Lambert hails Smith for stepping up to mark
Norwich City defender Steven Smith had no time to get nervous before starting his first full Championship match, insisting: “I was ready for it.”
The 25-year-old Scot was thrust into manager Paul Lambert’s eleven at Bristol City just minutes before kick-off on Saturday when Adam Drury suffered a hamstring injury in the pre-match warm-up.
Left-back Smith, who sustained an ankle injury during the Canaries’ summer friendly in Germany, was the last of Lambert’s seven summer signings to make his senior debut when he played the final 10 minutes of Tuesday’s 4-3 home win over Leicester.
But he was in from the start at Ashton Gate to help his new club to their third away win of the season, a convincing 3-0 success that kept them third in the table after 10 games.
“I saw Adam go down in the warm-up and I didn’t know if he was playing or not, so I joined in and when we came back in from the warm-up the manager said ‘You’re playing’. So it was pretty short notice,” said Smith.
“I knew I had a chance of starting so I got the mental side of my game right before I went out. I was pretty much prepared for it.
“I played 90 minutes for the reserves during the week. I was stiff after that – that’s probably the first 90 minutes I’d played in about four or five months – so that probably helped me out. It was just good to get 80 minutes under my belt in a proper match.
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“I’ve waited a few months for it to come so it was something I really enjoyed. The result helps that and the boys helped me.”
Smith made way for David Fox four minutes from time and admitted he was tiring by that stage as the Robins channelled most of their attacks down his side of the field.
He said: “I think they saw me tiring a bit, which was pretty obvious. I could feel myself struggling with 20 minutes to go, so they overloaded that side.
“But all the boys worked hard, Simon Lappin in front of me did a lot of work to help me out, and the back four kept a clean sheet so it was a real team effort.”
Smith needed treatment in the closing stages but confessed: “That was just me taking a breather – that was not anything serious. I was just trying to get my breath back and trying to run the clock down a little bit.”
City face a fortnight without a game before the trip to leaders Queens Park Rangers on October 16, but Smith believes his team-mates would happily play on.
He said: “I don’t think the boys would mind. They want to carry their form on and they want to play midweek and then the weekend again but it’s just good to get the win before the two-week break.
“I think it’s the momentum – last season, with getting promotion, everyone got used to winning games and that’s something the manager drills into you.
“The boys came up last year and they’ve just carried that on. All credit to them. I’ve sat and watched most of the games. The last few games I’ve been on the bench the boys have been fantastic and they were the same again today.”
Lambert was very happy with Smith’s contribution.
“He’s got a little bit of a knock but he’s OK. He’s really, really tired, which you expect but I thought he was excellent when he came in,” said the City boss, forced into requesting a late change by Drury’s mishap.
“Common sense prevailed. If it happened to a Bristol City lad, I’d never have any problems with it. It’s part and parcel of the game.
“It was about 10 minutes or so before the game. It was either that or risk Adam and then he might be out for weeks. Now he has two weeks to recover – but I thought Steven came in and was brilliant.”