City boss Paul Lambert paid tribute to the ‘spark’ that second-half substitute Anthony McNamee delivered as the Canaries once again came from behind to secure a significant victory.
The 2-1 home success over visitors Barnsley propelled the Norfolk side into the top six of the Championship with ten points from their opening five games.
And while few would be foolish enough to read too much into such an encouraging start to the new campaign, at the very least it gives City a platform to work from; something to build on.
Too often they have been caught cold at the start of a new season and been left to play catch-up. This time round, however, and the winning mentality that Lambert swiftly installed in his League One champions has lasted the summer.
And in McNamee he has discovered a player who can make things happen; who can rip another triumph out of potential adversity.
“I thought we were on the ascendency anyway,” said Lambert, after the winger’s 63rd minute arrival helped turn this weekend’s contest on its head.
A goal down to Jay McEveley’s, free 45th minute header, it was McNamee’s cross that Stephen Foster headed into his own net for a 70th minute leveller; it was McNamee’s 80th minute cross that eventually found its way to the master marksman Chris Martin for the winner.
“I just thought we needed that little bit of spark which he provided,” said Lambert. “And Macca (McNamee) is what you see – when he gets the ball, he gets people off their seat.”
His arrival also sees City change shape; from a diamond dependent – in part – on Wes Hoolahan sparkling, suddenly the Canaries gain natural width on the right. They also gain a player with the priceless ability to cross with either foot.
Together it causes opponents to re-think their own battle plans; those slow to re-group – or, in Barnsley’s case, fretting about Jason Shackell’s exit from the pitch for treatment – it can make all the difference between winning and losing.
“He was terrific for the goal and made things happen when he came on,” explained Lambert afterwards. The fact that he has yet to force his way into a regular starting slot is, it appears, not a frustration. Not yet, at least.
“To be fair to him, he’s never once grumbled [about it],” said the City chief. “And when he sees the team winning, it’s hard to get in. “But the one thing about Macca is he can cross it with either foot. He’s got a terrific dead ball and when he gets a run at you in a one-v-one because of the way that he plays the game, he’s very hard to mark. Especially in that last third of the pitch.”
As legs tire and concentrations start to slip in those final 20 minutes, he is a defender’s worst nightmare. McEveley certainly didn’t cover himself in glory in the run-up to the Foster og.
The fact that somewhere in the opposition box is Martin – just waiting for an opportunity to arrive – helps enormously.
“The second goal was worthy of winning any game,” said Lambert, as he watched the Beccles-born striker wrap up proceedings with a typically assured finish.
“I’ve said it before – and I seem to say it every week – he certainly knows where the goal is,” said Lambert, as Martin grabbed his first league goal of the new season. It is unlikely to be his last.
“If there’s a situation there and you’d want one player for the ball to fall to, it’d be him. Because he’s an absolute brilliant finisher.”
The fact that this was only his first league goal was of no concern to the manager.
“His performances have been absolutely terrific; he nearly had a couple up at Forest – I have no worries about Chrissy Martin. Maybe the only thing he needs to work on is being confident,” added Lambert, tongue wedged firmly in cheek.
“I’m only kidding – he’s as confident as the day is long. I don’t have a problem with him when it comes to a lack of confidence that’s for sure.”
The downsides were few and far between. Barnsley’s opener was sloppy; to say the least.
Lambert wasn’t pointing the finger at any one individual. The fact that that individual went on to score the game’s winning goal helped, mind.
“Everyone knows who they have to pick up – and no-one’s picked him up,” said the manager.
“We man-mark – as everyone probably knows – so if your man scores…”
And then the two absentees. Keeper John Ruddy missed out with a dead-leg; midfielder Andrew Surman with a knee injury. The latter is more of a worry.
“Surman has hurt his knee,” Lambert revealed. “And he’ll be out for a couple of months.
“It’s not a cruciate or anything like that, but he’ll be out for a number of weeks anyway. It was a blow; he’s been brilliant. But Simon Lappin came in for his first game and I thought he was excellent.
“So it is a blow, but we just have to get on with it.”
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