Crowd again plays a hero’s part for Norwich City
AUDIO: Paul Lambert believes the backing of the Carrow Road crowd has spurred his players on to new heights this season – with Russell Martin perhaps the best example of the symbiosis that exists.
Martin scored the dramatic last-minute equaliser that earned City a well-deserved point against one of their closest promotion rivals.
But it was the way he continued his recent good form by keeping old boy Craig Bellamy in his pocket that highlighted what Lambert says – that players raise their game when they feed off the crowd.
The City right-back was deemed not good enough for the Championship when he was at Peterborough, but Lambert knew better and brought him to Norwich – and is reaping the rewards a year after his initial loan became a permanent move.
'I think he is a better player now,' said Lambert. 'I think playing with good players helps him, because you are only as good as the person next to you, but I think what Russell has done and the way he is playing, he is excellent.
'I had him at Wycombe and he went to Peterborough and he did well there and then maybe lost his way a little bit. Then he came here and he has created a niche for himself.
'I'm delighted not just with him, but the whole group. If you can't play at this club with this crowd at your back there is something wrong.
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'You have got to have the crowd with the players and that's what you get, you get that type of atmosphere and that type of performance.
'It's a fantastic place to play. The crowd have been phenomenal since I've been here. They feed the players and vice versa. It's a two-way thing, but what a place to play football when it's like that.'
Martin came steaming in towards the far post to meet Simon Lappin's low cross, which had been touched on by Aaron Wilbraham, cracking the ball into the roof of the net from five yards out for his fourth goal of the season.
'When it is as tight as that you are never quite sure if he can squeeze it in, but I thought he was excellent the whole game,' said Lambert.
It gave City a point after Jon Parkin had put Cardiff ahead on seven minutes, although there were big claims for a penalty when Grant Holt was caught by Paul Quinn, only for referee Keith Stroud to wave play on.
'The referee is about two and a half centimetres away,' said Lambert, who had words with the official as he came off the pitch at half-time.
'How he's missed that I don't know. It's a penalty. We got one against Sheffield United which maybe wasn't and they even themselves out, but it's a penalty – I don't care which way you want to look at it.'
The incident inevitably raised suggestions that Holt has a reputation for going down too easily – emphasised by Neil Warnock's recent comments, although Lambert wasn't prepared for another visit to FA headquarters to explain away his comments.
'I think it is the hardest job in the world,' he said. 'I wouldn't wish that job on my worst enemy. Listen, I moan for fun anyway so it doesn't really matter at the end of the day. It's a hard, hard job he's got.'
Had City come away empty-handed it would have been a travesty after a compelling game.
'It would have been a sore one, but from the times we have been beaten I think there is only one game I have come away disappointed and that was Doncaster,' he said. 'The performances are really, really high at the moment.
'I thought we were excellent, I really did, from the off really, against a really, really good side.'
While Martin perhaps took the majority of the plaudits, the game could have had a very different ending had it not been for goalkeeper John Ruddy, whose superb save at the feet of Michael Chopra just past the hour mark kept City in with a shout.
'It was a big, big save at 1-0,' said Lambert. 'If Cardiff scored again I think it would have been difficult to claw it back. I think John Ruddy is playing extremely well at the minute.'