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Ryan Bennett's late goal sealed a 1-0 victory for Norwich City over Hull City on Saturday and eased the pressure on Canaries manager Chris Hughton.
The home side came into the match having scored just 10 goals in as many Barclays Premier League matches at Carrow Road, and a lack of clinical finishing looked as though it would let them down in a contest they largely dominated. Hughton's side fired 23 shots at the Hull goal, only three of which were on target, but Bennett grabbed the only one to matter as he leapt highest to head in a Robert Snodgrass corner in the 87th minute, moving Norwich five points above the relegation zone.
A disappointing outing for Hull was compounded by Tom Huddlestone's dismissal after they fell behind.
Both sides included debutants in their team, Newcastle United loanee Jonas Gutierrez making his Norwich bow, with Nikica Jelavic coming straight into the visitors' attack and almost making the perfect start to his Hull career in the second minute, only for his close-range effort from Robert Koren's cut-back to clip a post and go wide.
Liam Rosenior prodded a good chance wide just three minutes later as Hull dominated the opening exchanges. The Canaries improved, though, Snodgrass blasting an effort wide, and Ricky van Wolfswinkel missing the target from four yards from a knockdown.
Steve Bruce was dealt a blow on 13 minutes as James Chester limped off with a hamstring injury, enabling Maynor Figueroa to come on for his 200th Barclays Premier League appearance in Chester's place. The substitution also prompted a change in Hull's formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2. The switch appeared to disrupt Hull's rhythm as Norwich became more threatening, with Van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer both denied by courageous interventions from the away defence on the half-hour.
Snodgrass brought a fine save from Scotland colleague Allan McGregor from 25 yards and the half ended with Curtis Davies thumping a header over from a corner.
Norwich started the second half in dominant fashion, the dangerous Van Wolfswinkel and Snodgrass seeing further efforts on goal blocked. Gary Hooper launched a 30-yard effort over McGregor's crossbar as the hosts appeared to grow frustrated with 20 minutes to go, but they were relieved in the closing stages as Bennett struck his first goal for the club, before Huddlestone was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Davies glanced a header wide in stoppage time as Hull failed to find a response and they have picked up just two points from the last 24 available to them on the road.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: "We are talking about small margins and big wins. These three points become even bigger. You are then looking at the results of other sides, which is something you shouldn't do, really. The tighter it gets, the wins get bigger. These are big wins. We will enjoy it today as we have a big game coming up."
Hull City manager Steve Bruce: "It’s a shame because I can’t remember any saves from our 'keeper. A point away from home would have been brilliant for us. In the first hour, before Jelavic tired, he showed what a really good player he is. When we get him right he will be a big acquisition. He will score goals."
|22 Mar 2014||v Sunderland (H)|
|28 Jan 2014||v Newcastle (H)|
|11 Feb 2014||v West Ham (A)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|15 Mar 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|08 Mar 2014||v Stoke (H)|