as they continue to recover from long-term injuries.
However, Oli Johnson has returned from a loan spell at Yeovil, where he scored three goals in 17 appearances – although it would be a surprise if he was involved at Ipswich – while Tom Adeyemi is back at Colney receiving treatment for a thigh injury, but is set to continue his loan at Bradford before the end of the season.
“You know he can play the game, Oli, and he did really fine at Yeovil – that was the main objective, to get him games,” added Lambert.