NORWICH, ENGLAND // Paul Lambert feels his Norwich City side can now head to Manchester United in "buoyant" mood after recording a hard-earned 2-1 Barclays Premier League win over Sunderland at Carrow Road.
The Canaries, who had chalked up a first top-flight win at Bolton last weekend, went ahead on 31 minutes when Leon Barnett, the centre-back, swept home from close range after the winger Elliott Bennett had capitalised on some lacklustre defending.
Wales forward Steve Morison powered in a header at the start of the second half after the Black Cats were again caught napping at the back, before the Sunderland substitute Kieran Richardson set up a tense finale when he drilled in a late consolation.
Norwich, though, held firm, despite finishing the match with only 10 men as James Vaughan, on as a substitute, hobbled off because of what could be another serious knee injury.
Lambert feels on the back of another encouraging performance against an established Premier League side, there is no reason why his men cannot put in a good account of themselves against the defending champions.
"The quality of the players and teams you are up against is extremely high, and I knew beforehand if we could win this one, then we would go to Old Trafford a bit more buoyant than just going up there and getting turned over," said the Norwich manager.
"When a team scores with five minutes to go, it puts you on the back foot, especially when you are up against this type of quality player.
"It is really tough, you know from a mistake you are going to get punished and I am delighted the lads saw it through."
There is a real togetherness about Lambert's squad, many of whom have come up with the club through successive promotions from npower League One.
"They are young and seem to be bonding really well at the minute and that is testament to themselves," the Norwich boss said.
"I think that comes from where this club is - in the Norfolk area, there is not much you can do here other than travel nine hours to get somewhere. You have got to hang about with each other, so I think that certainly helps you.
"Home form is going to be crucial for us, and if we can keep this place with the feeling we have got and the crowd behind us, then I think we will do all right."
There were, though, little up sides for Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager.
Despite chances for Nicklas Bendtner and Connor Wickham — who headed straight at the Norwich keeper from six yards — the Black Cats boss accepted last night's showing was just not up to standard.
"We rallied at the end and started getting the ball up quickly, but we didn't perform," he said.
"I cannot criticise the work rate, but it was down to simple mistakes at the back, for both goals, our defending was awful."