Victory for Norwich City all that matters
Win, win, win – that’s the only message from Norwich City manager Paul Lambert before the game that could take the club back to the Premier League.
The Canaries know that if Cardiff are beaten by Middlesbrough in today’s early evening kick-off, they can clinch promotion to the top flight by beating Portsmouth at Fratton Park (7.45pm) in the second part of the televised Championship double-header.
They are still two big ‘ifs’ but Lambert will not waste nervous energy keeping tabs on the score from the Cardiff City Stadium. He simply wants his team to concentrate on beating Pompey in their final away match of the season in front of more than 3,000 travelling fans.
“I can’t influence what happens at Cardiff,” said Lambert.
“It doesn’t matter. If Cardiff win, we have to win. If Cardiff lose, we have to win. If Cardiff draw, we have to win. And if you win, you go into the last game in quite a strong position.
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“We will try to win against a really good side. If Cardiff lose and we win, that’s it. It’s finished.”
With Queens Park Rangers promoted as champions on Saturday after their 2-0 win at Watford – barring a significant points deduction at this week’s FA hearing into transfer irregularities – it is a straight fight for second place between the Bluebirds and the Canaries. Swansea retain a very slender mathematical chance of second spot if Cardiff and Norwich both collapse horribly, but will not be holding their breath.
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Portsmouth inflicted one of only four home defeats on City this season when they won 2-0 at Carrow Road in December, and Steve Cotterill’s team could become the first to double Norwich since Lambert became manager in August 2009.
“Portsmouth turned us over. I thought we played very, very well that day. But we got beaten,” said Lambert.
“There’s no point playing well if you’re losing. If I can reverse it and play poorly down there and win it, I’ll take it.”
The City boss believes his players have the right attitude to complete the job in the final two matches as they strive to take the club back to the Premier League after a gap of six years and complete back-to-back promotions.
He said: “You have to be strong in the head and I think they’ve got that in abundance – that mentality to see games through and see it over the line. That’s one thing I’ll never question, their mentality, because I know how strong they are and what they give me, week in, week out.
“Whatever happens this season, they have been brilliant for me.
“They’re not casual, they’re not egotistical, not flamboyant with it.
They come and do their work and if we get results, I’m delighted for them.
“There’s no fear factor from them.”
He accepts, however, that City’s fate is now in the players’ hands at this stage of the season.
“Once you cross that white line, there’s nothing a manager can do,” he said. “There’s not much more we can do. It’s the lads now. They know we’re right at their back, whatever happens I’ll back them to the hilt because of what they’ve done. I know what they’ve done, I know the form they’re in. They’re playing some great, great football in games and they have been colossal for me.”
Lambert’s main injury concern is defender Zak Whitbread, substituted during the second half of the 3-2 home win over Derby on Easter Monday because of a hip problem. On-loan defender Rob Edwards replaced him against the Rams.