Lambert counts only on mathematical safety


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The Independent Football

Paul Lambert believes it will be an "incredible achievement" if Norwich City survive in the Premier League this season, but will take nothing for granted until they are mathematically safe.

Norwich moved on to 21 points, eight points clear of the bottom three, with Tuesday night's 2-2 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers after twice leading through goals from the former Wolves player Andrew Surman and substitute Simeon Jackson, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and then Ronald Zubar levelling matters for Mick McCarthy's side.

Lambert, whose side were promoted last season, said: "I never ever think we are safe. It's an old cliché but until we are mathematically safe, I won't do that. There is a long way to go, there are some really top teams fighting tooth and nail to stop in the league. If we get to May and we have survived, then I think it will be an absolutely incredible achievement.

"I never really put an expectancy level on us and the players. They have done brilliantly for me. Everyone expected us to be bottom after we got promoted, and were tipping that, but we have done great. There is a long way to go, it is going to be really tough but we are doing great. We are playing some good football, competing with teams, but we will take nothing for granted."

Lambert was disappointed his side could not hold on for victory after Jackson had restored their lead with his first touch of the ball. "I think when you go 2-1 up with 10 minutes to go you just might be able to see it through," he said. "But here I am sitting here disappointed at getting a point at Wolves and a point at Everton three days before that. Two years ago we were in League One and it speaks volumes for what the players have done for me."

Mick McCarthy praised the fighting qualities of his players as a share of the spoils edged them two points clear of the bottom three. "To come from behind twice, and the response they gave, I thought the players were great," he said. "No one has left anything on the pitch. They are a great bunch and we will march on and see what happens."

McCarthy took the bold decision to drop striker Kevin Doyle but Ebanks-Blake responded to his call-up in positive fashion. "Sylvan was great," McCarthy said. "He deserved to play. He played well and got his goal. It gives us healthy competition again for those spots up front."

McCarthy was also unsurprised that Surman, a player he bought and sold in the space of 10 months, came up with one of the Norwich goals. "Surman is a good player," the manager acknowledged. "He's had a couple of years playing since he left here. That's the difference. But it seems everyone who ever leaves the club seems to score against me."

The Bolton Wanderers manager, Owen Coyle, has accused Blackburn fans of never giving Rovers' under-fire manager Steve Kean a chance. Kean came in for severe stick from the Rovers supporters during Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat to Bolton at Ewood Park that left them bottom of the Premier League.

Even in a season when he has often borne the brunt of fan frustration, this was a new experience for Kean, with a further demonstration involving hundreds of supporters taking place after the final whistle. The Manchester United striker Michael Owen and former England cricket captain Alec Stewart were among those watching who expressed their distaste at the abuse.

Coyle delivered his own damning verdict, saying: "I do not think they have given Steve Kean any chance from the outset. They have their own reasons for that and ultimately, those who want to be heard shout the loudest. Steve Kean is a terrific coach and manager. All you want is an opportunity.

"We have the best league in the world, but we don't have the 20 best managers in the world, someone has to fill the dreaded places where no one wants to be. I hope he is given the time to do that because he is a genuinely nice person."

It seems a hopeless task for Kean, whose team now face Christmas trips to Liverpool and Manchester United. Yet the Scot insists he still expects to be in charge for the Boxing Day trip to Anfield.

"I expect to be here on Boxing Day," Kean said. I would be completely shocked if they [the owners] decide to replace me, yes."

It had been suggested a board meeting had been convened to take place yesterday. Given that Kean was nearly dismissed earlier this month, it was expected to sound the death knell for his time in charge.

But the Scot insisted that no such meeting was planned. "There is no board meeting," he said. "I spoke to the owners prior to the game and I spoke to them at length yesterday."

Coyle admitted he had played on the home fans' anger before kick-off, telling his players that if Bolton scored first it would have a negative effect.

Mark Davies did exactly that after just four minutes. Nigel Reo-Coker added another half an hour into the contest, so it was no surprise Blackburn were booed off. And, although a much-improved second-half display brought a goal for Yakubu, Rovers could not force another.

"I was disappointed with our first-half performance," Kean admitted. "We never really got started and let Bolton dictate the play.

"I hope I can win the fans over but I can only do that by winning games," he added.