Norwich City rediscover the will to resist in the Premier League

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Gary HooperGettyImagesGary Hooper slots home the opener for Norwich.

Few would begrudge Chris Hughton and his Norwich City players some respite from the charge that they are a soft touch on the road in the Premier League.

The case for the defence was served up at the Hawthorns on Saturday in a 2-0 win over West Brom earned by Gary Hooper and Leroy Fer that also underlined the fact that Hughton's squad possess the mental fortitude and a will to resist. This clean sheet -- to sit alongside the one earned at Stoke, which was the only other time they returned to Norfolk with any league points this season -- said so much after shipping seven at Manchester City and five just days earlier to a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool.

- Hughton hails Canaries' response

Hughton had accepted that his players looked bereft of confidence and unwilling to accept personal responsibility in their lowest moments. Not on this winter's afternoon in the West Midlands, as City defended manfully in front of John Ruddy. Albion spurned chances with reckless disregard for their own worrying decline that saw them slip below Norwich in the standings at the end of a week that the Canaries may well feel was a key turning point.

Victory over Crystal Palace at Carrow Road was an essential component in the bid for a fourth season of Premier League combat next year, but another mauling at Anfield demanded an emphatic response. There was a palpable sense during the build-up that Hughton had lost patience with his charges. Suarez was brilliant once more against his favourite foes, but Hughton had appeared visibly irked by the compliant nature his men acquiesced on Merseyside. That in itself marked a departure from the very public cloak he had thrown around his squad after the heavy beating at the Etihad last month, when he sought solace in the magical motions of Manchester City's creative talents.

It was a testament to those under his command that West Brom and not the Canaries now face a bout of introspection over the coming days. Hughton restored the redoubtable Michael Turner to his starting lineup alongside Sebastien Bassong, and the central defensive duo manned the barricades in front of the imperious Ruddy with countless interceptions.

Fer roamed with a freedom not afforded him at Liverpool, and up top there was Hooper, who with each passing outing looks increasingly at home in the Premier League. His first-half opener showcased the predatory instinct that has carried him on a prolific ascent from non-league circles to the very pinnacle of his chosen profession; the initial glide to lose Diego Lugano and the instant strike that veered unerringly into Boaz Myhill's bottom corner.

Fer's breakaway finish in the final seconds sealed a win forged from the toil of an epic defensive effort at the Hawthorns. Hughton smiled when asked whether it had been the perfect away day after watching his men subjected to an incessant pounding for the majority of the second period. But after a series of wretched league trips, it was a welcome leap in the right direction.


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