City boss Paul Lambert praised the way his side dug out a vital three points against Swindon yesterday as the Canaries moved up to fifth place in League One.
The Norfolk club deserved their victory but for the second time this week, they showed signs of tiredness in the game’s latter stages and when the score stays at 1-0, there is always some degree of anxiety.
But Chris Martin’s first half winner, which he poked home after Gary Doherty played him in during a scramble in the box, was enough to send them ahead of Bristol Rovers on goal difference and their climb north continues at a decent pace.
At times in the opening 45, the Canaries played some aesthetically pleasing stuff but if you were being ultra critical, a cutting edge was possibly lacking at times.
But a Carrow Road packed house were certainly being entertained and the craft and movement belittled their League One status – especially in the first half.
And Lambert saluted his players afterwards, even if it wasn’t a vintage performance. You’re not going to roll over the opposition every week – and Swindon are no mugs at this level.
“I said after the Bristol Rovers game that I wished I could always be as relaxed as I was that day,” he told the press afterwards.
“It’s never easy, you’ve got to earn the right to win games and we did that today. I thought we were excellent in the first half and we might have got a couple but Swindon are a good side.
“I think we deserved it on the balance of play – but I’m always going to say that aren’t I? I thought we showed a great hunger and desire not to get beat.
“You try and bounce back as quickly as you can after a defeat and all credit to them,” added the Scot, fast forging a reputation in Norfolk.
While the Canary chief wasn’t making any bold predictions, he’ll be well aware that slowly but surely, City are becoming genuine promotion contenders.
And after this win consolidated their place in the top six, all thoughts will now turn to whether Norwich can start closing the seven point gap between them and Charlton.
“I never set myself any targets. When we came in here we were down near the bottom so the rise has been not too bad – if we can keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be in the mix.
“We’ll try and keep winning every game and the lads are certainly doing really well. They’re on top of their game and we’ll do everything we can to be up there.”
Yesterday’s 1-0 success did come at a price however and after losing Stephen Hughes to a thigh injury in training on Friday, Lambert was also forced to make a change at the break, with George Francomb – who was performing admirably on his home debut – having to come off.
The City boss confirmed afterwards that the right-back was also suffering with a thigh complaint and in all fairness, he must be getting sick and tired at the amount of knocks his squad are picking up.
With Jon Otsemobor struggling with a hamstring injury, and Michael Spillane still on the sidelines, Lambert finds himself without a recognised right-back – the sort of headache he could do without.
“We don’t have anybody so I’m hoping Michael Spillane comes back sooner rather than later and he could train this week.
“Korey filled in there and did well but you’re taking away his strong point and putting him in the defence which isn’t his position.
“The one thing about Korey is that he’s got great drive from the midfield so if you take him away from there it’s a bit of a loss.
“If we could bolster [the squad], we would. But we don’t have the finance to do it. You need an abacus to count the number of players on the back of the programme but the squad’s not strong enough.
“Even if we had everyone fit, there are still certain areas of the pitch that need addressing. But we can’t if we haven’t got the money to do it.”
One thing money can’t buy, however, is the backing of your supporters. And the sell out crowd certainly played their part yesterday – something that’s not lost on the Canary chief.
“It’s fantastic. They turn up week in, week out. I know it’s the only team in the city but it’s terrific and that’s why the pressure is there because you have to produce.”