Norwich City boss Lambert faces QPR dilemma
Paul Lambert admits he faces a tricky balancing act at QPR this afternoon as he prepares to pick a side for Norwich City's fifth Premier League game in the last 16 days.
City have earned battling draws against Everton and Wolves on the road along with Saturday's stoppage time comeback at Fulham sandwiched around a solitary defeat to Champions League-chasing Tottenham. Lambert made four changes to his starting line-up for the Cottagers' visit and handed Dani Ayala his first Premier League start for the club.
The Canaries' chief revealed Andrew Crofts and Grant Holt were both omitted after recent heavy workloads, whilst Adam Drury was given the day off following his exertions in midweek against Spurs. Lambert planned to take another health check of his squad at training yesterday prior to finalising his plans for the trip to Loftus Road.
'We wanted to freshen it up with the number of games and we have to turn it over to go again for Monday as well. There might be one or two changes,' said Lambert. 'I just thought we'd leave Holt and Crofts out because they have had a hard few games and because Monday is going to be really tough. We had a hard game against Spurs and I didn't think the same group could go again so we decided to change it. With Adam, it was a hard one to leave him out because of how he performed, but to put him back in again straight away I wasn't so sure. If it went wrong it was my fault but I thought (Kyle) Naughton came in and he was outstanding.'
Lambert confirmed defenders Marc Tierney (groin) and Ritchie De Laet (back) will again be missing at QPR, but Ayala's first full slice of Premier League action after his own long term injury woes was a major plus point for the manager.
'I thought he was excellent. On the ball he was terrific and he came through everything that he had to come through,' said Lambert. 'That was his first game. I don't think he expected to play but I thought Daniel was superb. We've only had Russell Martin and Leon Barnett fit for a large part of the season with Zak (Whitbread) and Elliott Ward out. I thought he was exceptional for his first game in a long, long while.'
Simeon Jackson's dramatic late header to cancel out Orlando Sa's thunderbolt furthered the Canadian's own claims for greater involvement - coming after his first top flight goal at Wolves prior to Christmas.
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'I think Simeon has been great for us. He was pivotal to what happened to us last season with the goalscoring that he showed,' said Lambert. 'He is a terrific professional, never lets his head go down and I am delighted for him.
'He just seems to be a threat at certain times, Simeon. He has got that knack of ugly and good goals. He has had to wait patiently for his chance. Their goal put us on the back foot coming so early. I thought it was too easy. It rocks you back but I felt we had a little spell with a flurry of corners, a little bit of possession without really getting that break in the first half.'
City ratcheted up the pressure after the interval to force Fulham onto the back foot.
'I thought they were relentless at times,' said Lambert. 'I thought in the first half perhaps we played in fits and starts against a really good side. I think people maybe underestimated them. They are a really top side. Second half, I thought we were very good. The lads gave everything they had got. I've always said we need the crowd to help them along and I thought in the second half the lads dragged it up by themselves.
'They keep going. Fulham got everybody behind the ball. We hemmed them in but they are really well organised. We have a great desire to try and win games and you know if you keep going then you might get a break in front of goal. The effort was extraordinary.'