Croft 'in tears', says Hunter

Martin Hunter had just one friendly match in charge of Norwich before his Championship debut at QPR on Saturday - but the final outcome turned out to be just as generous to City's hosts.

By CHRIS LAKEY

Martin Hunter had just one friendly match in charge of Norwich before his Championship debut at QPR on Saturday - but the final outcome turned out to be just as generous to City's hosts.

Hunter took over as caretaker manager after Nigel Worthington's sacking a fortnight ago, but in that time had only a trip to King's Lynn for Shaun Carey's benefit match to see his players in action.

It was a rare clean sheet for Norwich that might, but they were up to their old tricks at Loftus Road on Saturday, leaving Hunter a frustrated man after his only senior match in charge before Peter Grant takes over the reins this morning.


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“There were some very good pieces of play and some poor defending again, but more positives than negatives,” he said. “It's the old end-to-end football - great for the spectators as the old cliché says, horrible if you're sat on the bench. But a good game of football.”

Hunter points to the personal battle that evolved between striker Robert Earnshaw and his Wales team-mate and QPR goalkeeper Paul Jones as a major factor on deciding the outcome.

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“For me there were two defining moments, both saves from Paul Jones,” said Hunter. “If Earnie scores the header it is 2-0 and it obviously makes it difficult, and there was a wonderful save in the second half, again from Earnie.”

Actually, there were three defining moments - Lee Croft's glaring miss early in the second half when the Canaries were 2-1 down.

“Yes - he doesn't need telling about that,” said Hunter. “He was in tears.”

However, Hunter admitted there was more of steel to his team on Saturday, but preferring to put that down to the desire to erase the memory of recent performances rather than the presence of Grant in the directors' box.

“That's obviously a possibility, but professional players, while they sometimes might not look like it, they are wounded, their pride is wounded,” he said. “Sometimes they get a lot of stick, and rightly so, but that I can tell you now there are a lot of proud people in that dressing room.

“The first 20 minutes I thought we played very well, something like we know the players can do.

“Then there were a few hiccups. Obviously coming here to Loftus Road there are going to be periods in the game when you are going to be under the cosh. I thought we dealt with that. I'm not happy about the goal from a set play, we need to have a look at that one, we have been pretty good at defending from set plays so we need to pin that down in the coming weeks.”

It was the performances of a few individuals that Hunter was pleased to praise.

“I would mention Jason Shackell and Craig Fleming who dealt with two difficult customers in the QPR team,” he said.

On Earnshaw: “He is a proven goal scorer - he has got terrific pace and his goals per game record speaks for itself.”

On Dion Dublin: “He is a seasoned professional; when he comes on the pitch he has an impact, not just because of his size but because of his technical ability, and he's fantastic around the dressing room.”

On Andy Hughes: “He has done exactly what he has been asked to do but unfortunately he has now got a tight hamstring so we will need to monitor that.”

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