City boss Chris Hughton tonight admitted to feeling a ‘tinge of disappointment’ that his first-ever trip to White Hart Lane as a manager yielded no more than a point – albeit on the back of a second, successive excellent performance by his new charges.
Hughton spent the better part of 30 years in Spurs colours – be it either as a player or as part of the coaching staff – and was using those long-standing connections to full effect last night as he plucked 19-year-old Tottenham strike starlet Harry Kane out on loan as the Premier League transfer window closed.
Today, however, and it was all about doing the business on the pitch; that the Canaries did in hugely-encouraging fashion. Indeed, but for the reactions of 41-year-old Brad Friedel in the Spurs goal, the Norfolk side could have repeated last Easter’s winning feats.
In the end, however, they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw and 15th spot in tonight’s Premier League table.
He was, he said afterwards, disappointed last weekend that the level of performance against QPR didn’t yield the full three points; ditto this as Robert Snodgrass’ late leveller cancelled out Mousa Dembele’s debut strike.
“I have a tinge of disappointment here today as well,” admitted the Canary chief, with every good reason given the number of chances City carved out against their more illustrious hosts – and, indeed, the general level of discipline and shape they kept throughout.
“You’re up against a very good Spurs team; very good – with very good individuals,” he told the BBC afterwards. “And they are always going to have the majority of the possession. It’s normal.
“But I felt we had the best chances and got into the better areas. But once you go one behind, I think you’re always delighted if you manage to get back into the game.”
Russell Martin actually rattled the Spurs crossbar off a Snodgrass free-kick with the game’s opening ten minutes, whilst Friedel was called to make a clutch of top class saves – the best to claw out a Snodgrass header five minutes before the break following a fabulous, left-wing cross from Anthony Pilkington.
Once Snodgrass had levelled with a sure and certain low finish for his first goal for his new employers, the Canaries could have stolen all three points at the very death as Bradley Johnson first blazed at and then over Friedel’s goal after Steve Morison and Grant Holt had pulled the Tottenham defence open – Spurs by then reduced to ten men following the late dismissal of Tom Huddlestone for a challenge on Jonny Howson.
“We could have won it,” Hughton agreed, wistfully.
“And I thought we were going to, but that’s what happens when you have very good goalkeepers and very good players on the park. But overall, I have to be pleased with the point,” he added as Friedel once more spared new Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas an even bigger inquest than successive home draws against West Bromwich Albion and now Norwich have yielded.
In the eyes of Spurs supporters and board, that’s four, big points already dropped.
For the Canaries, however, it is clearly a big point gained – one that few would have ever predicted two, short weeks ago on the back of that 5-0 dismantling by Fulham. For 15 minutes, Dembele looked to be returning to haunt the Norfolk side following his £15 million switch across London this week.
However, Hughton and his coaching staff deserve credit for stabilising the ship and delivering two, compelling performances on the back of that first day humbling. It is now a case of finding a result that matches the performance.
And in fairness to the likes of Howson and Johnson, they have answered their critics in fine style – both taking starring roles in centre-midfield and ensuring, for now, that Alexander Tettey’s services were not required.
“If [losing 5-0] doesn’t give us as a staff and the players a jolt, then nothing will,” admitted Hughton.
“It was so far below our expectations, but we made sure that we learned from that one. It was a tough one for us away from home and we possibly caught Fulham at a good time for them and, arguably, at a bad time for us. But we’ve certainly been better since.”
The quest now is to bag that first win of the season; to keep that bottom three at bay; to leave others to find themselves in the drop zone early doors.
Confidence on the back of this afternoon’s performance should not be an issue ahead of the home clash with West Ham United in a fortnight’s time following the forthcoming international break. Five points from their opening four fixtures will be a decent enough return. Solid, as opposed to spectacular.
“That’s two good draws – and last week was a little bit more disappointing because we were at home – but we have got some good players in this team and this squad and we need to play like that,” said Hughton.
“We haven’t got the quality of players that a lot of teams in this division have, but we do have a lot of endeavour.”