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Norwich City interim chief Alan Irvine strives for the right formula to stall Brighton

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:03 21 April 2017

Wes Hoolahan is back in the mix after being rested at Preston. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wes Hoolahan is back in the mix after being rested at Preston. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Norwich City’s new wave sparked Preston’s downfall, but Alan Irvine knows it will take a streetwise edge to halt Brighton’s Championship title charge.

Chris Hughton returns to Norwich. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd Chris Hughton returns to Norwich. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Irvine underlined his commitment to youth with a goalscoring Canaries’ league debut at Deepdale for James Maddison. Josh Murphy was also on target in a rare league start, with Alex Pritchard a key figure in the opening two goals.

Pritchard could have joined Brighton last summer before opting to head east but the attacking midfielder has had to be patient for his first team chance.

“I have got to say that picking the team for this one is not easy because we are doing it on the back of two excellent performances in the last three games,” said Irvine. “It is a much nicer problem than none of them playing well. I would much rather have too many. Obviously Brighton is as hard a challenge as you can face at home, which has to be taken into consideration, but certainly in terms of playing young players it is always something I have been in favour of, if it is the right time and if they are ready. The fact is I have said it has to be the right kind of performance and it was at Preston. That was an opportunity to put James Maddison into a team playing well and he benefitted from that.

“It wasn’t a risk or likely to be a bad experience for him. I have seen the other side of that when young players have not recovered from going in at the wrong time. It was brilliant for him to get the goal as well but Steven Naismith played a fantastic part in that and I am sure James appreciates that. It is about the best team to get a result against Brighton.”

Brighton's Anthony Knockaert is one of four Seagulls' players in the PFA Championship team of the year. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd Brighton's Anthony Knockaert is one of four Seagulls' players in the PFA Championship team of the year. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Championship player of the season Anthony Knockaert has earned many plaudits but the Brighton wide player is not the only danger.

“Knockaert has had a fantastic season and is a real threat in this division and will go on to be the same in the league above. There is no doubt about that,” said Irvine. “They have over 40 goals from their three main strikers, they have got other players in wide areas who have done extremely well for them, like (Jiri) Skalak, (Jamie) Murphy and (Solly) March. Quite simply, they have been a very effective team. They have won games quite comfortably at times and also ground things out. They are not an easy team to play against or score against.”

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