Chris Hughton issues a warning to his Norwich City players
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Chris Hughton warned his Norwich City players they can forget about climbing the Premier League table if they do not show a ruthless edge after watching a sour Boxing Day 2-1 home defeat to Fulham.
Gary Hooper's deflected first-half opener provided the perfect platform to sink a hesitant Cottagers' outfit missing the likes of Maarten Stekelenburg, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos and Dimitar Berbatov through injury. Pajtim Kasami punished the hosts with a free-kick drifted through a porous home wall before Scott Parker's thumping late winner denied Hughton's squad a fresh chance to put clear daylight between themselves and the rest languishing in the bottom half.
'I didn't think we started particularly well but I felt once we got the goal we kicked on from there,' said Hughton. 'I felt we had two very good chances, one for Gary and one for Johan, but we conceded a very poor goal before half-time which gave them a lift. Whether it is a free-kick they work on specifically, it looked like (Steve) Sidwell was going to take it but it went through the wall and when that happens you are always disappointed. I don't think they deserved to be 1-1 at the break. We threatened a lot in the second half with balls into the box but Fulham have good players and when it became very open they probably capitalised on that better than us.
'You still look at the teams below you because I think what you have to do is look at them and make that the incentive, to make sure you won't be dropping down further than where you are. If you have that real fear of dropping down, then that should be all the encouragement and determination you need to keep pushing on and trying to look upwards.'
Hughton opted to retain the same starting line-up from the previous goalless draw against Sunderland before introducing both Wes Hoolahan and Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the second half to counter any criticism he was prepared to settle for another stalemate.
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'I don't think anybody can accuse us of not trying to win the game,' he said. 'Wes came on, who is a more offensive player, and we had Hooper, Ricky and Nathan (Redmond) on the pitch. We attempted to win but we couldn't find that right moment or create that chance. These are the things you're always striving for. First and foremost it's about making sure you're putting the right 11 out on the pitch and getting the right performance out of them. Sometimes for whatever reason it doesn't happen, and sometimes it does. You do the same work week in, week out, the same preparation.
'Players hit form or come back from injury. There are so many reasons why a team can have a poor period or a better period, and you just hope the work you do over a period of time eventually counts. That's all you can do.'
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Hughton was adamant City were denied a second half penalty when Elmander appeared to be shoved inside the Cottagers' box.
'By the letter of the law it is a penalty, yes. I am not quite sure on the referee's angle. It is certainly one perhaps many wouldn't give but there is no doubt he was barged in the back,' said Hughton. 'We just didn't create a clear-cut second half chance. It was going to be the team who showed that little of quality or perhaps fortune and they did it through Parker's goal.'