Lambert praises his Norwich City miracle workers
AUDIO: Paul Lambert uses his words sparingly, so when 'miracle' and 'extraordinary' crop up in post-match analysis, you know something special has just happened.
The City boss was pulling his hair out and kicking advertising hoardings in the final stages as City repelled the various kitchen sinks that were being thrown at them by the Championship leaders. But once the dust had settled and the handshakes were out of the way, it was time to reflect on a victory achieved against all odds.
'One, it's a remarkable result and two it makes it even more remarkable the amount of players we have got out,' said Lambert, who was missing his preferred centre-back pairing in Leon Barnett and Elliott Ward, his left back for the last two and-a-half months, Simon Lappin, and an in-form midfielder David Fox. And then there are the others whose injuries have meant their roles have been bit-parts at best.
Of the back four, only right-back Russell Martin can be regarded as match fit – Michael Nelson has played three in a row after an absence stretching back to August; Adam Drury was forced into action for the first time since mid-October, and Zak Whitbread was starting his first match since last April.
'Zak is the best part of a year being out and throwing him in that magnitude of a game is mammoth,' said Lambert. 'Adam Drury has not played for three months, he's hardly done much at all. So when you look at that, that is what makes it even better.
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'I think a lot of adrenalin and a lot of enthusiasm would have carried him (Whitbread). I'm sure he will feel it tonight and tomorrow. I think he and Nelson were great, I really did. It's incredible what happened.
'It's a miracle, an absolute miracle what happened.
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'Honestly, we were extraordinary. They were brilliant – you can't ask for any more the way they are playing, the desire of the lads.'
And while it looked like Lambert had decided to fight fire with fire by naming a hugely attacking line-up, including new signing Aaron Wilbraham, the truth is he didn't have too many options.
'I don't have anybody else,' he said. 'There is nobody else to play, that's it, that's all we've got. Everybody else is suspended or injured.
'You can name all the players we have got out injured at the minute and it is too many and it is lads who are big first team players – it's not as if it's kids. It is big, big first team players – it is all credit to the ones who came in. It has been a monumental effort. I am not one for sitting back and waiting for teams to come at you. I think you have got to go on the front foot. It doesn't matter if you are home or away you have to go on the front foot.
'You try and get lads to go and express themselves and do the right thing. We have lads in the forward areas who can hurt teams. I'm not going to say to lads in front of 27,000 fans, 'go out and defend will you?' I'm pretty sure I would be the first to hear it if we did.'
The question for Lambert now is what to do for the game against Middlesbrough this afternoon. Barnett and Lappin are available after suspension, but it won't be easy to drop anyone after Saturday's performance.
'I don't know – I will see how they feel and on the way up. It is a short turnaround to go again and it will be difficult, but they are playing really well.
'We will patch them up and go again. Leon will come back into the squad, so will Simon Lappin – two lads you don't have a problem with because they are fit.'
Fox won't be travelling north, although Lambert believes the calf problem isn't as bad as the one Ward has suffered, which is expected to keep him out for a few weeks.
Wilbraham will be in the squad, with Lambert delighted with his debut after moving to Carrow Road from League One side MK Dons during the week.
'He was excellent for a lad that has just come in the other day and not knowing the pace we play at or the atmosphere,' Lambert said. 'It is never easy to make a debut, especially when it is as vibrant as it was and the game is what it was, but I thought he did great with Grant. He felt it towards the end, which is to be expected.'
Lambert admitted to venting his frustration as City did everything but actually score the second goal which would have made the final stages much less tense than anyone deserved them to be.
'Their goalkeeper made some incredible saves and they have had some really good blocks, but 1-0 is never enough,' he said. 'It doesn't matter how much dominance you have got because they are a really top side and the ball can bounce some awkward way – and they are good enough to punish you. You are never quite sure if one is enough, but thankfully it was.
'It was a terrific goal. I thought the lad blocked Chrissy Martin's shot really, really well and then Russell followed up with a terrific strike. It settles everybody down because you are playing against the best team in the league at the minute.'