City boss Paul Lambert insisted that this weekend’s 2-2 thriller against Burnley was a ‘terrific advert for the game’ as the Canaries proud record of never losing back-to-back games under his charge was maintained.
The Clarets had just four minutes of injury-time to survive when Andrew Crofts swept home City’s leveller and ensured that last weekend’s 3-1 defeat at Cardiff City wasn’t followed by a second reverse.
Crofts, however, will miss tomorrow night’s trip to Millwall after seeing a second yellow card seconds from the end.
In a game that pretty much already had everything, it now had an early pantomime villain as Lambert began to review the performance of the referee, the hapless Trevor Kettle.
“When you get games like that – when it goes to the very death and you hear the way that the fans react – then it was a brilliant football match, I thought,” said the Canary chief.
His problems with the day’s officials started early as Simeon Jackson came off second best in a challenge leading up to Burnley’s first-half opener.
“The first goal I thought was a free-kick on Simeon [Jackson] when the ball gets played up. Why the referee never called it, I don’t know. But he was average the referee, anyway.”
Burnley wouldn’t disagree given they had a huge appeal for a handball waved away as Crofts went about ruining their day in the final minute of normal time.
The name ‘T Kettle’ on the team-sheet hadn’t, it appears, filled Lambert with much hope.
“As soon as I saw who was refereeing it I thought it was going to be a hard afternoon,” said Lambert.
As for the Crofts handball, Lambert’s reaction was what one might expect of a manager who had just got away with one. “I don’t give a damn,” he laughed. “I couldn’t give two hoots whether it hit his hand or not.
“We had one [decision] go against us last week, so I’m definitely going to take this one,” said the City chief after the ball-to-hand claim regarding Elliott Ward’s handball away at Cardiff last weekend.
Lambert was more upset about Crofts’ dismissal. That was what clearly irked.
“He couldn’t wait to get the cards out, could he?” said Lambert. “It was like a magician. It was like Paul Daniels; I’m pretty sure he had it [the card] before he went down.
“And the first one, he’s won the ball. It’s there for everyone to see.”
His loss will hurt. “Andrew Crofts’ performances in the Championship have been massive.
“And he’s getting better and better. And he’s becoming an all-rounder. He can do the dirty side and he can get forward – and I think he’s one of the crowd’s favourites here. He’s going to be a top, top midfield player.”
That all said, Lambert still gave Burnley credit; they looked the part at 2-0 up. In the final ten minutes of the first period, Chris Eagles and Co were running through their party pieces; show-boating their way to what – then – seemed an easy three, away points.
“Burnley are a really good side; they’ve kept a lot of lads from coming down [from the Premiership], but second-half I thought we were brilliant.”
The introduction of Anthony McNamee at the interval had the required effect on a City side that went into the break looking wholly down and out. The one-time Swindon winger would have had Carrow Road on its feet had his low drive pinged in off the base of a post as opposed to out and away across an empty six-yard box.
“He’s done it on numerous occasions now,” said the Canary chief, asked about McNamee’s ability to bring the crowd to the edge of their seats.
“He’s got the crowd going and we’ve changed the system a little bit from the first-half to the second and the lads responded – I thought we looked great in the second-half.
“And there’s no doubt whatsoever that we deserved that. We hit the post in the second-half as well, so we deserved that.”
Credit was also due to Chrissy Martin who once again rose from the bench after the break and delivered a peach of a finish to put Norwich right back into the contest; two touches on the turn to confirm his place amongst the division’s best finishers.
“My opinion has never changed about Chrissy Martin,” said Lambert. “And people have got to remember that he’s only 21 years of age.
“He’s done a lot in his short, footballing career; he’s had a lot to deal with off the pitch but as a footballer there’s not many better finishers than I have seen.”
High praise from a Champions League winner.
“He’s had to wait; that’s the nature of the game,” said Lambert, with Martin currently playing second fiddle to Jackson.
“But when you get your chance, you do what he does.”
It will be one of Lambert’s bigger decisions today as to whether he gives Martin or Jackson the nod for the trip to the New Den.
“He’s never let his head go down which is great – and he could have got a second one at the end. So, yes, it does give me a nice decision to make.”