City boss Paul Lambert is vowing to keep the pedal to the metal right till the end of the season – even if the Canaries formally secure their place in next season’s Premier League over the next few weeks.
Yesterday’s 2-1 win over Wolves took the Norfolk side to 39 points – just one shy of that famed, 40-point mark; the traditional finishing line when it comes to top flight survival.
It also left them 17 points distant from a luckless Wolves at the foot of the table; 14 points clear of QPR in that third and final relegation spot.
With eight games and 24 points still to go, it now looks wholly inconceivable that City could now find themselves returned to sender in May and back in the Championship.
As ever, Lambert refused to accept the Canaries were safe; he wants to see the maths before he ever basks in, arguably, his greatest managerial triumph yet.
Equally, he wants his side to push all the way to the line and not just coast home in 16th or 17th. Finish this season in strong and confident fashion and such belief can always be sustained over the summer as the Canaries take one, significant step to becoming an ‘established’ Premier League side some four years ahead of the schedule laid out in their ‘seven-year plan’.
“I don’t feel comfortable until its mathematically [certain],” Lambert said, speaking to the Press after this weekend’s entertaining home success – one that ended something of a flat few weeks by Norwich’s own high standards.
Tempo and momentum regained, the Canary chief clearly wants to charge on for the remainder of the spring and not to find anyone packing their bags for the beach early.
“If we do get safe, we don’t want to down tools,” he added. “We want to keep driving on and we want to try and finish as high up the league as we can – and that’s what we will try and do.”
The final eight games of the season will also give Lambert the opportunity to take a long, hard look at both systems and personnel before he sits down with all concerned and works out his plans – contracts and otherwise – for 2012-2013.
Once again both Elliott Ward and Zak Whitbread performed well at the heart of that Canary defence – particularly in those final ten minutes once skipper Grant Holt had seen yellow for the second time in the afternoon.
System-wise and Lambert opted to play just three at the back with Simon Lappin nominally operating more in a left-wing back role – even if Michael Kightly pushed him back on his heels on occasion.
It was a rare start for the much-liked Lappin as Marc Tierney’s lengthy groin trouble and a rested Adam Drury made way for the one-time St Mirren defender. He exited at half-time as Kyle Naughton returned on the left and Norwich went in search of what would have been a third and decisive strike.
“Simon [Lappin] did really fine for his first game for a while,” said Lambert. “I thought he did really, really fine and, as I said, I thought we deserved to win the game.
“Adam has played a lot of games recently and all I do is try and pick a team that I think will win the game.”
Which they duly did; and with all manner of neat, passing football as the likes of David Fox, Wes Hoolahan and Jonny Howson once again demonstrated their comfort movement and passing-wise, both with and without the ball.
“To think a couple of years ago we were playing League One and now we’ve nearly got 40 points in the Premiership,” mused Lambert. “It’s incredible – and you just keep going.”
The one fresh injury concern was Anthony Pilkington who picked up a slight hamstring strain in the away defeat at Newcastle last weekend.
“He picked up a hamstring strain in the Newcastle game; he missed this one and then I’ll see how he feels.”
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