March 8 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Football and Christmas are truly seasonal bedfellows – even if Norwich City have not always been able to make the most of enjoying it.
But what Chris Hughton’s men are presented with this afternoon when Fulham visit for a Boxing Day (3pm) treat is the perfect chance to set the tone for how their 2013 festive period – and more – will pan out.
David Moyes’ Manchester United transition arriving in Norfolk on Saturday is currently irrelevant. Likewise that traditional New Year’s Day jaunt to Selhurst Park. It is solely about the Cottagers – the second side to label a game against the Canaries as “must win” in successive matches.
City have a tendency to be awkward opponents when they get things right – like that now famous 10-game unbeaten run last year. And they are showing encouraging similarities to that run now. In fact, they are threatening to answer Hughton’s summer request for a more consistent approach across the season – rather than a condensed season-saving run.
Taking in comparative fixtures, City have two more wins and four more points than last season. There have been significant lows – but arguably, also a far greater potential for what awaits.
“At one stage this season we were in the bottom three and the first priority had to be to get us out and make sure we didn’t drop back in,” said Hughton. “Slowly but surely we’ve crept into a more comfortable, better position. But in this division, a few bad results can very quickly get you back in there and we’ve got to make sure that’s not the case for us.
“Last season’s unbeaten run was a wonderful achievement but it’s very difficult to do – and if anything, this season perhaps even more difficult.
“What has shown this season is that if you’re in a momentum, sometimes that can carry you through. That doesn’t mean you will always get the results you want, but I think you’re hopeful it will give you more opportunities to get the results you want.
“We’ve reacted very well from the big defeats we’ve had. That’s what we’ve asked of the players. There is some consistency now in the team and I think the clean sheets we’ve had in the last two trips away from home have given us a lot of confidence too.”
Having had to make his own mid-season transition from assistant to manager in the past, Hughton is well aware of what Rene Meulensteen is going through as he bids to save Fulham’s Premier League status.
“He’ll be enjoying the challenge,” said Hughton. “It’s been a difficult period for them and they’ve changed their manager. But they’ve got some very good players – that’s something that hasn’t changed.
“Their level of performance in the last few games has been very good. They’ve had a change in formation and I suppose it’s a manager trying to put his own stamp on a team.
“So we must be guarded – but it’s very much about us. We’re playing at home and we’ll do everything we can to get a result.”
• Norwich v Fulham – likely line-ups
• City (4-4-2): Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Olsson; Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Redmond; Elmander, Hooper. Subs (from): Bunn, Martin, R Bennett, Garrido, Howson, Hoolahan, Josh Murphy, Becchio, Van Wolfswinkel.
• Fulham (4-5-1): Stekelenburg; Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise; Dejagah, Parker, Karagounis, Sidwell, Richardson; Berbatov. Subs (from): Stockdale, Kasami, Ruiz, Duff, Kacaniklic, Amorebieta, Taarabt, Bent.