Hughton prepared for more criticism
7:05am Monday 3rd March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Norwich manager Chris Hughton is ready to again take the flak he is likely to face following his side's 4-1 thrashing at Aston Villa.
All season long questions have been raised with regard to Hughton's future as Norwich fight to beat relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
Last week's 1-0 win over Champions League-chasing Tottenham will have kept the wolves from the door but in the wake of the Canaries' latest capitulation against Villa, they will be snapping and snarling again.
Despite Wes Hoolahan - a January transfer target for Villa boss Paul Lambert that failed to come to fruition - opening the scoring in the third minute, the home side later rattled in their four goals in a devastating 16-minute spell.
The result leaves Norwich four points above the relegation zone, but Hughton knows what to expect and how to handle the situation.
"As a team, we have to take it on the chin; as a manager I have to accept any criticism that comes my way after a defeat," said Hughton.
"You have to lick your wounds. It's a low point at the moment because we came into the game in good form, so this is a real hammer blow.
"But you have to assess, and we weren't good enough. That's a fact. We were beaten, and well beaten in that 16-minute period.
"But this is difficult because this is a result I didn't see coming."
With so many managers sacked in the top flight this season, there are no guarantees Hughton will not be next.
So when asked whether he felt he would still have the next 10 games, he replied: "I put all of my efforts into the job I do, so it (his future) is not something I think about.
"The only way I can affect things is by getting the results we need.
"We are one of 10 teams in the bottom half of the table that has had difficulties at some stage.
"So all of my efforts and thoughts go into preparing the team, trying to do the best job I can, hoping to get good enough results."
Villa, with one of the worst home records in the Premier League, were awful for the opening 20 minutes during which the fans were starting to get on the backs of the players.
But a wonder strike from Christian Benteke, volleying home from 15 yards after he had taken a Ron Vlaar pass on his chest to tee himself up, set Villa on their way in the 25th minute.
Benteke headed home his 10th goal of the season two minutes later, with Leandro Bacuna rounding off a stunning counter-attack soon after before Norwich skipper Sebastien Bassong turned a Fabien Delph cross into his own net in the 41st minute.
"It wasn't a great start for us by any stretch of the imagination, but there was no panic," said former Norwich manager Lambert.
"For a half-hour period we were then blistering. I thought we looked fantastic. That was as good a period as we have played.
"Christian's first goal set the tone for what was to happen, and his goal was brill.
"As soon as he scored that goal, his whole game changed, and there is no doubt when he is at it he is an absolute handful.
"For the third goal, the counter-attack was absolutely fantastic."
Benteke was naturally delighted with his contribution, but knows the result was crucial for the team.
"We started really bad, but made some changes and got the first goal and it was good for the team," said Benteke.
"After we scored the first goal we really played some good football and showed good character as well."
Villa are now up to 11th in the table, seven points clear of the drop zone, not that Lambert is bothered by his side's position at present.
"I never really look at it (the table)," said Lambert.
"People were saying last week West Ham (in 10th) were well and truly out of it, and now all of a sudden we're level, so it's how you want to look at it."
The victory clearly relaxed Lambert as unlike many who were asked to leave the Trinity Road stand of Villa Park when a fire alarm sounded, the Scot did not evacuate, admitting: "I knew it was a false alarm."
The alarm bells, however, are ringing for Hughton and Norwich again.