Chris Hughton - Norwich City had to dig deep to repel Sunderland
Norwich boss Chris Hughton admitted the Canaries had to dig very deep to hang on for a priceless Premier League televised 2-1 home win over Sunderland at Carrow Road.
Sebsatien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington helped fire City seven points clear of the current bottom three, but only after surviving a sustained second half onslaught from the Black Cats.
Craig Gardner's sweet strike from the edge of the area a minute before the interval was the scene setter for a prolonged spell of pressure from the visitors around Mark Bunn's goal. City were indebted to more resolute defending and some wayward finishing from the Wearsiders to stretch their unbeaten run to nine matches in all competitions and cap a hectic spell which also brought Premier League points at Everton and Southampton in recent days.
'I thought we were excellent in the first half but it's very difficult to sustain that for 90 minutes, particularly at the time of their goal - it gave them a real lift,' said Hughton. 'They showed, at times, the real quality that they've got in their team, some real sharpness in the box and the wide areas. I thought (Adam) Johnson was always a threat.
'We had to dig deep in that second half but third game in a week, same team, so I'm really delighted. It's the same team for three games in a week and we needed all 11 of them plus the two that came on.'
Sunderland are now just a point and a place above the Premier League drop zone, and former Norwich chief and Black Cats' boss Martin O'Neill was left to lament their slow start at Carrow Road.
'We conceded some very, very poor goals so it was an uphill task but from the moment we conceded the second goal I thought that we played very strongly,' O'Neill said. 'Second half in particular we were really excellent, we created some really decent chances and should have scored two or three.
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'If we show the same spirit as we did in the second half for the rest of the season we'll be fine and if we show the tension that was in us in the first half then it'll be a tough battle.'
To add to Sunderland's woes, star striker Steven Fletcher was substituted at half-time due to injury and O'Neill admitted he will have to wait and see what the diagnosis is.
'I'm really not sure at this moment,' said the Northern Irishman. 'He is sore. I won't know that (what the problem is) properly until Monday.'