Crofts helps save Barnett’s blushes

Defender Leon Barnett cut a relieved figure at the final whistle after Norwich City’s 2-1 win at Sheffield United.

The former West Bromwich Albion man admitted he was at fault for Ched Evans’ equaliser at Bramall Lane despite an otherwise near faultless performance and said he was in Andrew Crofts’ debt as the midfielder fired home the winner late on to hand Norwich all three Championship points.

“Their goal was my fault and I hold up my hands to it,” said Barnett, who has been one of the club’s outstanding performers so far this season. “He (Evans) has done well there after I got too tight.

“But I’ve got to thank Crofty for the two goals and that was a bit of a relief for me.”

Barnett had to be at his best in a first half that saw Norwich outplayed for long spells, but the Blades could not turn their superiority into goals.

Former Carrow Road loanee Evans was causing problems alongside debutant Marcus Bent but Barnett believes the Canaries managed to turn things round in the second half thanks to the number of strong personalities they now have in their side.

“It’s good to have great leaders in the team because when you’re down you’ve always got someone rallying behind you,” he said. “Everyone was staying positive and the boys are always on at each other to try to win the ball. We’ve got a great set of leaders in the team.”

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Barnett conceded that City weren’t always at their best but believes the old adage of teams still winning despite not playing very well rings true for manager Paul Lambert.

“If you look at Manchester United they are not playing well but they are still doing the business,” he said. “We’re doing the same here and trying to go as many games as we can unbeaten. It was always going to be a bit of a battle and we took the game by the scruff of the neck and played our football in the second half.”

Saturday highlighted the value of set pieces as Crofts benefited from United failing to clear their lines properly at corners. Blades goalkeeper Steve Simonsen was adamant that he was fouled for the first goal but Barnett didn’t see anything wrong.

“I couldn’t see why they were complaining. I thought it was a great strike by Crofty – although it did hit his knee, shin and then his toe,” he joked.

“It’s always great to get the goals from set pieces and a bit of luck went our way and credit to Crofty as well.”

Barnett has been one of the mainstays of Norwich’s central defence this season while Saturday’s partner, Zak Whitbread, looked assured alongside him. Some tough decisions lie in wait for Lambert as Elliott Ward nears a comeback from injury while Michael Nelson will also be looking to force his way in.

“Elliott has been out for a while and the gaffer is going to have a good problem to have with four fit centre-halves,” admitted Barnett. “But we get on quite well as a team and I think that’s a massive bonus.”

Norwich’s win moved them up to third in the Championship table but Lambert’s refusal to entertain talk of promotion has permeated into his squad and Barnett insisted no one was getting any ideas above their station despite their lofty position.

“We’re excited but we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” he said. “It’s only half a season – we’ve still got nearly 20 games to go.

“As a team, from the boys who are not playing to John Ruddy in goal, we are all in this together and we work really hard for each other.”

After being frozen out at West Bromwich, Barnett is loving life at Norwich and revealed how much he was enjoying the attacking style of play that Lambert encourages at Carrow Road.

“As soon as I came here I realised that the boys play football and I thought they were going to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season,” he said. “I feel quite fortunate to be playing with the players around me.”

Lambert said: “Leon Barnett was colossal the whole game, him and Zak, and the one lapse in concentration was when he got rolled - he will know himself.

“He’ll learn. He’s only young and to get rolled in the box is probably a cardinal sin if you’re a defender, but his whole game, I thought he was brilliant.”