Paul Lambert has the final word against Norwich City

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Brad Guzan saves Robert Snodgrass' first-half penalty with the score at 0-0.GettyImagesBrad Guzan saves Robert Snodgrass' first-half penalty.

The sight of Paul Lambert striding onto the Carrow Road pitch to bask in terrace adulation used to be a measure of Norwich City's accelerated progress. Now it induces a sick sensation within the Canaries' fan base.

Lambert was feted again by Aston Villa's travelling hordes at the final whistle after masterminding a third consecutive win on Norfolk soil, this time a 1-0 triumph, since his acrimonious departure for the Birmingham club in the summer of 2012.

Libor Kozak's first-half close-range finished brought Villa three Premier League points and inflicted a first home defeat of the season on Chris Hughton's squad. It was also Villa's first clean sheet in 27 league games -- a statistic that owed much to the agility of Brad Guzan. The American international keeper foiled Robert Snodgrass from the penalty spot after a bizarre episode where the Scottish international appeared to pull rank on club-record Dutch signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel to claim the spot kick duties after Ciaran Clark was adjudged to have handled Snodgrass' flick back. An exasperated Hughton seemed to indicate in his post-match media interviews he expected Van Wolfswinkel to step up rather than defer to the 'confident' Snodgrass.

- Hughes: Villa tough it out to win ugly

That scrambled thinking was evident in Villa's match-winner, which owed as much to an alarming abdication from Norwich's midfield and central defence than it did Andreas Weimann's threaded pass, Gabriel Agbonlahor's retrieval work or Kozak's cool finish.

City should be commended for the manner they responded to such double adversity. Bar the odd brief counter-attacking flirtation after the interval, the game lapped incessantly around the perimeter of Guzan's penalty area. Norwich pounded away with a degree of hope rather than expectation but there were still enough clear sights of goal to have earned something more tangible for their labours.

Hughton belatedly introduced Gary Hooper for his Premier League competitive debut for the club following an injury-hit start to life after Celtic. A razor-sharp, match-fit Hooper would have despatched Javier Garrido's delicious 88th minute cross. The predatory instinct placed Hooper in the perfect position barely eight yards out, but the rustiness was evident in the almost apologetic touch that squirted the ball goalwards. Guzan's acrobatic one-handed tip over was still a wonderful save, but the American should have had no chance from such close proximity.

Therein lay the source of so much home frustration at the final whistle. Norwich were far more aggressive in attack than then anaemic offering at Tottenham the previous weekend, but there are still too many pieces of the puzzle that Hughton has to solve.

City's support has become increasingly irked at the sporadic rate of evolution. Hughton was lambasted for his decision to withdraw Nathan Redmond just past the hour mark when Snodgrass, by the manager's own admission, was enduring a fitful afternoon on the opposite flank.

With each passing game the experienced manager knows the pressure grows to unlock the latent potential of an infinitely better squad than he inherited from Lambert.


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