Show of character is big plus for Norwich City boss
AUDIO: Paul Lambert says he took big positives from defeat at high-flying Cardiff City.
The Canaries boss was a frustrated figure in his technical area as he saw his team concede twice inside the opening 12 minutes.
A Wes Hoolahan goal reduced the arrears before Cardiff were awarded a penalty for a harsh handball against Elliott Ward – which proved to be crucial.
However, it was the manner of City's response after the double setback, and their first-half performance, which left Lambert admitting that the disappointment of defeat was lessened by the attitude and commitment of his players.
'You can't give somebody a two-goal start, let alone a team that's going great at the minute, but I thought we were excellent the way we came back and never capitulated or anything like that – but that could easily have been done the way Cardiff have been playing,' he said.
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'I felt we played really well the first half – we had a lot of the ball and caused them a lot of problems and on another day we might have got a couple more, but the penalty I thought was strange.
'You can't say whether it's going to cost you or not, but it certainly contributes to it. It's hard enough coming here and trying to get the game back at 2-0 down, but when you're 3-1 down it's even tougher, but I thought the referee pulled his cards out quicker than Paul Daniels ever does.
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'I thought some of the football we played was very, very good. Disappointed we lost but not too disappointed with the way it happened.'
City went behind to Jay Bothroyd's header as Cardiff repeated a corner kick routine of a few minutes earlier, and Michael Chopra made it two after Bothroyd flicked on a long goal-kick.
'We should have won the header from the set piece, and the second one was just a straight ball from the goalkeeper into the heart of us,' said Lambert.
'But the lads know, they don't need me to stand and tell them exactly what's happened. As I have said before, we've been on a terrific roll since we've been here and we are still up here.'
The opening 45-minute performance wasn't reflected in the half-time scoreline.
'I thought first half we were excellent,' said Lambert. 'Even though we were 2-0 down we still had a lot of the game and a lot of chances to get goals back and I thought the goal was great from Wes, but the penalty right after we scored – I think you have got to be 100pc right to give a big call like that and I would have to see it again, but whether it was a penalty or not I don't know.
'It looked as if the ball went to his hand, it wasn't the other way around. The referee said it was his opinion, but in my opinion I thought he got it wrong. But sometimes you get them sometimes you don't.'
The response was what Lambert will have enjoyed against a team for whom victory meant a place at the top of the Championship table.
'That's the positives I take out of it,' he said. 'There won't be many teams that come here and maybe have a lot of the ball the way we did, but as I said, on another day Simeon (Jackson) might have scored and things might have broken for us, and Grant gets the goal chopped off – but we have had chances to get more goals. Whether it was going to win (it) you don't know, but I can't be too critical.'
The reality is that Cardiff were play-off final losers last season and are going great guns this time around, with a squad that is perhaps without equal at this level.
'You have got to try and be a realist,' said Lambert. 'They just missed out on going up to the Premiership last year, they have added to that again this year so logic tells you they are going to be there or thereabouts again. The crowd are vibrant, a terrific arena to play football. We are new – we gave everything we had.
'I can't fault my lads for effort, they gave me everything they have got. The first half we gave as good as we got. Second half was a bit scrappy and nothing really clear-cut, but I can't fault my team.'