The real Ryan Bennett, 300 reads like BOO, Alex Neil's chief regret and Chris Hughton's major challenge - SIX THINGS we learned from Norwich City's small dose of Brighton payback

Russell Martin gives Alex Pritchard a hug for his efforts as Norwich City take a two-goal lead over already promoted Brighton. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Russell Martin gives Alex Pritchard a hug for his efforts as Norwich City take a two-goal lead over already promoted Brighton. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Norwich City are saving their best for last, as they got a small bit of their own back on Chris Hughton and Brighton - MICHAEL BAILEY brings you his six lessons learned from the weekend.

Alan Irvine oversaw his eighth game as Norwich City's interim head coach on Friday; his side have now won four of them. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesAlan Irvine oversaw his eighth game as Norwich City's interim head coach on Friday; his side have now won four of them. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

1 – One to remember

Make sure you take a mental note of the date, because it’s sure to come up in pub quizzes of the future.

For City to win 2-0 win without registering a single shot on target was quite the feat – and particularly harsh on Alex Pritchard, who seemingly didn’t even get to claim a couple of assists on an excellent night’s work.

Credit here to Alan Irvine. Although we’ve all wanted to see James Maddison more, Irvine has used his vast experience working with youth players to ensure the young man is starting to get real chances to shine.

Likewise, he has managed Pritchard well since coming in – as in, he’s started with him. Who knew it was so straight forward?

As Alex Neil watched Friday’s game for Sky he should have sat there wondering why he didn’t show more faith in the young man he signed in the summer, while he had the chance.

Russell Martin celebrates his 300th Norwich City appearance with his team-mates in the home Carrow Road  dressing. Picture: TwitterRussell Martin celebrates his 300th Norwich City appearance with his team-mates in the home Carrow Road dressing. Picture: Twitter

2 – 300 also looks like BOO

Some would rather it’s not acknowledged – but the opposite should happen, as it signifies one of the other sizeable changes needed at Carrow Road for there to be success next season.

The failure to match expectations has manifested in several ways – but the booing of Russell Martin from a few people in the Snakepit, even on the night the City skipper notched 300 appearances for the club, sits most uncomfortably.

Many may see Martin as a weak point and refrain from backing his presence. Others will wish he hadn’t been played so often – hardly his fault.

But to raise the effort to boo a player when there’s been an apathy from the same stand during various games, just comes across as an expensive whinge given how much it now costs following football.

There should’ve been only praise for Martin on Friday. Dare I whisper it, but he’s played well in recent weeks too.

Ryan Bennett of Norwich wins a header during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
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21/04/2017Ryan Bennett of Norwich wins a header during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 21/04/2017

3 – We’d like that one, please

Some decisions this summer rebuild will be easier than others – and where Ryan Bennett sits come August will be as intriguing as any.

He is almost out of contract and will need to be told before the end of May whether City will take up their option to extend his stay for 12 months.

The impending loss of Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner, the end of Mitchell Dijks’ loan and surely an uncertain future for Timm Klose all mean Bennett may be a necessary figure to build around – rather than starting with even fewer defensive foundations.

And if next season we saw the Bennett that played on Friday then all would be fine, he’d play every week and City would consistently see the defender they know is tucked away in there somewhere.

That’s the challenge facing the man himself. If he’s up for it, he answers whether he’s up for another 12 months – at least – at Carrow Road.

Anthony Knockaert is booked by referee Tim Robinson, following a first-half tussle with Graham Dorrans. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesAnthony Knockaert is booked by referee Tim Robinson, following a first-half tussle with Graham Dorrans. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

4 – West Sussex isn’t East Sussex

West Sussex is barely a third of the size of Norfolk, apparently. It’s marginally bigger in terms of area than its neighbour, East Sussex – but actually smaller in terms of population density; maybe because Brighton is in the East variety.

It doesn’t alter the fact that comparing West and East Sussex is not the same as comparing Norfolk and Suffolk, which brings me not so neatly on to referee Tim Robinson.

He stepped in at late notice for Peter Bankes – the name you would’ve seen on the back of your matchday programme – and it swiftly became apparent the official from (let’s face it) Sussex (West) was in charge of a game between a side from (East) Sussex, playing in Norfolk.

It’s arguably a good job there was nothing riding on Friday’s match – if only in terms of perception, rather than integrity.

And in the end Robinson was just generally poor with both sides, although that’s hardly a positive.

Chris Hughton could not hide his frustrations on his Carrow Road return. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesChris Hughton could not hide his frustrations on his Carrow Road return. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

5 – He ain’t proved nothing yet

Few managers have been as maligned during their tenure as Chris Hughton – which made his reaction all the more remarkable.

To cries of ‘Boring, boring Hughton’ from the Barclay, the Brighton boss visibly chuntered in disapproving fashion while making a yawning motion. It’s arguably the only time anything has ever appeared to get to him at Carrow Road.

Let’s be clear, Hughton has done a wonderful job at Brighton rebuilding them from a relegation scrap to the Premier League. The club’s infrastructure is top flight too.

But that aging squad really isn’t and I’d put money on Glenn Murray – even Anthony Knockhaert – coming up short next season, meaning it needs a lot of investment if Brighton are to avoid a swift return to the Championship.

Certainly for their supporters come next season, chanting about not signing Alex Pritchard will be well down their list of grievances – assuming they haven’t actually managed to sign him by then, of course.

The race to join Brighton in next season's Premier League is hotting up. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesThe race to join Brighton in next season's Premier League is hotting up. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

6 – It’s hard not to laugh at others

City’s season is done, the recriminations have been in full flow and there’s more to come. But there is football still being played.

Leeds will now welcome City three points outside the top six, in shocking form and with Garry Monk still to commit his future beyond this season. Interesting.

Reading lost at Forest and look miles off being a side that’s going to succeed in the play-offs; that’s still better than the Royals’ side at Carrow Road that looked like it would struggle in League One.

The opposite can be said of Fulham, who obliterated Huddersfield for the second time this season and are in supreme form. No St James’ Park and Craven Cottage on next season’s City fixture list sounds handy.

And it may be coincidence but Huddersfield’s season has threatened to unravel since Stuart Webber left – which would be why they didn’t want him leaving until the summer. How the other half live.

Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno

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