Lambert a master tactician with a golden touch
Chris Lakey Many great managers have been credited with having the Midas touch - and while Paul Lambert has only been at the sharp end of football for almost five years he appears to be making an art form out of his team selection.
Many great managers have been credited with having the Midas touch - and while Paul Lambert has only been at the sharp end of football for almost five years he appears to be making an art form out of his team selection.
Team, for Lambert, means 18 players, starters and subs, which is perhaps why he plays down the use of his bench.
Lambert rarely changes a winning team, but on Saturday he bucked the trend by dropping left back Michael Rose and striker Chris Martin, in favour of Adam Drury and Stephen Elliott.
You may also want to watch:
Drury's excellent season has been interrupted by injury, and to lose your place to maybe the best full-back in the division is no great shame - nevertheless, a hard decision, admitted Lambert.
Martin's demotion was perhaps a little less surprising, although few League One managers would be able to drop a 20-goal striker, whose longest goal drought has been four matches.
- 1 City keeper issues injury update
- 2 'He has all the attributes" - Former coach backs Giannoulis to succeed at City
- 3 City Q&A recap: What does Giannoulis signing mean for Quintilla?
- 4 Matt Howman: Do you want Norwich City to be in the Premier League
- 5 City's Giannoulis move enters the end game
- 6 Six things you might have missed after Norwich City's victory in Cardiff
- 7 Young City winger completes permanent Harrogate Town move
- 8 PROFILE: Raw determination and loan education helped City's incoming left-back emerge at PAOK
- 9 Canaries captain hails 'outstanding' display from Hugill
- 10 Spurs loanee Skipp is a centre-back's dream, according to City skipper
The result was a winning goal that may just have winded Leeds to the extent that the chasing pack really are fighting for second place.
"I just thought he looked a little bit tired," explained Lambert. "I had a word with him during the week and he responded brilliantly, As soon as I told him in training he was excellent, his attitude was excellent, and that's the response you look for.
"People tend to forget he's only 21 years of age and this is, I think, his first full season and he has been brilliant. He's a natural finisher. I've not seen many more natural than he is. I thought he was excellent when he came on, and it was a terrific finish."
The story of the super-subs doesn't end with Martin: the move that led to his goal involved two other subs � - Anthony McNamee, who hooked the ball away midway through his own half, and Stephen Hughes, who collected a header from Grant Holt, ran half the length of the pitch and put in a stunning cross for Martin to get in front of Neil Collins and head home.
"We are a squad of players, a group, not 11 plus subs," said Lambert. "I need everybody to be on it. He (Martin) came on and Stephen put a terrific ball in the box. It was a terrific finish because it wasn't right on his head, he had to duck and dive to get it and I was delighted."
The match wasn't the spectacle that perhaps it could have been, given that the two sides are the best in the division, at least as far as the table is concerned. Aside from Martin, defenders dominated, with Drury making a special return after two months out with a torn thigh muscle and Gary Doherty tucking Jermaine Beckford firmly in his pocket.
"He (Doherty) was first class," said Lambert. "It was a big call to bring Adam back because Michael's been doing well, and Drury was excellent again, but I think Gary Doherty was immense again - and (Michael) Nelson. They have been terrific together for a long time now. The back four as a unit were excellent."
Victory was sweet, given the way Leeds beat City at Elland Road in October, when Beckford struck late on to deny City a point when their efforts deserved much more.
Until Martin popped up, there were shades of that game, but with Leeds this time much more deserving - but Lambert insisted he had faith.
"I always think something can happen," he said. "We have had loads of games where we have scored late goals - we conceded one last week and it was our turn. Leeds did it to us up there and we've done it back."
The turnaround from the first meeting is immense: City have gone from trailing Leeds by 11 points to leading by the same amount.
But whatever you do, don't suggest the champagne is on ice.
"We've had that for weeks on end, people saying we were going to do it," said Lambert. "I try and not listen to everything that goes on, I try to keep myself focused on it.
"It was probably from the outside people were saying the significance of the game. I knew in my own mind it was another game we had to try and win because there are still eight games to go, but it puts the pressure on teams below us.
"We have given ourselves a bit of daylight, we have got four home games to go, and we have given ourselves a little bit of a chance."