Self-inflicted wounds a concern for Norwich City

Paul Lambert is urging his side to cut out the 'silly' mistakes undermining their Premier League return.

City paid a high price for fresh self-inflicted wounds after Anthony Pilkington's superb first-half free-kick had opened the scoring.

Darren Bent pounced from close range to convert Gabriel Agbonlahor's cross before the Villa youth product cashed in on a costly defensive lapse just after the restart. Agbonlahor then took advantage of more generous defending from the Canaries to pick out Bent for his second before Steve Morison's header set up another thrilling finale.

Lambert was quick to again praise his men's character, but warned them they must become more streetwise to survive in the top flight.

'You can't defend like that and expect to come away with anything,' he said. 'The thing about it is we don't stop, we keep on going. That is there in abundance but we can't give goals like that away. It was a silly goal just after half-time which puts you on the back foot. That ball has to go into row Z, right in the stands. There is no grey area there. The pass back initially was the mistake. You have to kick it where he can't score from it.

'I'm sure Leon (Barnett) will learn if it does happen again. His general game is very good – just that general mistake. The second goal was a blow because it was really sloppy from us and the third might have been even worse, but we kept going and if we keep doing that we'll be okay. It was poor. It was our own mistake and that was the most annoying thing today. A lot of mistakes were of our own doing.'

Barnett and Russell Martin endured one of their more uncomfortable afternoons at Villa Park since being paired in harness. Lambert insists watching City breached three times for the second consecutive week is not a major worry.

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'Any goal you lose is a concern,' he said. 'Listen, the second goal you can't legislate for that. That is just a slack back pass. There is no amount of training you want to do in the world. Anybody can go back to training and practice passing the ball back, you could do that. We just got caught short and we should have kicked it into the stand.'

Lambert agreed Norwich had grounds for complaint when Stephen Warnock clearly handled Elliott Bennett's attempted pass in the build-up to Villa's equaliser following Pilkington's stunning free-kick.

'It looked handball to me from where I was standing,' he said. 'Whether it was ball to hand or hand to ball the referee will interpret it how he sees fit. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. It looked like handball. I know the referee only has one call, one take on it. When you get to 1-1 at a place like this with the crowd right on their side we saw it through until half-time which was good. We had that foothold in the game, but the second was poor from our point of view. We then got back into it with a great ball and great header and that gave us the lifeline again to kick on. To be fair they have that hunger and that desire to kick on in abundance, but you can't give away goals like we did every week and expect to keep coming back.'

Lambert confirmed midfielder Bradley Johnson was withdrawn after suffering concussion. The City chief conceded Johnson's early exit proved a real blow against a rampant Villa frontline.

'I think the lad (Charles) N'Zogbia cost more than my whole team,' he said. 'That is the way the market is, that is the way football is. I trust my group of players to go and perform. You can count on the one hand the number of times in the two and half years when they haven't performed. You look at the money they have spent, but we matched them and we gave them a fright. If you ask Alex McLeish I'm pretty sure he would say we gave them a fright.'