Stoke bosss Mark Hughes struggles to explain Norwich City Premier League defeat
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mark Hughes was mystified at Stoke's no show in yesterday's televised Premier League defeat to Norwich City.
The Canaries' inflicted a first home reverse on the Potters since Hughes replaced Tony Pulis in the summer and the Welshman admitted Norwich had delivered a reality check after some impressive early season form came to a shuddering halt at the Britannia.
Hughes admitted Norwich were full value for Jonny Howson's first-half strike.
'To be honest, we didn't see that coming because we've been really good and that's the most disappointing thing,' he said. 'Last time out here we were head-to-head with Manchester City and should really have won that game, so to hit those levels and then produce what we did here is a real disappointment.
'We talked at the beginning of the season that on occasions there would be days when we wouldn't get it right and there would be days like we've had here. There's a minimum requirement in terms of what you have do in a game to affect it and that means the vast majority of your players playing at a level that allows you to compete.
'Unfortunately we didn't have enough players playing at the right level and as a consequence Norwich played okay and got a goal in front but in fairness we didn't make it too difficult for them.
'It was an easy result for them which, from our point of view, is the really galling thing.'
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Hughes refused to take any solace in the denial of a strong penalty appeal when Kenwyne Jones appeared to be manhandled inside the Norwich penalty area by the Canaries' midfielder Leroy Fer.
'I didn't realise at the time but I've seen it on television and it's a penalty, but we're not going to hide behind that decision. If we're honest Norwich deserved to win because we didn't do enough,' said Hughes. 'You've got to be brave in possession and brave out of possession and on occasions we weren't. Many teams will try to close us down and stop us playing; if that happens you have to do other things and recognise when the momentum of the game changes and things settle down then you can start to play your football again.
'We didn't get that understanding quickly enough and continued to do things that encouraged Norwich more than it did us. We never really got any momentum or a head of steam to really ask enough questions of Norwich.'
Stoke's highly-rated keeper Asmir Begovic was beaten by Howson's swinging right-foot strike from long range and the Bosnian international echoed Hughes' assessment that Stoke were below par.
'It was just one of those days for us where absolutely nothing went right,' he said. 'We simply weren't at our best and found it difficult to gain any real momentum in the game. Fair play to Norwich though because they made it hard for us, especially in the first half.
'That said, we know we are a lot better than that and we have to show that this was just a blip when we face Fulham next week. It is incredibly disappointing for us now, but we will get back to the drawing board, get our heads back up again and look forward to putting things right in the next game.
'We are still a work in progress and we are trying to become more expansive, but sometimes things don't go as you would like. There are no excuses though, it simply wasn't good enough and we know that we have to improve dramatically if we want to get the right result against Fulham.'