City boss Paul Lambert this weekend paid tribute to midfielder Andrew Surman after his third goal in just five game helped Norwich secure that magnificent away win at The Hawthorns yesterday.
The 25-year-old delivered the sweetest of strikes to put the Canaries ahead against hosts West Bromwich Albion only for Shane Long’s second-half penalty to level.
It was then, of course, left to Grant Holt and Steve Morison to prise all three points out of the Baggies as the former’s surging run and the latter’s full-bloodied header settled the contest 11 minutes from time.
Given the manner in which the Norwich strike duo invariably dominate the goal-scoring headlines, it would be easy to over-look Surman’s contribution of late – something that Lambert sought to put right as he spoke to BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“I know what the lad can do – I know he can play,” said Lambert, as the one-time Southampton and Wolves midfielder starts to make a real mark on Norwich’s Premiership campaign.
He has had to bide his time in the midst of a crowded midfield in which the likes of Bradley Johnson, David Fox, Andrew Crofts, Elliott Bennett, Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan have all enjoyed their moments.
But now Surman is in the team by right – and proving his worth again.
The lad has always been one of the most comfortable Norwich players on the ball; he has the technical ability to deliver at this level. And a point to prove after being largely over-looked by Wolves.
“I see him every day in training and I just think he’s a fabulous, technical footballer,” said Lambert.
“He’s got a great idea of the game and an eye for a pass and I’m delighted that he’s doing very, very well for me.”
As ever, Lambert needed to juggle his troops around again – in particular to accommodate the returning Kyle Naughton at left-back after the on-loan Spurs defender was cup-tied for the FA Cup cruise against Burnley.
Out went the ever-green Adam Drury and with Daniel Ayala and Zak Whitbread continuing in the heart of that City back-four, so Russell Martin bagged the last spot at right-back.
The gauntlet now lies at the feet of Marc Tierney, whose ill-timed groin strain has sidelined him of late.
“Marc was training again on Thursday and I just thought that this game came too early,” said the City chief. “And Kyle Naughton is playing every so well – and did again against Fulham. I left him out against QPR because I thought that game just came a little too soon for him – and I had to leave him out against Burnley.
“But Kyle Naughton has been doing exceptionally well – as has Marc [Tierney]. But when you get injured and other people come in and do well, you have to fight tooth and nail to get back in.”
The weekend’s biggest injury alarm surrounded Declan Rudd; ankle trouble could sideline him for a couple of months and prompted Jed Steer’s arrival on the bench.
Coming in the midst of the January transfer window – with all the trials and tribulations that can bring – Lambert appeared to be of a mind to let young Steer have the gig behind the impressive John Ruddy.
The 19-year-old England Youth international will certainly have benefitted from the 13 appearances he made for Yeovil earlier this season. It is, however, a million miles away from the spotlight that he will fall under if anything untoward were to befall Ruddy this spring.
Lambert admitted he will sit down and discuss the options with his No2 Ian Culverhouse as well as other members of his coaching staff. It was the one dark cloud on Norwich’s January horizon – and something all concerned could have done without.
“It’s a blow, but Jed’s there – and I don’t have a problem with Jed,” he said.
Lambert also repeated his earlier line with regard to the overall transfer window – how the numbers were proving so difficult to stack if he set his sights on adding that next level of quality to his current squad.
“What’s the point of bringing in people that I don’t think will get into my side?” he asked.
“But we just haven’t got the same level of finances as nearly everybody else in the Premiership because of where the club was.”
Money isn’t everything; sheer spirit can take you a long, long way. Right into the top half of the Premiership table with survival now firmly in sight.
“But it certainly helps…” was Lambert’s point. One that he might make again before the window finally closes.
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