Midfield reshuffle just the trick for Norwich City

Paul Lambert insisted Norwich's changing of the guard was not a response to Newcastle's defensive injury woes or Manchester City's recent masterclass.

Lambert felt the time was right to restore the midfield diamond which had carried the Canaries to two Football League promotions, along with restoring two of the key exponents in David Fox and Wes Hoolahan.

Grant Holt was paired in tandem with Steve Morison to terrorise a United defence shorn of Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini. Out went young wide players Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett from the starting line up at the Etihad, plus another summer recruit in Bradley Johnson.

'It was nothing to do with the Manchester City game because they can do that to the best of teams. They did it to Bayern Munich so I don't have any problem with changing a side,' said Lambert. 'The new lads who I left out have been a huge part of it and have put us in a really good position, allied to the ones who were already here. Ian (Culverhouse) and I discussed it in the week, what we thought, and we went with that team and that system and it worked.

'The injuries weren't in my mind. We only knew about the lad Taylor who had got a bad one. Coloccini I wasn't sure if he would be fit or not. I've had three centre halves out at one time. I've had to put Russell Martin in there so I know how hard it is when your regular centre-halves aren't fit but Russell went in there and has been terrific.'

Zak Whitbread partnered Martin in his first start since August's trip to Stamford Bridge. The Liverpudlian's slip allowed Demba Ba to briefly drag Newcastle back into a contest heading south after Holt and Morison had struck around the hour mark before Dan Gosling was red carded for a lunge on Russell Martin. Lambert declared himself satisfied with City's latest central defensive partnership, despite some inevitable signs of rustiness from Whitbread.

'It was a big ask, but we did it with him last year when he came in against QPR and he did great and never looked back,' he said. 'He came in again today and I felt he was excellent but we brought him off, in case we thought he might tire towards the end. Yeah, the goal, he'll know that was a mistake, but I thought his general game – considering he was out for a long time – I thought he was excellent

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'They are a really good side. You can see how they are doing so well in the league. Newcastle is a huge, huge football club and they have only lost three games in such a demanding league.

'They are a threat up front with the presence they have got, but I thought we played very well. They are big and strong and quick but Russell and Zak were very, very good. Goals do put you on the back foot at certain times.'

Lambert was prepared to look generously on a clear handball offence by Magpies' left back Davide Santon inside the visitors' penalty box with the game goalless.

'I think the only thing he (Santon) didn't do was catch it,' said Lambert. 'I saw it on the tape and it was a penalty but the linesman for some reason or another never saw it. I've said it before, some you get, some you don't.'

Lambert was delighted to banish any lingering doubts from the previous weekend's Manchester City mauling, but quick to adopt the same considered tone ahead of another difficult trip to the north-west.

'It was important after last week, but we'll have to move straight on from this one as well,' he said. 'You don't get time to breathe, let alone anything else, before you are bang at it again.

'We're up at Everton which is another really tough game so we'll let it go and concentrate on the next one.'