A HUGE smile of satisfaction spread across the face of Norwich boss Chris Hughton as he eased himself into his chair at the post-match Press conference at Carrow Road on Saturday evening.
It was the satisfied smile of a man who knew that he and his players had completed a job well done.
There were no villains for the Canaries in their 2-0 victory against Sunderland, no-one who let the side down; just a game-plan perfectly executed.
“I thought we were excellent,” beamed Gus Poyet’s former backroom colleague at Spurs.
“We wanted a reaction from losing 4-2 at Southampton last week and we tackled it head on.
“We didn’t shy away from it being a big game and I thought we were excellent from start to finish.
“Our second goal was special – fantastic strike from Alex Tettey – but even regardless of that, it was one of our best performances of the season.”
Hughton suggested the key to the victory was the Canaries taking their chances in the periods when they were on top.
But he was keen to underline the fact his players had the right attitude from the moment referee Phil Dowd’s whistle opened the game.
“We’ve had better performances at Carrow Road this season – against Manchester United and Cardiff for example – but you need to score at the right time and we did that against Sunderland,” he argued.
“We were able to get the goals when we were on top and that really helped us with our momentum, but we did it right all the way along from the opening whistle.
“I was also pleased by the way we held our nerve in the second half when we knew Sunderland would be changing it and going for it.
“That was very pleasing because it was important for us to keep a clean sheet.
“We got the fans behind us and built from there and now we have to make this a platform – a performance and result like that can’t help but improve confidence.”
Norwich fans have had almost as tough a season to endure as Sunderland’s.
Both teams have been hamstrung by low-scoring strikers, but Norwich have managed to produce enough in key games to keep their noses just out of real relegation trouble.
“Fans know where we are at the moment – it has been up and down,” Hughton acknowledged.
“We’ve been one of eight or nine clubs that have struggled for consistency and so the supporters really appreciated our performance against Sunderland.
“Other results have gone for us, but we’ve made our own result happen and that’s the important thing – you can’t go on relying on others.”
That’s something Sunderland players need to take on board as Norwich look to make themselves safe ahead of the toughest run of fixtures to end the season of any team in the bottom half of the table.
“It’s important to have as big a gap as possible between ourselves and the bottom three,” said Hughton.
“No-one can predict what results are going to happen, so it’s important to get points on the board when you can.”