Chris Hughton deserves his break at Norwich City

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Gary Hooper goal Norwich PalaceGettyImagesGary Hooper opened the scoring for Norwich against Crystal Palace.

Chris Hughton wore the look of a man who had emerged from a narrow escape when he faced the press after a pressure-relieving 1-0 Premier League win over Crystal Palace at home.

Hughton had dredged a performance dripping in spirit and character from his depleted ranks, furnished by a priceless first-half winner from Gary Hooper.

Palace pummelled away relentlessly during a second period that felt like an eternity for the majority crammed inside a record all-seater attendance at Carrow Road. Sebastien Bassong's close-range clearance defied the laws of physics as it spiralled up and over John Ruddy's bar from barely 4 yards in the midst of a defensively resolute display from the hosts, the like of which had been singularly lacking all season.

- Hooper hands Hughton boost

Hughton declared it a big win afterwards, a pivotal moment in the campaign. The likeable Norwich boss has had to field questions about his own future for the majority of the previous month, but this win buys him precious time. The Canaries moved four points clear of the bottom three with a second consecutive home win in the Premier League; even at this pre-festive stage that felt like a margin of relative comfort. The harsh searchlight will now return to Martin Jol at struggling Fulham. Hughton will hope he can go about his business unfettered by constant dialogue surrounding his own future.

Aside from the win this was also irrefutable proof he has a set of players who will expend every last drop of honest endeavour for the man at the helm. Bassong had been taken out of the firing line after his poor display in the recent 7-0 Premier League rout at Manchester City but returned with a commanding cameo that evoked memories of his sparkling debut season for the club.

Similarly, Wes Hoolahan was handed a first Premier League start of the season after Hughton had opted to dispense with the creative Dubliner's unique ability, but Hoolahan was at the heart of Norwich's best work prior to the interval. His cool cutback despatched by Hooper in the game's defining act oozed both intelligence and a clinical intent that City have sadly lacked for large parts of this inconsistent season.

Hughton's rationale in omitting the Irishman was a search for a more potent spearhead with men like Hooper and Johan Elmander and Ricky van Wolfswinkel preferred up until this point. The midfielder owed his Eagles' return to a crippling injury crisis which robbed Norwich of Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett. It is to their eternal credit City refused to use that as an excuse for their failure to overcome a Palace side under new management.

Norwich will need a marked improvement to earn anything tangible from a midweek trip to Liverpool but, for now, Hughton richly deserves to enjoy the fruits of his side's labour.


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