Hucks blasts careless City

DAVID CUFFLEY Darren Huckerby lamented Norwich City's lack of New Year resolution as they were doubled for the first time this season thanks to the 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.


Darren Huckerby lamented Norwich City's lack of New Year resolution as they were doubled for the first time this season thanks to yesterday's 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.

All four goals came in the space of 20 minutes in a bizarre first half at Selhurst Park, leaving the Canaries with a mountain they were unable to climb after the break.

Defeat left the Canaries adrift in 17th place in the Coca-Cola Championship, nine points behind the top six and only eight points above the bottom three, and manager Peter Grant labelled the goals they conceded as “disgraceful”.

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But City had enough opportunities to have been three goals up in the first quarter of the match. Huckerby hit the bar and had another effort saved by Palace 'keeper Scott Flinders, but, like Grant, he was dumbfounded at the half-time score.

Mark Hudson and Shefqi Kuqi cashed in on defensive lapses to put Palace 2-0 up before Robert Earnshaw reduced the arrears in the final minute of the half from the penalty spot, but there was still enough time added on for Stuart Green to score a third for the hosts.

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Said Huckerby: “For the first 20 or 25 minutes, they didn't get in our half. We hit the bar. The 'keeper made three or four good saves. We got loads of balls in the box and they didn't get a touch. Then they go into our half twice and we're 2-0 down.

“We were back in it with a penalty and within a minute and a half, they were back at 3-1 up. We gave ourselves too much to do.

“We put them on the back foot the whole game. We created chance after chance, but we can't come to places like this and expect to win games if every time they have a chance they score.

“I thought the first half was the best we've played for a long time and we ended up going in 3-1 down.

“We're very disappointed. Even in the second half, we put them under a lot of pressure. They had a couple of breakaways but that's because we were pushing men forward.

“Teams have got to work harder to score goals against us. They weren't even chances. They were kind of mistakes from us, really.”

Grant said: “I thought we dominated the game. I think Crystal Palace maybe had a 10-minute spell.

“We can't legislate for the goals we lost. First ball in the box, we don't defend it properly, second one is a mistake for Gary Doherty and then conceding a goal after you have got yourselves back into it in three minutes of injury time is disgraceful, to be perfectly honest with you.

“The overall performance was excellent, but unfortunately the game is won in both boxes. We didn't take our chances in the opposition's box and we defended sloppily as a group for their goals.

“I would have been devastated to come away from here with just a point, but I'm absolutely gutted to come away with nothing.”

However, while Grant laid the blame at his defence, he said he would not be looking to replace Doherty or Jason Shackell during the January transfer window.

“No, not at all, they have been excellent,” he said. “The two of them have been excellent for us. They have done very well and I thought they played at a canter today, then Gary got sloppy and it cost a goal dearly.

“Good central defenders don't do that, they don't take chances when you are dominating games like that. The best centre-backs put it straight back in behind you and turn the opposition round at that period in the game and we didn't do that.

“That's something he has got to eradicate - he'll not do it again because if he does it again he'll not play, it is as simple as that. But his all-round performance other than that, I thought he was excellent.

“The full game, you look at it and you need to be ruthless in both boxes and we weren't ruthless enough. We had so many chances. Huckerby was excellent in the second half but I thought his final ball in the first half was poor. We had too many clear-cut chances and never took them and when you are dominating a game as much as we were, not to go in front in that period always gives the opposition a sniff.

“Then to lose the goal we did was soul-destroying, when you are dominating as much and then we conceded one two or three minutes later, I felt totally against the run of play.

“It was very, very difficult to take because we had dominated the game for such long periods, not just in the first period but the second as well. Not many teams will come to Crystal Palace and dominate as much as that.

“The three of them were absolutely disgraceful goals, to be honest with you, but the third one . . . when you've got yourself back in it at 2-1 and you think to yourself, right, we'll go in at half-time, we'll make sure we don't make any mistakes, keep dominating the game, keep on the front foot and then you lose a bad goal the way you did.

“It's the only time I've gone in at half-time coming to a place like this and felt we could still win the game, not draw the game.”

Palace boss Peter Taylor said: “The players here know I rate them highly so I'm surprised and a bit disappointed when they start so nervously, because we're a good team. Norwich looked a better team early on but after we got the first goal we started looking more confident.”

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