Barnett red card cost us dear, says Lambert
Paul Lambert slammed the penalty decision which he felt changed the course of the club's Premier League homecoming against Stoke.
The Norwich City boss insisted that Jon Walters' tumble under Leon Barnett's challenge just past the hour mark originated well outside the Canaries' penalty area. John Ruddy beat away the former Ipswich captain's spot kick but Barnett's straight red left Lambert's side undermanned when Kenwyne Jones rose highest to connect with Glenn Whelan's cross deep into stoppage time.
'It was at least three yards outside,' said Lambert. 'It was never a penalty in a million years. How he gave that – his positioning was so far behind it. The assistant seemed to give it.
'I've seen it since and it changed the game. It was a big, big decision and a major turning point. We looked comfortable with how we had started the game.
'It was bad enough getting himself sent off, but the actual contact, the initial contact, was outside. I think anywhere on the pitch it would be a free kick but it's a double hit with the penalty and the red card.
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'It pushes you on the back foot against 11 men and you are up against a really good side, but the effort was excellent. He was the last man so he had to go. I think with 11 men we would have seen it through. I thought Leon's general game was excellent but the contact was outside the box. When you go down to 10 men at this level it becomes really tough.'
Lambert remained upbeat afterwards despite the late heartache.
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'For us the disappointment is there not to have won the game, but I'm not too despondent about it because there was a big, big effort from everybody,' he said.
'For the first home game I thought we played really well. I think we showed we could adapt. Stoke are a really good side, who are difficult to play against. They got a terrific point against Chelsea and then had a hard game in Europe and got a great result there so we were under no illusions coming into this game.
'Commitment-wise and effort-wise we gave as good we got. I can't ask for any more with how they played the game. I was delighted with a lot of aspects. It's a testament to our lads that we continued to hang in, even when we are on the back foot.'
Lambert believes his men have already proved they are fast learners in the Premier League after a brace of battling displays during the opening week of the new campaign.
'We've only played two games so lets not get carried away,' he said. 'We'll certainly try everything we can to win football matches and that is what we'll try to do. I'm happy with how we have adapted so far. It's new to us and two years ago we were in League One
'That is the magnitude of it. It might take us time to adapt to certain things but we're in here on merit. It's not as if we're here by default. We have to have a level of performance that is very high. If you ask Stoke, then we gave them a fright.'
Ritchie De Laet glanced home Bradley Johnson's inviting cross in a vibrant first half with fellow close season arrival Anthony Pilkington underlining his class in a wide left role.
'Pilks was very good. He is coming back from a long term injury and I thought he played well,' said Lambert.
'He (De Laet) was excellent I thought, just his all round game. He scored the goal and it just shows you how important set pieces are in the game. If you can defend them and score at the other end you'll do okay.
'Whoever is picked or whatever system we play the lads have got to try and perform. I don't think we are going to get away with the same 18 lads being involved every single week.'