Damian Hilton’s rebuilding job at Norwich United is gathering momentum

Damian Hilton is making his mark at Norwich United after joining the club from Wroxham.

Damian Hilton is making his mark at Norwich United after joining the club from Wroxham. - Credit: Archant © 2008

Damian Hilton’s Norwich United rebuilding job has received a timely endorsement as his side beat the league leaders to register their first home win in 10 attempts since he took over in October.

After removing that particular monkey off his back with a 2-1 victory over Thurlow Nunn Premier Division morning table-toppers Walsham Le Willows, Hilton admitted he was relieved as well as pleased with a scoreline which underlines the clear potential within the ranks.

“It was definitely something we had talked about. We had played very well at home but not won. What was nice on Saturday was that we played very well and dominated for long periods so it certainly was not a fluke result. We missed a penalty and if anything the scoreline flattered them,” he said.

Saturday’s result, courtesy of goals from Adam Bennett and Jordan Blyth, follows an eye-opening 1-0 win at title-chasing Dereham on Boxing Day which suggests that the Planters, on their day, can be a match for anyone.

Achieving consistency is the next goal for a predominantly youthful outfit, blended with experienced veterans in defender Shaun Howes and winger Gary Gilmore –two of Hilton’s former team-mates at Wroxham, where he spent the bulk of a career laden with playing honours, and also enjoyed some success as player-manager after taking over from Bruce Cunningham.

An ex-Norwich City Reserves player who got as far as the first team bench, Hilton has also played for Brighton and spent last season with Wroxham, helping David Batch’s men to the ECL Premier Division title.

The well-travelled central defender, who has also turned out for Lowestoft and Needham Market, decided not to continue playing because of the extra mileage involved after the Yachtsmen decided to step up to the Ryman League and was looking forward to taking a season out. However when a call came from out of the blue from Planters chairman John Hilditch, acting on the recommendation of previous boss Paul Chick, who had decided to retire to the Spanish sun, Hilton, 35, found himself heading for Plantation Park.

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In at the deep end with fixtures coming thick and fast and little time to prepare, Hilton suffered five defeats and a draw before notching the first win of his tenure – a 5-0 success at CRC in early November.

Since then clear signs have emerged to suggest that things are coming together for a side now safely berthed in mid-table and enhancing their reputation by the week.

“I think more than anything the aim was just to get a settled squad for the rest of the season and establish ourselves in the division and start building for next year.”

Hilton, who is being assisted by veteran coach Donny Pye, is looking forward to a full pre-season campaign to prepare for next term.

With additional signings he is hopeful that the team will be in a position to challenge for honours.

“I took over someone else’s team and it takes a while to put your own mark on things.

“Obviously next season it will be my team,” he said.

First up though Hilton is looking for his team to build on Saturday’s result at lowly Thetford Town this weekend.

“In the past we have had good results but then been quite indifferent. We are not taking anything for granted.”