Paul Lambert paid tribute to the professionalism of his City side after the crushing 7-0 win over non-league Paulton Rovers ended the village club’s dream.
Despite a nervy opening to the first round FA Cup tie – the biggest day in the north Somerset club’s history – the Canaries went into the break three goals up through Grant Holt (2) and Chris Martin.
And they went goal crazy in the second half, with Martin grabbing another three. Wes Hoolahan had earlier hit the best of the bunch with a left footed curler from just inside the box.
To be fair to Rovers, they played their part in what was a great occasion. With just over 2,000 crammed into Winterfield Road, this really was Paulton’s cup final.
The eighth-tier side started brightly and Declan Rudd was forced into an early save from a looping shot from James Tyrell.
On-loan Bristol Rovers man Neikell Plummer was also giving the City backline plenty to think about but as soon as Holt nodded home for the first – against the run of play in truth – there was only ever going to be one outcome.
“As I said, TV came here today because they thought something could happen. But I thought the lads were great. The attitude was terrific, we kept on going and I’m really pleased with them.”
Lambert admitted afterwards that the village club had certainly played their part in a momentous event.
After trudging their way through six matches so far, they couldn’t have expected to get past the League One high-fliers.
But the Scot was not about to deny Paulton’s moment in the spotlight…
“Paulton have earned the right to play us, they’ve done tremendously well to get this far. So to come here and get an early goal was pleasing.”
To be fair to the Canary chief, he picked his strongest possible XI. The former Champions League winner did not want this kind of defeat on his CV.
Lambert means business and he wasn’t about to fall foul of any kind of FA Cup romance. “I was never going to chop and change as people might have thought – my job depends on it, so I picked the strongest team I thought could win the game.”
As for goalscorers Holt and Martin, the City boss was quick to praise the pair. The Canary double act contributed six of City’s seven and Lambert feels the duo are striking up a real rapport.
With the Norwich captain picking up his fifth booking of the season for encroachment in the second half, he will now miss the midweek trip to Swindon in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
And the former Celtic hero offered a wry smile when asked whether Holt would be congratulated on the timing of his yellow.
The talisman will now be ready to lead the team out next Saturday in another crucial Carrow Road league clash against Swindon, much to Lambert’s delight.
“They’ve been terrific. They’re a partnership at the moment but the team have been doing well and that’s pleasing.
“Grant’s workrate is terrific and he’s been brilliant for me since I’ve been here. And people forget that Chrissy Martin is only 21. But he’s doing great.”
There was another injury scare for the Canary boss, however, after he revealed Adam Drury was suffering with a knee problem.
The long-serving defender woke up yesterday morning complaining of a sore knee and Lambert revealed afterwards that it was something that needs looking at.
The Scot will certainly be keeping a close eye on the situation and with no recognised right-back at the moment, he won’t want to lose the services of his first choice on the opposite side.
All eyes will now turn though to the second round and after the trials and tribulations of Paulton Rovers (a), City will be hoping for a simpler task.
A Bath City or Staines Town (h) tie would be nice but be sure to keep your eyes on the draw this afternoon.
All the action will take place live on ITV1 at around 3.30 and City will be ball number 19.
City: Rudd; Askou, Doherty, Nelson, Drury (Wiggins 56); Smith, Russell, Lappin (Tudur Jones 68); Hoolahan; Holt (c) (McDonald 68), Martin. Subs not used: Theoklitos, Cureton, Adeyemi, McVeigh.
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