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Russell Martin rises to occasion

PUBLISHED: 11:33 19 September 2011

Paul Lambert could not fault Russell Martin on his return to the side. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Paul Lambert could not fault Russell Martin on his return to the side. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

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Defender Russell Martin was praised for his strength of character after playing a key role in Norwich City’s first win of the season.

Martin played the opening Premier League match at Wigan five weeks ago but had to sit on the bench for the next three games against Stoke, Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion as loan signing Kyle Naughton took over at right-back.

Last season’s player of the season runner-up was recalled against Bolton, but in the less familiar role of centre-back alongside Leon Barnett as manager Paul Lambert dropped Ritchie de Laet.

Martin came through a tough examination at the Reebok Stadium with a lot of credit.

“I thought Russell was excellent. I know Russell really well and what he gives you is everything he’s got and I knew he wouldn’t let the team down by playing him there,” said Lambert.

Lambert said Martin, who played under him at Wycombe and was one of his first signings for City back in 2009, had responded well to his omission from the side after playing every single minute of City’s Championship campaign last season,

“He’s been great about it. I spoke to him when I left him out and this shows his character, to come in and play the way he did against two strong centre-forwards. I thought he was excellent,” he said.

Midfielder David Fox, another of Lambert’s former players from his spell at Colchester, was also given his first taste of Premier League action since playing at Wigan.

“I’ve had them both a few years so they know me and I know them pretty well and you expect them to perform for you. That’s how much trust I’ve got in them, not just those two but I trust the lads to go and give me everything they’ve got,” said Lambert.

Belgian international De Laet was left out after starting the previous four league games.

“I spoke to him during the week. I thought his general game had been very, very good, but just certain mistakes have hurt him a little bit,” said Lambert.

“To take him out of the firing line I think was something we had to do, and protect him a little bit. He’s still going to have a major part to play in it, Ritchie, but we have to just watch him.”

Recalls for Martin and Fox were just two of the six changes from the 1-0 home defeat by West Bromwich Albion.

“I think every decision you make is hard,” said Lambert. “We will only try to pick a team that wins the game. I’m going to do my best for the football club and sometimes there are decisions that you have to make, but I explained them to the lads.”

Lambert was less happy about City conceding a penalty for the fifth successive Premier League game – equalling Wimbledon’s record at the start of the 1999-2000 season – as Barnett fouled David Ngog.

“I think it was a penalty. I’ve seen it, but that’s five in five, which I think is some record. We can’t keep continuing with that,” he said.

“I thought we were really comfortable right up until the penalty. The penalty gave Bolton the impetus to throw everything at us but up until then there wasn’t much danger. I thought we were dictating the game until the penalty went in and then it puts you on the back foot for about five or ten minutes. But we saw it through.

Wes Hoolahan, who skippered the Canaries after Grant Holt was left on the bench, left the field three minutes from time.

“I think he just had cramp. I thought he was back to his best the way he performed,” said Lambert.

As for Ivan Klasnic’s red card after a clash with Marc Tierney, Lambert said: “I think he’s head-butted him. The laws of the game are if you raise your arms or stick your head in somebody then the referee has an easy decision to make.”

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