Norwich City manager Paul Lambert will not rest until Premier League safety is guaranteed
PUBLISHED: 12:26 06 February 2012
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City boss Paul Lambert will not rest easily until his team is mathematically certain of retaining Premier League status.
A 2-0 victory at home to Bolton Wanderers put the Canaries in ninth place in the table, 12 points clear of the bottom three with 14 games to play.
With only one team relegated from the top flight with more than 40 points in the past 10 years, three more wins should be enough to put City out of harm’s way.
But, asked when he would stop looking over his shoulder, Lambert admitted: “It’s when somebody tells me that’s it, that’s the time I’ll rest. When someone says it’s mathematically certain, then I’ll be OK.
“This result keeps our heads above water, which is a thing that I want to do. If this club stays in this league, it will be terrific.”
He rated Saturday’s victory as good as any in his 2½ years as City manager, because of the way his side overcame the loss of two key players.
Both centre-halves, Daniel Ayala and Zak Whitbread, had to be replaced before half-time because of injury. With neither Elliott Ward nor Leon Barnett on the bench, substitute Russell Martin reverted to his centre-back role and was partnered for the final 50 minutes by full-back Kyle Naughton, while winger Elliott Bennett came on to play right-back.
“That’s as good as I’ve seen in my time, in nearly three seasons I’ve been here – because of the circumstances. The desire that they showed, I thought they were absolutely brilliant, I really did. They were fantastic,” said Lambert.
“Losing the two lads, two big, big players for you, and the side that Bolton are – they’re a big side. We’ve got Kyle Naughton there, who’s knee high to a grasshopper. It just shows you the commitment and desire not to get beaten was fantastic.
“The two lads, Russell and Kyle, and then Bennett, who’s a right-winger, playing right-back, it was colossal, really brilliant.
“I just thought we deserved to win the game. We were dominant right from the off. I thought we might have got another couple of goals. There is no doubt Kevin Davies is an absolute handful, but I thought Kyle and Russell were terrific.”
Ayala and Whitbread have started each game since New Year’s Eve as the central defensive pair, but that partnership looks set to be broken at Swansea next week.
“It’s a blow when you’re losing two of your big lads because Bolton are a big side,” said Lambert. “Daniel’s got a hamstring injury and Zak has a bit of tightness there, so we just have to wait and see. Daniel looks worse than Zak. I hope Zak will be OK.”
Martin had to wait 23 minutes to make his 100th appearance for the Canaries after being left out for the first time in 22 games.
“I think he needed a break because the amount of games he’s played, not just this season but last season when he never missed a game, that’s constant football he’s playing,” said Lambert. “Adam came in and did what Drury does – a terrific pro, the lad – it was a big, big effort for everybody.”
There was, however, one rebuke from Lambert for supporters he claimed were critical after the 3-0 defeat at Sunderland.
“For all the people who started moaning at us on Wednesday night, then maybe that’s the right way to respond,” he said. “But the players need the fans, there’s no doubt. If you’re going to start to moan after one defeat, then you’re better not turning up.”