Norwich City boss Lambert relishing the run-in despite defeat
Paul Lambert preferred to dwell on the bigger Championship picture after watching his men succumb 3-0 to Swansea.
Lambert was far from downcast following City's failure to tighten their grip on the second automatic promotion spot. Norwich's margin for error was dramatically cut at the Liberty Stadium after Swansea tore into the visitors in a vibrant opening stanza. The second-placed Canaries now head both the Swans and Welsh rivals Cardiff by a solitary point with six games left after only their second league defeat since the New Year.
'I'd rather be in this position than not,' said Lambert. 'If you had said to me with six games to go you'd be sitting second then I'd have got you a straight-jacket, so I'm delighted. We'll take it and we'll give it everything we've got.
'I'm not too disappointed, I'm disappointed to lose the game but we're sitting second in the table. The third goal is irrelevant for me because at 2-0 in the last seconds of the game we were trying everything we could to get a goal back.
'It never happened. I thought second half we gave as good as we got but, listen, they are a very good side. So are my group, and I'm pretty sure if you asked Brendan (Rodgers) he would say the same.'
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Norwich were undone by a classy first half brace from Fabio Borini and a collector's item from midfielder Mark Gower – to leave Lambert rueing what might have been.
Dani Pacheco was denied by Dorus de Vries in the opening seconds before Grant Holt's miscued follow-up was a frustrating portent of things to come for the previously free-scoring captain.
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'I thought we should have scored before Swansea got the free-kick,' said Lambert. 'Dani did great, the goalkeeper made a good save and Grant hit the rebound. The free-kick, well, you just have to hold your hands up – it's a brilliant free kick it really is.
'We can't do anything about that. The second goal was a bit disappointing that we didn't shut the ball down a bit earlier, but still a very good strike. The pleasing thing was we never wilted.
'We tried to get back in the game, we had a chance with Grant on the header in the second half and I thought we penned them in. Korey (Smith) forces two good saves out of the keeper and on another day they go in. No doubt the early goals helped them although we started well. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. You know coming here you are going to be under pressure at certain times in the game because of the way they play. Effort-wise, we tried everything we could.'
Norwich's bid to put a considerable dent in Swansea's impressive home record diminished considerably pre-match with the absence of one W.Hoolahan from the visitors' line up.
Lambert revealed the Irish playmaker had never really been in contention after limping out of the previous weekend's 6-0 league win over Scunthorpe. City's medical staff must now work overtime to try and get Hoolahan back in contention for this week's league tests against Watford and Nottingham Forest.
'Wes wasn't close for this one,' said Lambert. 'Tuesday, maybe, but we'll have to see over the weekend. I certainly wouldn't like to play against him so, of course, you miss a player like that. His form at the minute is outstanding. Dani gives you something different, Henri (Lansbury) gives you something a bit different but Wes is a bit more experienced.
'There's not too many players like him hanging about, full stop. We brought Simeon (Jackson) on at half-time to try and get a goal, Grant has his chance, Korey has a couple of chances and when you are on top you have to score. I thought Simeon did well, Sam (Vokes) was a handful. The lads who came off in the second half was just to see if we could get a goal - nothing else.'
Lambert concedes Norwich have little time for self-introspection with another difficult away test looming tomorrow at Watford.
'I'm confident they'll give me everything they've got,' he said. 'I can't dictate results. We'll get them ready for another hard game but as soon as they cross that white line, it's up to them. They have to go and win the game and they have been excellent for me but I'm glad there is another one coming up Tuesday and another hard one against Forest on Friday night.
'It's not just Norwich. There are hard games coming up for everybody. You just have to look after yourself. You might drop points that people don't expect, but we're still second and we're still well in the mix.'
Lambert's belief in his men's appetite for the promotion battle remains undiminished – buoyed by another collective show of strength from the Canaries' travelling support.
'There'll be pressure on all the sides up the top but I said it before this game, pressure comes from the number of fans who come to watch us,' he said. 'I'd rather have 27,000 come to watch than a half empty stadium.
'The rise of Norwich has been dramatic in the Championship because I don't think anyone could visualise what was going to happen. Whether we do it or not remains to be seen, but we've given it one hell of a go.
'The amount of people who came to watch was frightening. Terrific. To have 2,000 travel that distance for a late kick off. What is it six, seven hours, whatever it may be, then have to go away back again and up for work Monday morning. It's a big effort for them. We're just disappointed that we couldn't do it for them.'