Norwich City boss Lambert refuses to be downbeat
Paul Lambert admitted his Norwich City side are still finding their feet in the Championship after a battling performance ended in defeat at Doncaster.
City slipped to eighth on a night littered with surprise results and ultimately paid for the proverbial game of two halves performance – and a hat-trick by James Coppinger.
For the first 45 minutes they were a clear second best to Doncaster, but for most of the second period – after they had gone two goals down – they threw everything at their hosts.
Championship football is 'new' to City after their enforced 12 months absence, and for Lambert it's his first taste of managing at this level.
It is, he admitted, something of a learning curve.
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'We are new to it and Doncaster have been established in this division,' he said. 'If you are telling me we are going to play brilliantly every single game, it is very hard to do and there are times when you find it hard and you have to defend for your life to get through. But I can't be over critical because they have given me everything.'
Lambert was reluctant to say City deserved anything from the game – 'second half maybe, but we got beat' – but Coppinger's goals combined brilliance as well as a little luck.
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The first was a long-range screamer, the second a tap-in after confusion in the City defence, and while Russell Martin pulled one back with his first for the club, the third and killer goal was a deflected free-kick.
'Even though we were getting a lot of possession against us we were still in the game at 1-0,' he said. 'It's not an unassailable lead, but the second goal just after half-time gives us that mountain to climb
'I thought in the second half we were excellent.
'The first goal was a wonder goal, you can't stop that. We came here and had a right good go – I said before they are a really good side, but the second goal you can't legislate for that, but I was delighted with the response, getting a goal back and I thought we were on the ascendancy from there. The third goal it can happen – it's right at the death of the game.
'I can't ask for any more from the way we played in the second half.'
Lambert will look back and wonder what might have happened had City been at the races for the first 45 minutes, when Doncaster were in full control.
'It was fits and starts – but we tried and there have been teams who have taken beatings from them. But I thought we were right in the game until the third one went in.
Lambert changed personnel, Anthony McNamee coming in for Simon Lappin, and changed formation, with Grant Holt starting off on his own up front with Chris Martin supporting from the left – although before half-time they were closer to the diamond formation he prefers.
'We changed it halfway through the first half to try and get a foothold in the game because they were coming at us at every point, but I won't be over-critical,' he said. 'With a bit of luck we might have sneaked an equaliser.'