Paul Lambert hails Grant Holt and Norwich City's heart
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Paul Lambert believes Grant Holt outdid his goal at Anfield with the injury-time penalty that earned Norwich City an unlikely point against Blackburn Rovers.
"I don’t mind who takes the penalty as long as it hits the net, but you’ve got to be brave enough to get up there and hit it, and to be fair to him… I thought his goal at Liverpool was brilliant last week, and I think that one for different reasons was probably bigger; it was a huge goal for us"
The Canaries were 3-1 down and seemingly dead and buried at home to the Premier League basement boys with just eight minutes to go – before City launched the kind of trademark late comeback that has featured in their rise from League One.
Seven days earlier Holt’s bullet header bagged a surprise point at Liverpool – this time the substitute was tasked with stepping up from 12 yards after Rovers midfielder Steven Nzonzi was controversially penalised for handball as he tried to appeal for a foul.
The fourth minute of five added on, trailing 3-2 – the skipper belied the circumstances and pressure to drill a faultless spot-kick past Paul Robinson and earn City a draw.
“I’ve been here two and-a-half years or something and it’s been like that from day one – never give up – and it’s amazing what that can do for you,” said Lambert.
“Ability-wise we’ve got a really good side, but we’ve got a great spirit and a great desire to try and win the game.
“It doesn’t matter how many games you play throughout the year or how many years of playing football, as soon as you see the whites of that goalkeeper’s eyes in that moment, that last second, it doesn’t matter who you are the nerves play a huge part.
“And the penalty is right in the side-netting. Any other place and that goalkeeper would save it. It takes huge players to go and step up and score a goal.
“I don’t mind who takes the penalty as long as it hits the net, but you’ve got to be brave enough to get up there and hit it, and to be fair to him… I thought his goal at Liverpool was brilliant last week, and I think that one for different reasons was probably bigger. It was a huge goal for us.
“He has been brilliant for me, Grant. Really good – honestly, I don’t expect anything less because Grant has been brilliant for me for the last two years.
“He’s captain of the club and we have a good relationship – there’s been no problem.”
Opposite number Steve Kean was angered by referee Anthony Taylor’s late decision, but of City’s first penalty award of the season Lambert said: “I’ve not seen a replay – but we’ve had some really bad decisions and sometimes you need a bit of good fortune.
“The way the first five games went with all the decisions, we were owed one. So I’m delighted to get a penalty because we’ve had five against us.”
Despite being the better side and creating a host of chances before the break, it was Rovers who went in ahead thanks to Junior Hoilett’s sizzling strike.
And while Steve Morison’s sublime effort got City back on terms soon after the restart, City failed to reach their usual high standards after that.
“You have to be bang at it every game,” said Lambert. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing a team at the top end, the bottom or the middle, if you step below your standards you’ll get hurt and Blackburn hurt us when we never did the right things.
“In my view we were the best team in the first half and got caught with the classic sucker punch, and that’s what happens when you’re playing against top level players. We bossed the game in the first half.
“We got back into the game with Steve’s wonder goal – that was a fabulous strike. But their second goal was a bad goal for us and not long after we lose a third one, which was really disappointing and you think ‘yep, they rode the storm’.
“The crowd got right on it and they never turned, which we need here, and once they generate that the lads bounce right off it.
“Obviously people who have been coming here for the last few years, they tend never to leave because something can happen.”
Rovers looked are better side than their lowly position before kick-off suggested – something that did not surprise Lambert.
“I’ve never known a game that’s a gimme, even in League One,” said the City boss.
“We’re just new to it. Blackburn are established and a really good side. They are having a little bit of a bad run at the minute, but they are no mugs, that’s for sure.
“He’s having a little bit of a run where people want him out, which I think is wrong.
“It doesn’t help the team or Steve and the players. I just hope he gets a chance to keep going.
“Listen, if that’s a bunch of players not giving their manager their all then I beg to differ.
“I don’t buy into that they’re not a good side. Don’t think any otherwise – it’s early doors, 10 games gone and miles to go.”