Chris Hughton - Match winner proved quality in Norwich City squad
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Chris Hughton insisted Norwich City’s match-winning goal tells you everything about the quality at his disposal.
Anthony Pilkington cut inside Carlos Cuellar to finish a sublime exhibition of passing that Hughton was adamant would have graced any of the Premier League’s aristocracy.
Pilkington’s strike, allied to Sebastien Bassong’s earlier opener, looked to have put City in firm command until Craig Gardner’s 44th minute long range hit set up a tense second half, which Hughton believed should not mask the beauty of the game’s defining moment.
“I thought the ball retention for Pilky’s goal by us, if that was some other sides, they would be showing it for quite a while,” he said.
“It was a really excellent finish. I thought originally he had made the wrong decision to cut inside because he might be closed down, but he has that type of ability. It’s a challenge for him now. How many goals and how many assists can he get.
“They made us work for it but I think we expected that, given the time of the goal. That helped them but even without the goal just before half-time I thought as a team we were good enough.
“We didn’t make any changes to the team either, so to sustain that for the whole game was going to be tough and allied to that the goal gave them a lift. It made for a slightly different half-time team talk because you feel you have to get into them a little bit more.”
Hughton also felt Sunderland’s wretched recent run may have helped Martin O’Neill’s men to grow into the contest away from the pressure of performing in front of the demanding Wearside public.
“We needed, of course, to try and get the third goal because they had to open up and when a team is not going as well as they would like at present and they are away from home perhaps they can express themselves a little bit more,” he said. “They have got very good players.
“The lads had to put a real tough shift in. It is a testament to the players. We had to make saves, we had to put bodies on the line and in front of the ball and they did that.
“I thought Grant Holt was excellent up front. He is someone who enjoys scoring goals. It is difficult for him, but he led the team really well.
“He is a striker and they live on that. Possibly some of his game has had to be sacrificed for the good of the team, but I thought he was very good.”
Hughton accepted Gardner’s finish from Danny Rose’s persistent play down Norwich’s right-flank had not been in keeping with City’s recent defensive discipline.
“I thought it was a poor goal to concede from our point of view. It was a superb strike but a poor goal,” he said.
“Certainly when you are on the back of a good win you don’t look to apportion blame but what I would say is by our standards we have been very solid and we haven’t let many in of late. Perhaps Sunderland will look at the goals we scored and think they could have been avoided.
“Mark (Bunn) had to make some very important saves – particularly the one at the end of the game when they had a free-kick that I didn’t think was at the time. You know with Gardner how well he can strike the ball and that it could be a real difficult one for the keeper, so he had to show good handling.”