Young Canary Matt on the ball for Norwich City

Academy skipper Matt Ball says City's rising stars get a buzz out of playing in front of manager Paul Lambert.

The Canaries boss and his senior management team – assistant Ian Culverhouse, head of football operations Gary Karsa, goalkeeping coach Laurence Batty and chief scout Ewan Chester – were all watching from the stands as City advanced to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic.

It was Ball who scored the decisive goal – and he says the presence of the City hierarchy is an inspiration.

'It gives you the chance to go on and play and train with them and it gives you a bit of extra confidence that you can go and do it because they care about you and they know you are there,' said Ball. 'If you don't know they are there you don't really get that feeling that they like you, so it's good, it's an incentive.

The 17-year-old midfielder was a surprise inclusion on the first-team bench for the midweek home game against Crystal Palace in mid-October – a first taste of senior football that simply loaded up the incentives.


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'I was overwhelmed,' said the Northern Ireland Under-19 international. 'It just came out of the blue really. Ricky (Academy boss Ricky Martin) and Neil (assistant coach Neil Adams) called me into the office on the Monday morning and they just said, 'you're training with them today and you're in the squad tomorrow, which I was very pleased about.

'You are around all the players around the training ground and they obviously welcome you in and make it easier for you.

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'Now I have to keep on plugging away and hopefully get another chance.'

Scoring winning goals in cup ties won't do his cause any harm, although Ball was thankful for the get out of jail card handed to him by goalkeeper Jed Steer, who produced a brilliant last-minute penalty save after Ball had been caught shirt-tugging.

'He let me off the hook to be fair and kept us in the game,' said Ball. 'He did excellent throughout the game as well.

'To be honest I didn't really know much about my goal. I have just crossed it in and it's gone into the back of the net, which you just have to take sometimes. It's the first goal of the game and that wins the game.'

Playing at Carrow Road is a rare experience for the Academy, whose form this season has taken them to the top of the Premier Academy League Section A, despite a succession of injuries.

'It's a great experience,' said Ball. 'You are a bit nervous at the start, but once you get going you are alright and you just carry on playing like a normal game. I think the team is quite a confident team. We are not arrogant, we are confident – we do get a bit nervous, but we come through it and win games.

'We have only got one game before Christmas and a lot of the injured players will be coming back, so when January comes around we will be fit and ready for whatever it brings us.

'We just had to go out and win the game. Ricky said to us before the game, 'just go out and win it', and we did that.'

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