Norwich City boss Lambert still insists target is survival
AUDIO: Canaries boss Paul Lambert insists it's still all about survival of the fittest at Carrow Road.
City stretched their unbeaten run to six games and ended Derby's home run of six wins in a row with another polished performance.
It was a victory that moved them up to fourth in the Championship, four points off of the second automatic promotion place. But don't expect Lambert to get carried away. His response was quite the opposite.
'If we can survive we will do alright,' he said. 'And we are hanging in at the minute with the group up near the top. There is not much in it, but we are playing well, that's for sure. We are certainly playing well and when the fans get behind us it is a massive help to us.'
Even approaching the subject from a different angle didn't work.
'Honestly, I just want to survive, that's my main concern. Ask me in May – then I'll tell you. If I am still here in May and I don't get the sack then you can ask me.
'The game is all about players and people who come and watch it and the players have been absolutely colossal for me. They were colossal for me last year and they are doing it again this year, but we have got a terrific following which certainly helps us.'
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That following – 2,228 of them – saw their team get off to the perfect start, with two goals inside 13 minutes – the earliest they have been ahead all season.
The first came when a David Fox shot was deflected by Shaun Barker past Frank Fielding – it may have had a touch of good fortune, but Fox deserves it for recent displays.
'I think he is playing at the top of his game at the minute,' said Lambert. 'You can ask any of the lads, at the training ground technically he is brilliant. He's got a habit of never giving it away, which is a rare commodity in the game at times.'
Goal number two was a Chris Martin header, 'brilliant' according to Lambert.
Derby pulled one back through Kris Commons, and might have levelled but for keeper John Ruddy's quality save at the feet of Paul Green – a trick he repeated in the second half from the same player.
'I thought his second-half save was as good as I have seen in a long time,' said Lambert. 'And the one in the first half when he has blocked it - big moments in big games. Terrific, very good.'
Ruddy has had his work cut out to convince fans who were a little spoiled by Fraser Forster last season.
'I think that was always going to happen,' said Lambert. 'There were going to be comparisons with Fraser Forster for what he did, but John is his own man, his own goalkeeper and he has made saves that have kept us in games, especially away from home. I am delighted in the last few games with the way he is performing.'
Those early goals were vital – the offensive nature of City's game perhaps catching out Derby.
'First half especially I thought we were outstanding and the goals that we scored were great,' said Lambert. 'You are not going to be on the front foot here with the crowd that they've got and the team that they've got and the way Derby have been going. They haven't been beaten at home for a long while.
'You like to think you do go and try and win the game from the off and that's what we try to do. I have never been one to go away from home and try and bed ourselves in and try to consolidate. With the crowd that we bring you have to get on the front foot. They come one hell of a long way to watch us and it is up to us to try and give them something, but we need them every bit as much as they need us.
'When you have (Wes) Hoolahan there and you have (Henri) Lansbury you have got a lot of attacking players. I think David Fox is playing at the top of his game at the minute. I thought Henri again was outstanding. The players we have are really offensive. We've got a system and lads that know their jobs and more importantly lads that give me everything – that is all I can ever ask for.
'I thought our general game was excellent – I thought we were great.
'You are coming to a club where it is really vibrant itself, they've not lost a game at home for a long time and they play in front of a passionate crowd and they are a really good side.
'Every game we play we're underdogs because we're new to the league, every game. It doesn't matter what game you want to ask me, we're underdogs, but what I've got is a group of lads that are playing brilliantly at the minute, top of their game.'