Chris Hughton philosophical after Norwich City’s run ends at The Hawthorns
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Chris Hughton felt Norwich City deserved something from their trip to The Hawthorns, but still found it relatively easy to be philosophical about his side’s first Premier League defeat in two and a half months.
The Canaries played with plenty of confidence and composure during the first half, and were unfortunate to find themselves level at half-time after Robert Snodgrass’ opener was cancelled out two minutes before the break.
And while both sides had their chances in the second period as the game opened up, Albion’s thirst for a first win in five took them over the line thanks to Romelu Lukaku’s late winner.
“We should have got a point I think on the balance of it,” said Hughton. “They are a very good footballing side. They are the home team so you know they are going to have a percentage of possession, but I thought we had good spells in the game where we had real good possession, certainly for the away team.
“If you looked at clear-cut chances there weren’t many, perhaps the two centre forwards having the best opportunities – Lukaku and Morison when put through. So I thought it was a fairly even game that went in phases and I felt we deserved to come home with something.
“If we are asked a question would we like to be in the position we are in with the points we have got at this stage, I think we would have been delighted. So there is certainly far more good than bad at this particular moment. It is a tough one to take today because you don’t want to lose a game and be happy about losing a game, so it’s a very disappointed changing room in there but that is because of the standards they have set.”
Hughton was not as fussed about the challenge on goalkeeper Mark Bunn in the process of Albion’s scrappy equaliser; rather whether the initial corner should have been awarded in the first place – with replays showing Alex Tettey and Gera clashed heads in an aerial challenge, but only the Baggies man got to the ball.
“The first goal is frustrating because they are a threat from set plays and from corners, and we’re disappointed with the fact it should not have been a corner in the first place,” added Hughton.
“That was my feeling at the time and seeing it again has confirmed it was a goal-kick, so probably a little frustrated with that but also with the timing of the goal. As the home team it gave them a lift that perhaps they needed.”
Hughton admitted Albion’s forward quality ultimately made the difference: “You are up against a team fighting for their lives to get a result at home and you can never have everything your own way. If you are looking at the players they had on the park, almost four forwards and in Shane Long a player they spent £7m on and Lukaku is Chelsea’s player who cost far more than that.
“But even though they put us under a bit of pressure at times, I felt we would get something.”
Current deputy goalkeeper Declan Rudd missed Saturday due to an overnight illness, allowing Jed Steer to take to the City bench at the ground he impressively made his first team debut last season.
Saturday was the start of a tough run of five games in 15 days over the festive break for Hughton’s squad. And while the hopes are high for a swift return from captain Grant Holt, who missed out at West Brom through a hamstring injury, it may be full-back Steven Whittaker’s second-half withdrawal leads to a longer spell on the sidelines.
“He just felt his hip and it was just enough to have to make the change, so we will see how that settles down,” said Hughton, with City hosting European champions Chelsea on Boxing Day before welcoming Premier League champions Manchester City to Carrow Road three days later.
“It’s been grumbling for a little while, so we will have to see how that goes. Possibly he will have to sit out a bit to get it sorted but we will always make that decision on the references from our medical department.
“We hope not, we hope he is going to be fine – but we will have to wait and see on that.
“It was touch and go with Grant today and it was the right decision for him not to play.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up and we need to make sure he is right and ready, but we are very hopeful that he will be available for the next game.”
The Canaries’ festive run of games finishes with a trip to West Ham United on New Year’s Day, before the short journey to Peterborough in the FA Cup.