City boss Paul Lambert wasn’t about to let Carlisle United spoil the party, despite the Cumbrians running out comfortable 2-0 winners at Carrow Road this afternoon.
The visitors thoroughly deserved the three points and on this evidence, they could challenge in League One next season after goals from the impressive Gary Madine and Jason Price – within the first seven minutes – sealed the victory.
The League One champions weren’t particularly bad, but they had that end-of-season vibe about them. United, however, looked sharp and were well worth their win.
But Lambert won’t let anything detract from what his team have achieved this season and thoughts will now turn to next season and life back in the Championship.
“It was always going to be difficult but we have done the job and the lads have been great for me,” he told reporters afterwards.
“The crowd are here for the occasion and we were the same and it’s difficult to keep going every week. But we have deserved to win the league, no doubt.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for them and the way they’ve done it; the turnaround has been huge. The fan base is incredible as well and you just have to see how they are with the players for proof of that. It will be a great city tonight, that’s for sure.
“We’ll do our best to try and compete next season up in the Championship. We’ll give it a go.”
It was certainly an action-packed start to proceedings and the visitors found themselves 2-0 up within seven minutes through strikers Madine and Price.
The first was a beauty and after a slick move involving two or three United players, Madine slotted home – it wasn’t an easy chance – from the edge of the box to give them the lead in the very first minute.
The returning Russell Martin almost fashioned an equaliser two minutes later with a rasping shot that just went wide, but the Cumbrians soon extended their lead via the head (or afro, to be fair) of Price.
Ian Harte turned the clock back with a beautiful left-footed free-kick and while it looked like it had sailed straight in, the much-travelled Welshman claimed it.
Carlisle were bossing the game and even though Korey Smith almost pulled one back after rounding the ‘keeper and shooting at the defender, the Brunton Park outfit were looking the most dangerous.
For an end-of-season contest, the away team were, to their credit, pressing and harrying and City had to wait until the 39th minute to create another clear-cut opening. Simon Lappin delivered an inch-perfect cross for Chris Martin, but the 23-goal striker could only head straight at goalkeeper Adam Collin.
The Canaries could have got one back seconds after the restart, but Darel Russell’s piledriver was tipped inches wide and Carlisle almost made it three on 56 minutes, when the ever-dangerous Madine poked it wide from five yards out.
It was a quiet second period, however, and even though the Canaries were probing, they couldn’t quite penetrate the Cumbrians goal and if anyone looked like adding to the scoreline, it was the visitors.
Norwich had the odd pot-shot, with Wes Hoolahan coming closest from the edge of the area in the dying moments, but for the last 20 minutes or so, it was fairly quiet. The packed house could sit back and enjoy seeing their heroes lift the League One title, knowing that this reverse didn’t really matter one bit.
City: Forster (Rudd 89); R Martin, Doherty, Askou, Drury; Smith, Russell, Lappin (Hughes 69), Hoolahan; C Martin, Johnson (McNamee 72). Subs not used: Rudd, Gill, Rose, McVeigh, McDonald.