Norwich City clean up in Lambert soap opera

Chris Lakey Colchester United 0, Norwich City 5: Paul Lambert will be penning scripts for Coronation Street next, judging by the success of his very own Norwich City soap opera. It's taken him five months and the series has a few more scenes to go yet, but he's getting there.

Chris Lakey

Paul Lambert will be penning scripts for Coronation Street next, judging by the success of his very own Norwich City soap opera.

It's taken him five months and the series has a few more scenes to go yet, but he's getting there.

This could prove to be the most dramatic episode of the lot - even though Lambert promises a grand finale to beat them all next May - with bags of background material leading to a climax that no one predicted.

Every big production needs its goodies and baddies: Lambert cast himself in the role of bad guy right from the start when he switched allegiance from Colchester to Norwich, and that introduced the likes of Robbie Cowling, the snarling, brash East Ender who didn't take kindly to the defection - and made sure everyone knew about it.

All the regional animosity came to the fore in an amazing twist to the tale on Saturday, as City's mudlarks finally silenced chairman Rob on a day of controversy, attitude, some quite explosive action from City and some quite deplorable behaviour from fans who should know better.

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Lambert was made about as welcome as Maggie Thatcher at a miners' social as he took up his position in the dug-out area.

It increased tensions in the crowd - which thinned a little each time City scored a goal as Canaries fans who had slipped into home areas could hold their joy no longer and gave away their bolt-holes.

As the goals went in the insults began to tail off, and by the time City had metaphorically rubbed Cowling's nose into the quagmire of a pitch the home fans began leaving.

Most kept their heads down. One decided it would be fun to run on to the pitch and challenge 1,900 fans (and counting) to a fight.

The police thought otherwise and jumped on top of him, driving him into the mud before escorting him out.

Clearly there was a village missing an idiot for the afternoon, although it does prompt a few questions that, should the FA be minded to ask them, might make life a little difficult for Mr Cowling who, don't forget, is taking City to a Football League Disciplinary Commission over the way that Lambert was recruited.

What if the FA ask how a fan could get on to the pitch - a pitch, incidentally, that was in a pretty shameful state?

What if they ask how Norwich fans managed to bypass their ticketing system and get into home areas of the ground?

What if they ask why Lambert had to abort two attempts to hold a press conference outside the tunnel area because of the foul-mouthed abuse coming from Colchester fans of all ages, some perched around the tunnel entrance, others up in the gods near the executive boxes.

If memory serves, the executive boxes at the old Layer Road spewed forth similar morons who insulted then manager Glenn Roeder after City had drawn 1-1 there in December 2007.

All Lambert was trying to do was explain how his side had managed to win 5-0 at one of their nearest rivals, thus heaping more pressure on leaders Leeds, who were beaten at Exeter and now hold just a three-point lead with a game in hand.

The two games against Colchester have been pivotal this season: the first, of course, led to a managerial change which brought in Lambert - five months ago today to be exact - although no one knows what would have happened had Bryan Gunn, a spectator on Saturday, remained in charge.

But it happened, and a new chapter unfolded.

Now, even though Lambert jokingly said afterwards there were "about 400 games to go" another game against Colchester has provided another unbelievable and perhaps highly significant result.

Leeds are perhaps too good to be shaking in their boots, but with an FA Cup trip to Spurs and a possible Wembley appearance in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final ahead, and a team right up their backsides, they can be forgiven for being a little edgy.

One valuable commodity City had on Saturday that Colchester didn't was class.

Colchester went at City straight away, but David Fox and Antony Wordsworth were wasteful in front of goal.

City's first attack came on 16 minutes, and Chris Martin scored.

It wasn't just a goal, it was a smashing goal, Martin sliding the ball home from the edge of the area with enough power to defy the muddy surface.

Wordsworth and Clive Platt couldn't match that technique, although the excellent Michael Nelson and Gary Doherty were frustrating their attempts, and on the stroke of half-time Martin struck again.

His touch was classy, but it was a goal that was about five players - Nelson for winning a header, Simon Lappin and Darel Russell for refusing to yield possession, Grant Holt for a magnificent first-time ball down the middle and Martin for taking over when the awful Dan Batth failed to cut it out. There was plenty to do, but Martin made the chip over the sprawling keeper look simple. It was simply superb.

City's killer instincts put them in the driving seat and from then on there was only one team in it. Colchester made errors, City took advantage.

Four minutes after the break it was all over as Wes Hoolahan saw Doherty's burst into the area at a free-kick and when Magnus Okuonghae could only whack his clearance at his rivals' legs, Doherty smashed it into the roof of the net for his fifth league goal of the season.

Hoolahan missed a penalty just before the hour mark after Okuonghae had pulled Holt in the area, smashing the ball against the bar and then putting in the rebound - before anyone had touched it.

Remarkably, it was City's first attempt that hadn't counted.

The Irishman, maybe still suffering from last week's virus, made way for Oli Johnson who promptly set about raising his stock even further.

He's now totted up 31 minutes as a City player but, as Lambert says, is practically a cult hero.

His first big touch was a run into the area and a blocked shot, the second was City's fourth goal, when he picked up possession when Pat Baldwin's short ball across the back four didn't reach its destination, got into the area and slotted it into the far corner.

Holt tried manfully to get on the scoresheet and eventually got his way when he read what was going to happen to Fraser Forster's long clearance: Baldwin failed to cut it out and Holt was already there to take it around keeper Ben Williams and slide it home.

There was time for former City player Ian Henderson to get himself sent off for a two-footed lunge on one-time team-mate Russell in time added on.

Referee Mike Dean booked 10 players - four City and six Colchester - but it was never a really dirty game.

There was one handbags incident, but the muck was flying around the pitch not, despite the conditions, on it.

Just another day in the life of Paul Lambert and Norwich City Football Club.