Paul Lambert acknowledges 'terrific' Norwich City result against Chelsea
PUBLISHED: 12:38 23 January 2012
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City boss Paul Lambert is never one to settle for a point - but he admitted it was "incredible" to see his team competing on an equal footing with Chelsea.
The roar that greeted the final whistle after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Carrow Road was equal to that which has followed many victories over the past 2½ years.
Lambert would still rather have beaten the three-times Premier League champions, saying: “You don’t want to draw. You want to try to win the game.”
But he added: “I can understand people saying it’s a terrific result, which it is because the football club two years ago, we were playing Yeovil and Walsall and Stockport.
“No disrespect to those teams, but now you’re competing with Chelsea, who are used to playing Champions League football. They’ve been in the final of the Champions League, FA Cups, whatever you want to call it they’ve been involved in it and we’re actually competing with them, which I think is incredible.
“I thought in the first half we were excellent. In the second half Chelsea had a lot of the ball, which they’re entitled to do because I think they’re a fabulous side with some fabulous footballers in their team. So you make no apology for defending strongly, the way we did in the second half.
“But in the first half we certainly gave as good as we got.”
For City, it was their first clean sheet since winning promotion at Portsmouth in May and the result maintained their record of never being doubled since Lambert became manager.
But he insisted not recording a shut-out in the previous 21 Premier League games had never been an issue.
“It will give the lads confidence but I’ve never felt that the confidence was draining from them because they hadn’t kept a clean sheet, because they were winning games,” he said. “That makes you have confidence. As long as they were winning, I was always at ease.”
Goalkeeper John Ruddy and central defenders Daniel Ayala and Zak Whitbread played key roles in keeping Chelsea out.
“I thought Ruddy was excellent,” said Lambert. “To be fair to John Ruddy, I think he’s been absolutely brilliant this season. I know he’s getting talked about for England and quite rightly so. I’m not telling anybody how to do their job but I think he’s worth having a look at,” he said.
“But it wasn’t just John. I think the whole group – midfield, strikers and the back four lads, they put their bodies on the line when they had to, and it was a huge point for us.
“Zak was brilliant. He’s got nothing to prove to me, Zak. I think he’s been fantastic for me since he came to the football club.
“I think Ayala has come in and done terrifically well for someone who’s only 21 years of age. I think he’s been a huge signing for us.”
Leaving out Wes Hoolahan, skipper at West Bromwich a week earlier, was not an easy decision, said Lambert.
“It was a big decision because I think he’s been playing brilliantly for us,” he said. “Hoolahan’s been terrific – no doubt about it, it was a big decision to leave him out. I spoke to him on Friday and told him what I was going to do. He was a bit disappointed but he’s been brilliant about it. He’s been a huge player for this club and will continue to be so.”
Meanwhile, central defender Elliott Ward, sidelined since July by a knee injury, and striker James Vaughan, out since September after a knee operation, could both face Chelsea in tomorrow’s FA Premier Reserve League game at Carrow Road (7pm).
“Ward we’re hoping will play a bit of the game,” said Lambert. “And James might do. I’ll see how he feels.”