Norwich City boss Lambert hopes for injury boost

Manager Paul Lambert will be hoping for better news from the treatment room as Norwich City prepare for four Championship matches in the space of nine days.

The Canaries moved up to fifth in the table as skipper Grant Holt’s second-half double gave them a 2-1 victory at Coventry, but they have fresh injury concerns ahead of the Boxing Day game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (1pm).

Wes Hoolahan – whose appearance as a substitute at the Ricoh Arena lasted just 14 minutes – and defender Russell Martin both picked up thigh injuries, while midfielder Andrew Crofts missed the match after a bout of flu’.

Defender Leon Barnett was also absent, serving a one-match suspension for his sending-off against Portsmouth, and must wait to see if there is any further ban when he faces an FA hearing on Wednesday on a charge of “improper conduct”.

Lambert admitted that victory over the Sky Blues, City’s fifth away success of the campaign, was all the more creditable in view of the long list of absentees.

He said: “If you look at it, ‘Crofty’ has been ill for the last few days, Leon had the red card, I’ve got Andrew Surman who’s still missing, and Adam Drury – four huge, huge players. But you have to give the lads credit. Even the ones who have been in and out, fluctuating and trying to get into the side, have been an absolute credit to the football club and to their team-mates.”

Hoolahan replaced striker Simeon Jackson during the second half at Coventry but quickly had to make way for Anthony McNamee.

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“He’s picked up a dead leg and he’s struggling to get about. We couldn’t take any chance with him,” said Lambert.

“Russell Martin’s got a dead leg as well but they’ve got over a week to try to recover and we’ll try to get them back as quickly as we can.”

Lambert said midfielder Henri Lansbury also had a swollen ankle from the challenge that earned Coventry’s Aron Gunnarsson a red card during the first half.

Of the long-term casualties, only full-back Drury is given a realistic chance of returning during the Christmas and New Year programme, when Sunday’s game at Palace is followed by home games against Sheffield United (December 28) and Queens Park Rangers (January 1) and a trip to Middlesbrough (January 3).

Still sidelined by injury are Steven Smith (hip), Stephen Hughes (ankle), Surman (knee), Matthew Gill (calf) and Zak Whitbread (hamstring).

One bonus for Lambert was the performance of Michael Nelson, who replaced Barnett at centre-half after a four-month absence from the first team with an ankle injury.

“Michael Nelson, after a few months out, was terrific for me,” he said.

City’s victory was only their fourth in 53 visits to Coventry in all competitions, and it maintained their remarkable record of not losing two successive games under Lambert in the same season.

“When you get beaten you try to bounce back as quickly as you can and yet again the lads have done it,” he said.