Lambert - Russell will not let head drop
PUBLISHED: 11:25 21 November 2011
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City manager Paul Lambert has backed defender Russell Martin to bounce back quickly from the mistake that led to Arsenal's winning goal at Carrow Road.
Martin, who had made three vital last man clearances in the first half – including acrobatically hooking a goalbound Theo Walcott shot off the line before the Canaries took a 1-0 lead – committed a costly error after the break.
He was caught in possession on the halfway line by Aaron Ramsey, triggering the move that gave in-form Robin van Persie his second goal in the Gunners’ 2-1 Premier League success.
Lambert admitted the decisive goal “hurt a little bit” but said Martin had the character to put it behind him.
“His general game was excellent, Russell, but when you’re playing against that type of player at that level, you’ve got to make as few mistakes as you possibly can,” said Lambert.
“He will be disappointed but Russell is a great pro and I’m sure he’ll pick himself up and he’ll go again.”
That one mistake did not stop Martin collecting the sponsors’ man of the match award for an otherwise sound display in which he kept out efforts from Walcott, Van Persie and Gervinho in the opening half, though as Lambert pointed out: “That’s his job – he’s there to defend.”
The City boss said he was pleased that they were “always in the game” in spite of their second home league defeat of the season.
He said: “You’re never going to keep them out for 90 minutes. What I said to the lads was ‘Try to get a foothold in the game’. Try to stay in the game for as long as you can, and we did. Every big team we’ve played against we’ve never been out of it. There might come a day when we find ourselves 4-0 or 5-0 down, but we’ve always had a foothold in the game. We were up against a really top side but the lads never disgraced themselves.
“Arsenal came at us really strongly at the beginning, and then we got the goal and it gave everybody belief in the stadium and the players the belief that they can maybe do something. I’ve got to give the lads a lot of credit, they kept on going, which they always do and we were always in the game right up to the last minute.”
Lambert was unimpressed by Arsenal’s claims that Steve Morison had fouled defender Per Mertesacker in putting City ahead with his fourth goal of the season.
“If that was the case, there were some decisions we never got,” he said. “That’s the game. Whether Steve has pulled him or not, it’s the referee’s call.
“I think Steve is playing at the top of his game at the moment. He is leading the line terrifically well for us and that role’s a tough role to play, the lone striker. I think he’s playing very well.”
Lambert left winger Elliott Bennett on the bench for the first time in nine matches, but brought him on at half-time to try to give the Canaries more attacking impetus.
He said: “I just thought we had to put Arsenal under a bit more pressure than we were doing in the first half. You have to make decisions that you think are right.”
After Arsenal had taken a 2-1 lead, Bennett provided the one genuine chance of an equaliser with a cross that Anthony Pilkington screwed wide.
“That was the one that we probably had to score. At the level of football we’re at, in both boxes you have to be clinical. If not, it will come back and hurt you,” said Lambert, who was nevertheless generous to Arsenal and Van Persie in defeat.
He said: “They’re a top side. They have been in Champions League football for many a year, they were in the final not that long ago.
“They have some world-class players and they’ve probably got one of the best strikers going around at the minute. He’s scoring for fun at the minute but his general touch around the box and his general play is top-level.”
City, meanwhile, have one more injury problem to contend with as they prepare to face Queens Park Rangers at Carrow Road on Saturday. Defender Ritchie de Laet was ruled out of the Arsenal game by a back problem, which meant a rare appearance on the bench for Adam Drury.