City boss Paul Lambert admitted that the Canaries just weren’t ‘at it’ as they crashed out of the FA Cup with a 3-1 defeat at Carlisle.
In truth, the visitors never looked like troubling United and it was a lacklustre showing – but we can excuse them for that after a terrific recent run. This was only their second defeat in 15 matches.
But the Cumbrians took control early on when Vincent Pericard – who has been a huge hit since signing on in the north west – volleyed home Joe Anyinsah’s cross after 12 minutes.
There was a brief reprieve 14 minutes later when Grant Holt headed into the net from close range after a Wes Hoolahan cross. But second half goals from Kevan Hurst – just 27 seconds into the second half – and Richard Keogh with a header on 72 sealed Carlisle’s passage into round three.
And the Canary boss was not hiding behind anything afterwards. The better team won. Simple as that.
“It wasn’t the greatest. We got off to a really poor start and started slowly in the game,” Lambert told BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“We then got ourselves back into it for a spell, did OK after we got the goal, but you can’t start the way we did in the second half, when we lost a goal after 10 seconds or so, and expect to turn the game.
“We just never got going. All credit to Carlisle, they were better than us on the day. There’s a number of things you can put it down to – we got off to a poor start, and we didn’t do what we’ve been doing in previous weeks.
“If you’re in something you may as well try and win every game you can, we’ve been on a terrific run, we’ll just have to build one up and go again.”
To be fair, even the greatest teams have a bad day at the office. And it would be no surprise to see the Canaries coming fighting back for the shortish trip to Southend on Tuesday night.
And Lambert was keen to point out that on the whole, his players have done him proud. One poor performance on a foggy Cumbrian night wasn’t anything to panic about.
“Never once have I felt that we’ve arrived. We can’t win every single game. The lads have been terrific and it’s very difficult to keep doing it week in, week out.
“But today, we just weren’t at it. I can’t fault the lads for effort and commitment but on this given night, we just weren’t there.”
There were times last night where City looked like this was one game too many after the recent run of midweek matches. And with a clash at Roots Hall now on the horizon, the City boss is certainly pleased he has another two players to call upon in the shape of Russell Martin and Anthony McNamee.
“Yes. With the amount of games we’ve got, playing on Tuesday and then again on Saturday, it’s a big amount so it’s good that we’ve got them in.
“But I’m pleased we’ve got a game coming up so quickly to get today out of our system. It’ll be another tough game at Southend but it’s a league game and that’s where we earn our crust. We’ll be going there to try and win.”
His pre-match preparations were dealt a blow when Jens Berthel Askou – who has been Mr Consistent for the Canaries this season – was forced to stay at home to care for his ill wife. There are no indications yet as to the severity of the situation, but all concerned will be hoping that she makes a swift recovery.
“He had to call off as his wife was really not well. Hopefully she’s feeling better but we had to let Jens stay with his family.”
One of the few positives to come out of the situation was, however, an appearance on the bench for the highly-rated Jed Steer. With both Declan Rudd and the 17-year-old Steer entering the first team fray, the goalkeeping future is bright in Norfolk.
“He’s another up and coming young player at the club and the experience won’t do him any harm. Thankfully the Academy is producing young players at the moment because we can’t go and delve into the transfer market as we’d like to do.”
City: Forster; Otsemobor, Nelson, Doherty, Drury; Lappin (Dawkin 79), Russell (Hughes 70), Smith; Hoolahan; Holt, C.Martin (McDonald 70). Subs not used: Steer, R.Martin, Adeyemi, McVeigh.