Lambert leaps to Norwich City captain’s defence

Paul Lambert has hit back at accusations that Canaries skipper Grant Holt has 'conned' referees.

Sheffield United's then caretaker manager John Carver and QPR's outspoken boss Neil Warnock both pointed accusing fingers at the City talisman after the last two home games.

Carver claimed Holt had conned Phil Crossley into awarding a penalty in a 4-2 win over the Blades on December 28 – and a few days later it was the turn of Warnock, who claimed Holt had deliberately handled before an incident which led to one of his centre-halves being sent off.

'I saw the penalty he got against Sheffield United last week – it's a con isn't it,' said Warnock.

But Lambert yesterday stood full square in front of his skipper.

'I think Neil was wrong, definitely wrong what he said,' said Lambert. 'I don't think you have any substance to talk about anybody else's players the way that happened and I will stick up for Grant Holt all day long. I am pretty sure they'd have wanted him on their side.

'I'm not going to let anyone criticise my lads, that's for sure.'

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The incident against United was somewhat complicated by Lambert's admission at the time that he would have felt aggrieved had he been in Carver's shoes.

'Unless I had a whistle in my mouth I am pretty sure it's only the referee's whistle that we heard,' he said. 'I don't make the decisions. Every job is hard enough to do, but don't criticise anybody else's players. The game is hard enough.

'I can understand John saying the actual first penalty might have been a bit iffy, the second one no. As I said at the time I would have been aggrieved myself, but you don't call anybody a cheat or a con man or whatever it is. You don't do it, have a bit of respect for people. You might privately think that, but when it goes public then I will defend them all day long.'

Holt is set to return to the City line-up for today's crunch game against second-placed Cardiff, with the Canaries aiming to ride the wave of confidence around the club and leapfrog Dave Jones' team.

'It is huge, a brilliant game for us and with near enough a full house it should be great,' said Lambert.

'We know we need to play well to win, but we're playing well.

'It is a great opportunity to go into second, that is your drive really. If we can win then we will go above them and that's what we will try and do.

'The lads are playing really well at the minute, the confidence is as high as it is ever going to be I think.

'The injured lads are all starting to come back, the feeling around the place is great and we will go and try and win another game.'

There is a sideshow to the main event, with the first competitive return to Carrow Road for Craig Bellamy, but Lambert – a former team-mate of his at Celtic – wasn't for joining in the discussion.

'I am just concentrating on my team,' he said.

That went for any suggestion that a draw would do neither team any favours in their pursuit of QPR, who could then go seven points clear with a win at Burnley.

'You can't worry about other teams, we just have to concentrate on us,' said Lambert. 'The focus is on us, nothing else.'