Lambert looks to Chris and Oli
Norwich boss Paul Lambert is adamant red-hot striker Chris Martin can fill Grant Holt's boots in tonight's League One test at Walsall.Lambert is poised to unleash Martin, from Beccles, and fellow young gun Oli Johnson on the Saddlers after their match-winning Brentford double act at the weekend.
Norwich boss Paul Lambert is adamant red-hot striker Chris Martin can fill Grant Holt's boots in tonight's League One test at Walsall.
Lambert is poised to unleash Martin, from Beccles, and fellow young gun Oli Johnson on the Saddlers after their match-winning Brentford double act at the weekend.
The City chief is convinced Martin can spearhead the table topping Canaries' attack in the absence of suspended 23-goal sidekick Holt who serves the first of his three-match ban for Saturday's dismissal against the Bees.
“He is capable of taking on a little bit of extra responsibility,” said Lambert. “If it was going to go against us then you feel it would have been on Saturday when he got sent off. All credit to the lads it was a huge effort and Chrissy showed what he's all about. His finishing is brilliant.
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“I think he is a superb finisher with both feet and he is one of those lads I think if you give him a chance he will score. That is a great thing to have. If he gets a chance, more times than not he will hit the target or make the goalkeeper do something.”
Lambert refused to reveal Martin's new strike partner but hinted Johnson could be in line for promotion after a series of impressive late cameos since his recent Stockport switch.
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The City chief has limited attacking options at his disposal with Cody McDonald and the out-of-favour Jamie Cureton the only real alternatives to the raw 22-year-old.
Johnson teed up Martin for his 16th of the campaign against the Bees - although Lambert is keen to dampen down growing hype around his new terrace idol.
“Whoever comes in will do great,” he said. “I think there is probably an unfair expectancy level around him. The crowd is singing his name which shows you the impact he has made but he is a young lad who has only came out of non-league football for 15 or so months. He did great at Stockport but then he has come down here and I just hope people don't expect him to produce every time what he is managing at the moment.
“He is lighting the place up and his assist on Saturday was terrific. Let's give him a little bit of time - but he won't let us down, that is for sure. If you can get lads who play without the fear factor then it's a great opportunity. Usually the experienced lads have to play under that pressure because the crowd will give the younger ones a bit more breathing space until they get a little older and take on the mantle themselves.”
Lambert admits, however, City could have unearthed a gem.
“He burst onto the scene at Stockport but you have to remember he has not been a professional for long,” he said. “We saw him at Colchester and thought this lad is not too bad. Maybe you can lose your way at certain times in your career and you have to remember Stockport is in a wee bit of trouble with the finances so you have to factor that in as well.
“We had to decide whether he could come here and step up again knowing there might be a little lull down the line.
“The impact for us in these past few games has been terrific. I think he can be a really good player but you have to give him time to adjust to being in this environment. You can compare him with the likes of Korey (Smith) who has been brought up through the ranks here and now playing regularly. He hasn't been in and out of the team like perhaps Oli has.”
Lambert insists City can cope without their talismanic focal point leading the line over the next few games.
“No, I don't think we need to change the system or anything like that,” he said. “The thing is we have players who can adapt to it because they had to on Saturday, so I know they can play different ways. Players make the system, it's not the system making the players and the better ones you have the easier it becomes.
“It would be lovely to build some system that would stroll it every time but it never happens that way. The lads are fine and enjoying the way we are playing. The thing with losing Grant is the focus is going to be on the striker but I know we have lads who can adapt because they have shown me more times than not so I don't have a problem.”
Lambert is convinced Holt's Brentford red card will not check City's promotion surge.
“I've seen the challenge since and we won't be appealing it,” said Lambert. “I still think the initial challenge on him is a foul and should have been a free kick. There was no advantage so why wasn't it given? If the ref had blown the whistle for the first incident, the second doesn't occur.
“I don't see where the advantage was because he was running into a ruck of bodies. I've seen it on the television and it doesn't do him any favours but I still stick by him. Grant is not a malicious footballer. He has been brilliant for us but, in my view, the initial decision by the ref was wrong - it should have been pulled back.”