City boss Paul Lambert tonight offered no excuses for the biggest defeat of his two-year managerial career as the Canaries’ interest in this season’s Carling Cup competition came to an abrupt end – courtesy of a 4-0 shocker at home to League One pace-setters MK Dons.
Two goals either side of the break and a knee injury to new arrival Daniel Ayala completed a miserable night for the Scot; an evening, he admitted, in which absolutely nothing went right for the Norfolk side.
“Really disappointing,” was the manager’s swift summing up of a pretty dismal night at Carrow Road. They have, in fairness, been all-too few and far between under Lambert’s watch. And while regulars have become used to early cup exits, to be dumped out by a four-goal margin – and at home – is not a good night’s work.
“Nothing went right – the whole game,” added Lambert, likely to make a full 11 changes for the trip to Chelsea on Saturday. That, he promised, would be a different proposition altogether to such a lukewarm outing in which positives were few and far between. If any.
“I can’t put my finger on why we never got going – and credit to MK Dons. They were the better side,” said Lambert simply.
He wasn’t about to point fingers. We win together, we lose together was the manager’s mantra.
“I’m not going to label one aspect of it; it was the team that didn’t function,” he said. Which was fair enough. Norwich struggled to get a shot on target; the midfield was all-too often second best; the defence parted like the Red Sea for pretty much all four of MK’s goals.
The fact that Ayala picked up a knock late on summed up the night.
“He picked up a knock and I need to see how bad that one is,” said Lambert, who will at least have a fit-again Zak Whitbread and an eligible Leon Barnett to call upon for the Chelsea game.
“He’s hurt his knee, but that just summed up the night. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. And it’s now how we respond to a defeat – that’s what it always is,” said the City boss, on a night when all three of the newly-promoted Premiership teams lost to lowlier opposition.
QPR, for example, were left to concentrate on the league via a 2-0 home defeat by Rochdale. The suspicion remains that when the prize is that great league-wise, it is very difficult to deliver the intensity of performance required to match cup opponents who have nothing to lose and all to a gain from a third round ticket into the bigger time.
“I never dwell on a win – let alone a defeat. I’m as disappointed as everybody else and it was a really strong side [that we put out]. But we got beat by the better side.”
The ‘fun’ started as early as the 21st minute when Daniel Ayala’s first start found the Spaniard sloppily passing the ball to the feet of Stephen Gleeson.
Which was all the invite the Dons needed to drive forward and slip Chadwick in behind Adam Drury for a sharp opening goal.
Chadwick – the one-time Manchester United starlet – might be remembered for many things injury-wise in his spell at Norwich, but he’s always been able to play.
As he proved again just after the hour-mark when he swapped a neat little pass with Dean Bowditch to open up the City defence completely before finishing
In between, Adam Drury had taken a leaf out of Ritchie de Laet’s Premier League scrap book by getting horribly caught in possession on the near touchline by the lively Gleeson. Once again, off MK went; this time it was Sam Baldock with the smart finish from the edge of the box – Rudd shifting his weight right as the ball whizzed right.
Andrew Surman gifted the Dons their fourth on 67 minutes with a back pass of the suicidal variety. Substitute Daniel Powell could barely believe his luck as the ball fell to his feet, on his own, some 18 yards out.
Rudd could do little to stop No4 flying beyond him as the Canaries warmed up for this weekend’s trip to Chelsea with, arguably, the limpest and lamest display of Lambert’s two-year reign.
What any watching Chelsea scout would have made of it is anyone’s guess; my best guess would be that substitute Steve Morison is likely to be the only one in contention for a place in Lambert’s starting plans.
The sight of new-boy Ayala gingerly walking off in the 78th minute having at least refused the stretcher for his exit simply summed up a wholly wretched night for the 13,000-odd Canary supporters granted such a feast of committed cup football.