City full-back Russell Martin had few fears ahead of tomorrow night’s home clash with Leicester City.
Saturday’s reverse at home to Hull was just one of them; there’s nothing wrong with the way that the Canaries have taken to life back in the nPower Championship – as their rousing send-off at the final whistle merely proved.
Everyone still believes.
“That’s the nice thing about this league – the games come thick and fast,” said the 24-year-old, as the Norfolk side move swiftly on from that one-sided 2-0 defeat. Christmas came about three months early for the Tigers; smash and grab; their luck was in.
“We’re not too despondent about Saturday, to be honest,” said the one-time Peterborough skipper, something of a permanent fixture in that right-back slot.
“I think everyone could see that we were the better side for the majority of the game,” he added. “And somehow they’ve gone away and won 2-0.
“It’s a great chance to bounce back – and we usually bounce back really well.”
History would appear to prove that point – certainly for as long as Canary boss Paul Lambert has been at the helm. Norwich do not take defeat lightly; they fly back in the following fixture.
“I don’t think we’ve had back-to-back defeats since the gaffer’s been here so it’s another chance to go out and show the character that we’ve got in the squad. And if we play like we did on Saturday, then I’m sure we’ll get a good result.”
The fact that the Carrow Road faithful recognised that Lambert’s side had ‘put a shift in…’ at the weekend, kept the dressing room bubbling along nicely as the Canaries look to stick firmly in the midst of that play-off pack.
“They were ecstatic – and we heard them in the changing room as well,” said Martin, as that feel-good factor of old continues to pervade the club.
Hull, he said, could not have believed their good fortune as they disappeared with one of the day’s shock results.
“I don’t think they could believe how lucky they got,” said the Canary full-back.
“I don’t think they’ll go away from home, be dominated like that and win again this season.
“We said that if that happened to us – to go away from home, play like that and win 2-0 – we’d be absolutely delighted. But it shows just how far we’ve come in the fact that they were absolutely buzzin’ with the fact that they’d come here and won.”
On paper, it didn’t reflect well on the City back four that they had shipped two goals at home to a side that had been struggling of late to re-adjust to The Championship – on and off the field.
The reality, of course, was that Hull stole away with the points courtesy of a twice-deflected opener and a peach of a free-kick. Otherwise they had two corners all game.
Hence Martin’s belief that – as a unit – City’s back four were standing up well to their Championship test and in the case of the on-loan Leon Barnett, Lambert had plucked a real peach out of The Hawthorns.
“He’s done really well,” said Martin, with the on-loan West Brom defender starting to make a big impression – in both penalty areas.
“He’s an out-and-out defender; he wins all his headers; he’s quick; he’s strong – he’s done really well. And he’s easy to play next to.”
With both Barnett and Elliott Ward being “good talkers”, so the unit was working well. The icing on the cake would come in a Barnett goal; he is a threat at set-pieces.
“He attacks the ball really, really well,” said Martin. “At Preston he could have had a couple – I think it’s only a matter of time before he nicks one.”
Say ‘back four’; you could easily make the case for a back five with Andrew Crofts doing his thing in front of the defence.
“As a back four I don’t think we’ve been cut open by anyone. We feel pretty solid – especially with Crofty [Crofts] in front of you to protect you. But it was a lucky goal the first one and you hold your hand up for the second – it’s a great free-kick and you can’t really do anything about it.”
Martin also had a word for the long-serving Adam Drury; arguably playing as well as he has ever done in his ten-year City career. The manner in which Drury, Wes Hoolahan and – of late – Simon Lappin can work that left-hand beat together causes teams all manner of problems.
The only thing missing this weekend was a finish. The platform is there for Norwich to do well this season.
“Adam’s been doing it for years – he’s an extremely consistent player. Probably the most consistent player that I have played with for a long time.
“But with Crofty there, it gives us a little bit more of a licence [to get forward]. He protects the centre-halves quite a bit.
“We can’t play as expansively as we did last year; in this league you get punished more – and we found that out in the first game especially,” said Russell, looking back to that opening home defeat to Watford.
“But our first job is to defend – to stop crosses getting into our box and then if we can, get up the other end and put some into their box.”
With boss Lambert confirming a clean bill of health ahead of tomorrow night’s game, the expectation was of the same team delivering the same level of performance.
Do that and – the strong sense was – the right result will then follow.