City boss Paul Lambert praised his troops tonight, despite an action-packed 3-1 defeat at new Championship leaders Cardiff City.
The Canaries were given a mountain to climb after just 12 minutes, with Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra putting the Bluebirds in command.
And despite a 34th minute reply via the head of Wes Hoolahan, a Peter Whittingham penalty – given for a supposed handball by Elliott Ward – sealed the contest moments later.
Bothroyd headed Cardiff in front early on after Whittingham’s clever corner, but City could have cleared the ball earlier. And it only got worse when a hefty goal-kick found its way to Chopra after a deft flick from man-of-the-moment Bothroyd. Simple finsh; 2-0.
Hoolahan’s header from a Steven Smith cross gave the visitors brief hope, but Whittingham’s spot-kick restored the two-goal advantage. Game over.
However, Norwich rallied for long spells and Lambert was pleased – as is usually the case to be fair – with the effort shown by his players. This Canary outfit won’t lay down and die for anyone.
“I thought they gave it everything,” said the Norwich chief, speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk tonight.
“In the first-half I thought we were excellent and even though we were 2-0 down, we had a lot of the game. We had a lot of chances to get goals back and Wes’ header was great.
“You can’t give any teams a two-goal head start, especially one that’s at the top of the league, but we didn’t capitulate. We kept on going and I thought some of the football we played was very good. I’m disappointed we lost but I’m not disappointed with the way it happened.”
Like the ‘culprit’ Ward, Lambert believed the referee got a big decision wrong when awarding that fateful first-half penalty. Leon Barnett’s header seemed to strike his defensive partner on the hand rather than anything deliberate, and Lambert was disappointed with the outcome.
“I think you’ve got to be 100% sure to give a big call like that,” he added, with City moving down a place to fifth in the table tonight. “I’d have to see it again but it looked like the ball went to his hand and not the other way around.
“The referee said that it was his opinion but in my opinion, he got the penalty decision wrong. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t.”
We’ve got to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of adding a silver lining to every cloud this season. City have, after all, been on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat this afternoon.
But the Canary manager is still pleased with his side’s progress, even if he did admit that their defending wasn’t up to scratch in those opening 12 minutes.
“We should have won the header from the set-piece and the second one was just a straight ball from the goalkeeper that went right through the heart of us. But the lads don’t need me to stand there and tell them what’s happened.
“As I’ve said before, we’ve been on a terrific roll since we’ve been here and the team are still up there in the league.
“We were up against a team that’s just missed out on going up to the Premier League and all credit to my team. We came here and gave everything we had.
“But Cardiff will definitely be up there. I know it’s really early, and you’ve got a lot of big clubs in there, but they will be there or thereabouts.”
While it’s too early to tell, the Norfolk club may have picked up a couple more niggles, with skipper Grant Holt limping towards the end. And with the treatment table already busier than Lambert would like, it’s a blessing that we have to wait a full seven days until City’s next contest – Burnley (h).
“I’m glad we’ve not got a game in midweek, that’s for sure,” said the boss.
City: Ruddy; R Martin, Ward, Barnett, S Smith; K Smith, Crofts, Lappin (McNamee 62); Hoolahan (Johnson 81); Holt, Jackson (C Martin 62). Subs not used: Rudd, Fox, Askou, Gill.