Lambert stays in survival mode
West Brom 1-2 Norwich
Monday 16 January 2012
Schooled as they are in toeing the party line, Norwich City continue to talk of 40-point targets, tough fixtures and, humbler still, "staying in this League". Which leaves the rest of us to argue the case that they look sufficiently organised, driven and equipped not only to survive but to avoid serious anxieties.
This snatched victory over a mystifying West Bromwich Albion, secured by two brilliant breakaway goals, added fuel to the belief that they will succeed where those other first-half fliers in the Premier League's recent past, Burnley and Blackpool, did not.
Norwich's record after 21 games is identical to Blackpool's last season – in points and virtually to the goal. But the current flag-bearers of the cause of unlikely post-promotion success actually appear to be growing stronger.
This was a third straight win of 2012, a fourth consecutive away game undefeated and, above all, another triumph for the pragmatism of Paul Lambert.
No vulnerability is yet detectable around the Canary breast and Lambert even has his players speaking for him while carrying out his intelligent instructions to the letter.
"If you haven't got the mentality and you get ahead of yourselves in this League, you're going to stumble," said their outstanding goalkeeper, John Ruddy. "The manager won't allow us to think about safety. He's brought a mentality where there are no big egos."
Ruddy defied Albion with three fine saves and was an admiring spectator as Norwich twice switched from defence to attack to strike through Andrew Surman and Steve Morison.
Albion created enough to have taken something and the ending of their 343-minute League goal drought was meagre consolation for a seventh home defeat. Shane Long raised hope with a penalty soon after going on but fully understands the exasperation of his manager, Roy Hodgson. The striker said: "We're playing good football and it's just not clicking for us."
Booking: Norwich, Ayala
Man of the match: Ruddy
Referee: M Dean (Wirral)
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