Dean Smith likes what he sees from his battling Canaries in win at Sunderland

Josh Sargent’s goal won the Sky Bet Championship contest.

By Press Association Published: 27 August 2022 - 3.22pm

Norwich boss Dean Smith praised his players for their bravery to clinch a 1-0 win in front of Sunderland’s frustrated fans.

The Canaries boss knew this side would face a hostile atmosphere at the Stadium of Light following Black Cats manager Alex Neil’s apparently imminent decision to quit the Wearside club for Stoke.

Josh Sargent’s 76th-minute goal denied Sunderland a home win for the third time since Neil guided them to promotion back to the Championship after a four-year gap.

But it was the efforts of his defenders at the other end – led by captain Grant Hanley – which earned Norwich their first away win of the season following defeats at Cardiff and Hull.

Smith said: “It was a very, very hard-fought win and the resilience we showed pleased me the most.

“We got some really good blocks in and put our bodies on line to keep the ball out of the net and sometimes you have to do.

“We had to withstand some pressure at times, which I expected. The fans did really well for their team today and got them up for it.

“They pressed us and galvanised their team and Sunderland pressed and harassed us and they carried out their game plan really well.

“Whenever we countered we didn’t get up the pitch quick enough. When they broke us we had to defend well and the two centre-halves did very well.

“Grant got a couple of quality blocks in. He is a really good leader of people and he shows what he is all about on the pitch as well.”

Smith sent on on-loan Aston Villa midfielder Aaron Ramsey, Finland striker Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell on the hour to win the game after his side had survived several scares.

Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms hit the bar and former Newcastle defender Hanley made several blocks as Tim Krul’s goal led a charmed life.

And Smith was delighted all three substitutes contributed to the Canaries third successive Championship win.

He added: “We created chances ourselves but the quality of our subs helped changed the game today.

“They all showed the quality in the build-up play when Teemu has played in AJ and from the cross in, Sarge was in a position to score.

“All three made a difference but AJ played in a good weighted ball, a great touch and you talk about leaving the ball under the defender and he did that and left Sarge with a tap-in.

“I am pleased with his performance and it is his first assist for the club.”

Sunderland refused to let caretaker manager Martin Canning speak to the media after the game and did not send a representative to the post-match press conference. They also decided not to allow a player to speak about Neil’s shock departure.

It is not known if Canning, who has worked under Neil in his previous three jobs, will be in charge for Rotherham’s visit to the Stadium of Light on Tuesday.

The former Ross County, Peterhead, Hibernian and Hamilton defender made two changes from the side which won at Stoke last week, recalling skipper Corry Evans and Dan Neil after his suspension forced him to miss last week’s win at Stoke.

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