Positive signs for Norwich City boss Chris Hughton from a blank day in Reading
Chris Hughton believes Norwich City's ability to pick up Premier League points when far from their best is a visible sign of major improvement on his watch.
The Canaries' chief admitted his side failed to scale the heights of previous weeks in a drab goalless affair at Reading, but Hughton insisted another hard-earned point towards the final objective is all that mattered.
'We know we have a side that can play, but we have to be at our best every game. That is the big difference,' he said. 'With the top teams, the quality they have got, they can produce something out of nothing. In a poor performance they have that quality to score goals. I think for us we have to be on top of our game all the time. This is a good point for us.
'Any draw or any clean sheet away from home in this division is always a good point. They are a team that amongst their difficulties this season, have been able to score goals. That hasn't been a problem for Reading.
'For us in the end it is a good result and I would say a fair result. We are certainly more solid at the moment.
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'I suppose something has to give and although we have become more solid we haven't got the goals we would like.'
Hughton erred on the side of caution in the frenetic final quarter with substitutes Elliott Bennett and Steve Morison only introduced in the closing minutes in a bid to try and end the stalemate.
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'It is a balancing act. Those are decisions managers have to make,' he said. 'Yes, there was a temptation to make them earlier. For that to happen if I wanted to make two changes I would probably have to take Wes (Hoolahan) off and then Wes does something really good so you think, 'I'll leave him on a little bit longer'. Those are the decisions you make. Yes, you could make decisions in order to give you an opportunity to go and win it but you could also end up losing it. Wes kept going and even Holty (Grant Holt), even though he didn't have as much joy in front of goal, I thought it was the right timing to take him off when we did.'
Holt had a rival in the muscular centre forward stakes with Reading's Jason Roberts a key figure for the Royals before his late withdrawal.
'He gave us a few problems today. He is a handful and we expected that. They are very good at what they do,' said Hughton. 'They have quality and they turn you into the channels with the two up front who are good runners. We caused a few of our own problems by giving the ball away and we were certainly not at our best on the ball. In recent weeks we have been better than we showed today but I did think towards the end of the game as it opened up a little bit if there was one team that could carve out something I felt it would be us.'
One trait not in question again was the Canaries' defensive resolve, with a fourth clean sheet offering a tangible reward for a tough shift at the Madejski Stadium.
'The back four were good because we had to deal with a fair amount of balls into out box, down the channels and we had to defend very well,' said Hughton. 'I was pleased for Steven Whittaker. It has been a tough one for him because he has missed that three month chunk and now he is on the back of four consecutive games. That is a tough ask and I think it showed a little bit at the end with him.
'We have had a fair amount of consistency to our (team) selection of late and that breeds confidence. It also gives us real competition for places. Apart from Russell (Martin) we don't have too many injuries.'
Hughton revealed midfielder Alex Tettey had overcome a back problem to retain his place in the line up whilst Martin is scheduled to step up his return from a back issue this week.
'The next stage will be once he ups his running that he gets no reaction to it,' he said. 'We are due to take him out running the early part of the week and he will push on from there.'