It’s becoming a familiar story and yet again, City boss Paul Lambert only had praise for his players after yesterday’s 2-2 draw at Southampton.
The Canaries twice came from behind at St Mary’s and it could turn out to be a crucial point come May.
Not many teams will leave the south coast with much change this season and the fact that Saints have now only lost once in ten outings proves they won’t be too far away – despite their 10 point deduction.
Adam Lallana’s first half strike meant the Saints went into the break one goal to the good but City fought back through a Wes Hoolahan rebound, after his penalty hit the post, and Stephen Hughes’ close range effort.
It all meant they travelled back to Norfolk with a share of the spoils, even though David Connolly had briefly put the home side back in front.
And Lambert was delighted with the spirit shown in a match that his opposite number Alan Pardew admitted could have graced a higher division. It was certainly a great advert for League One.
“I was disappointed with the goal we gave away in the first half but all credit to them for coming back. It was excellent,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“The lads were brilliant, it was a great game – as good as I think we have seen this season. It was really open and the two teams were going for each other.
“They are a good side Southampton, they are only where they are by default and it could be a massive point. I thought we started the second half really well and Southampton had to change their system to suit us – I am absolutely delighted with the way the lads played the game.
“It takes big players to come back at times when you go down a goal and then another one – full credit to them. I’m just delighted with what the lads have given me since I’ve been here.”
City could have had a second penalty and a winning goal late on when Chris Martin – who earned the Canaries’ first spot-kick – appeared to have been fouled on the edge of the box. But Lambert admitted that it was asking a lot for the referee to give them two bites of the cherry.
“I would like to see it again; sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t. But I think it might have been a big ask to get a second one given.”
The Scot’s tactical nous proved vital again with the inspired introduction of Stephen Hughes for Simon Lappin after 72 minutes. The former Motherwell and Leicester man can consider himself unfortunate not to be in the starting XI – quite simply, he looks a class apart at this level.
And Lambert revealed that the team needed a fresh injection with the game finely poised. “I just thought we needed fresh legs, the lads have been going week-in, week-out and he came on and did great.”
Overall, it was great day out for the 2,205 travelling army – another astonishing turnout from the City faithful. And despite seeing his team pegged back twice, Saints boss Pardew was a reasonably happy man afterwards as well.
“You couldn’t fault the quality of the game, it was a match that would have perhaps graced a higher division. Defensively we were a lot better and in all honesty, it was a game I thought we should have won.
“Although we are disappointed we haven’t won it, it was an absolutely brilliant game. We the like entertainment factor here and we like to keep you all entertained.”
City: Forster; Otsemobor, Doherty, Askou, Drury; Smith, Russell, Lappin (Hughes 72); Hoolahan (McDonald 72); Martin, Holt.
Subs not used: Theoklitos, McVeigh, Adeyemi, Dawkin, Nelson.