Photo Gallery: Struggling Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert left behind by Norwich City

For the avoidance of any lingering doubt, Norwich City do not need Paul Lambert to be a Premier League success story.

The Scot is a footnote in the club's recent history. Chris Hughton's stamp is now all over this squad. No longer is it Lambert's players and Hughton's additions.

The celebrations around the away dugout and the euphoric outpouring of joy in front of the away end that greeted Michael Turner's glancing equaliser underlined the chapter is closed.

Lambert was lucky his reunion did not turn sour for a man who trademarked triumphing against the odds whilst at the helm of the Canaries. Lambert will need all of his famed alchemist's touch to transform a club that owes its elevated status to the toil of past heroes. Villa's collection of unproven Premier League performers were indebted to an inspired performance from Brad Guzan and City's own lack of precision in the final third.

Joe Bennett's sending off may well have tilted the contest firmly in Norwich's favour, but the young full-back deserved to go for a foolish tug on Elliott Bennett after a similarly kamikaze piece of defending when he wiped out the same player during the first period.

Lambert celebrated Christian Benteke's opener with the zeal of a man to whom this was a defining day. Villa needed a result after their worst start to a season since 1986 and who better for sacrificial lambs than his former employers.

If you set aside the on-going legal wrangling, the common denominator was Lambert versus many of the lads he helped mould into an effective fighting unit that stormed their way through the Football League.

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Yet the abiding image on the day was of a man slumped at the front of his dugout; pondering how to nullify a superior Norwich side with the additional handicap of a numerical disadvantage.

Lambert was deified for his feats in Norfolk. Quite rightly, but here City's travelling support were indifferent to the Hall of Famer in their midst. The boy from Linwood turned to the Holte End in search of affection when Benteke profited from Turner's indecision. That commodity was in short supply at the final whistle as he scuttled towards the exit with a cacophony of boos ringing in his ears from the home audience.

Wes Hoolahan earned an embrace from his former mentor at the mouth of the tunnel; the first time all afternoon anyone fighting the claret and blue cause had got remotely close to shackling the impish Dubliner.

The contradiction inherent in Lambert's early work in the Midlands compared to his glorious City masterpiece was self-evident. For a man who prized the team ethic above everything else, his Villa oufit looked a disparate group of individuals. It was a Lambert team, but not as we know it in these parts; woefully inadequate and lacking in confidence or leadership.

Benteke and Guzan were the stand-outs, but it was the collective cohesiveness of the men in yellow that offered the dominant pattern; topped by a player in Hoolahan who seems to be maturing like fine wine. Yes, he was foiled twice by Guzan in an underlying trend of frustration for the visitors, but Hoolahan was also the decisive factor at numerous junctures.

Definitive statements would be premature on the evidence of the last 180 minutes from City's Premier League season. Nevertheless, Hughton looks to have settled on a system that embellishes the constituent parts at his disposal. The fluctuating currents of form and fitness allied to the strengths and weaknesses of each fresh opponent will dictate revisions over time, but the template looks a comfortable fit.

Hoolahan is largely free of defensive strictures to weave his magical patterns and influence the game where it matters most – on the periphery of the opposition's penalty area.

Grant Holt will know full well even the brilliance of Guzan should have been no defence when he raced onto the Irishman's brave through ball late in the second period only to strike the American's legs. It was a role reversal of Holt's earlier threaded pass for Hoolahan, when Guzan's left foot diverted a goalbound shot around his left-hand upright.

Holt and Hoolahan in tandem offer a perfect union. Both have amassed enough experience from well-travelled careers to supplement innate talent which Hughton, like his predecessor, has harnessed for the greater good of the Canaries

They may have found a keeper at the top of his game at Villa Park, but in the course of an arduous campaign you suspect they will influence plenty more games at this level in similarly positive fashion.

Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey may not have roamed quite as effectively as the previous week's red letter day against Arsenal, but after Villa's initial surge either side of Benteke's goal, the visitors were able to establish a solid platform to erect a permanent bridgehead deep in Villa territory.

The home side's muscular Belgian exposed a flaw in the burgeoning defensive alliance between Turner and Sebastien Bassong. It was a rare aberration in a shift which again offered plenty of protection for John Ruddy – one smart low stop aside from Benteke early in the second period. Joe Bennett's dismissal barely five minutes later clearly provided a major fault line, but Norwich had been the better team even before he hauled back his namesake. The youngster's exit merely accentuated the prevailing trend.

Villa dropped deeper towards Guzan. Bassong was invited forward with impunity. Hughton injected fresh impetus from the sidelines with Johnson sacrificed for Steve Morison and Robert Snodgrass urged to use his trickery to unlock the massed ranks of Villa defenders.

Guzan delighted in foiling Holt as Norwich rumbled towards his goal; the celebrations were to prove premature when Villa's undermanned backline allowed Hoolahan and Snodgrass to work a quick set piece before Turner's near post flick sparked delirium in the visiting battalions.

Ryan Bennett hacked behind from close range then diverted Javier Garrido's diagonal ball into the path of Snodgrass in stoppage time, but the midfielder could only poke onto the roof of Guzan's net.

Villa survived. Norwich had to settle for an honourable draw. On reflection City will have taken much more from the first meeting with their former manager and his familar sidekick.

If this game at Villa Park was about anything other than three Premier League points, it was an affirmation of just how far both the Canaries and Lambert have come. But on this evidence, the Scot has a rockier road ahead.