Lambert - We got just what we deserved

Chris Lakey Paul Lambert praised his players for failing to be blown off course at a gusty Victoria Park on Saturday - but insisted there is more to come. The Canaries boss chopped and changed his side again, but saw City dominate a side which just avoided relegation last season.

Chris Lakey

Paul Lambert praised his players for failing to be blown off course at a gusty Victoria Park on Saturday - but insisted there is more to come.

The Canaries boss chopped and changed his side again, but saw City dominate a side which just avoided relegation last season.

Michael Nelson, on his return to the club he left in the summer, and Stephen Hughes got the goals - both perhaps good examples of why he believes there is more work to be done with the squad he inherited less than a fortnight ago.


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Nelson started the first game of the season, the defeat by Lambert's Colchester, and hadn't kicked a ball in anger until Saturday, while Hughes' pre-season was interrupted by fitness concerns.

But Lambert recalled Nelson at the expense of Gary Doherty, the opening goal silencing the local boo-boys who had quickly forgotten six years of loyal service.

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"I thought Michael was great," said Lambert.

"The goal was brilliant - and to come back to your old stomping ground - but I thought his general defensive play was excellent, which is why he's there. His goal was a bonus."

Hughes is a different case: after two appearances as a substitute, Lambert gave him his full debut in his first match in charge last weekend and then kept him in on Saturday.

But while the Scot excelled alongside Korey Smith in the middle of the park, Lambert sees him as one of those who might need weeks, rather than a couple of games, to show his true value.

"It's considering they have not played, that's the thing - they haven't played many games a lot of the lads and they are still playing catch-up with their fitness," said Lambert.

"So all we can do is keep them as vibrant as we can and get them to do that and hopefully a few months down the line the fitness levels will be where I think they should be."

While some managers may frown upon players who they consider are still playing "catch-up" Lambert, with advance warning from the Colchester game, has put the emphasis on team shape - and on Saturday it helped produce his first clean sheet as a defensive wall protected new keeper Fraser Forster.

"It's not just the defence, it's the whole team we have had to work on," Lambert said.

"We thought they played really open when we were at Colchester and we just came in and gave them a little bit of stability.

"There is still a country mile to go before the lads are where you want them, but the response we have had has been brilliant."

City never looked in danger on Saturday - and it could have been more than 2-0, with Lambert convinced Smith should have earned a penalty in the first half.

"I think it was a penalty - I think it was neck high on Smith - and Grant Holt had a chance at the back," he said.

"It could have been more, but Hartlepool is a tough place to come. I thought we started the game really well and I thought we deserved to win if the truth be known.

"This is a really tough place to come - I thought the lads were terrific.

"In League One you sometimes have to win the battle before you win anything and today I thought they were great."

Fraser Forster came in for on-loan keeper Ben Alnwick, who was sporting a large scar under his left eye and failed a fitness test demanded by his club, Tottenham.

And while Forster - on a month's emergency loan from Newcastle - was never overworked, one smart reaction in the second half helped keep the clean sheet

"I thought his reaction for the save was great and he will do great for us," said Lambert, who said Tottenham now decide whether Alnwick will be able to play in tomorrow's Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie with Brentford at Carrow Road.

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