Chris Hughton has heaped praise on the “outstanding” Jordan Smith for the attitude he has displayed this season, and hopes the 26-year-old will continue to push Brice Samba for a place in the Nottingham Forest side.
Smith has had to be patient when it has come to regular game time in recent seasons, with the academy graduate making only three appearances last season and featuring only once the year before.
A slight hamstring injury to Brice Samba saw Smith make his first league appearances of the season last night, as Norwich City showed their class at the City Ground.
Smith was left helpless as two sumptuous finishes from Teemu Pukki and Kieran Dowell had Norwich 2-0 up with only 13 minutes on the clock, but the goalkeeper did keep the visitors bay, pulling off a superb one-on-one to deny Kenny McLean in the first half, and preventing Pukki from adding to his tally with some smart stops.
Reflecting on Smith’s performance, Hughton told FLW this afternoon: “I think when you analyse a goalkeeper and you look at his overall performances, but generally they are judged by the goals conceded and the saves that they made.
“When we analyse the two goals, could he have done better? Our general feeling is that he couldn’t have done. They were wonderful finishes.
“But when he did do was deny them of another two or three really good goalscoring opportunities, and that’s how we have to judge it. We were delighted with him.”
As alluded to before, Smith has had to be patient when it has come to breaking into the team and getting some minutes under his belt.
Before Wednesday night, his only game time had come in FA Cup ties with Cardiff and Swansea, and his last league appearances came on the final day of last season.
But Hughton was quick to praise the 26-year-old’s attitude in another season where he has had to play back-up to Samba.
“He’s been outstanding, and that’s important. The goalkeeping group is normally a tight-knit group, and whilst you want good goalkeepers in that group, you want good personalities as well.
“The three or four of them that we work with on a daily basis are their own units. From day one, Smith has been excellent and his attitude has been good.
“That helps in making you more ready when your opportunity comes.”
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Reports from The Sun (14th March, page 59) claimed that Hughton would look to strengthen his goalkeeping options in the summer, in an attempt to push Samba and get the best out of him.
This came in the aftermath of Samba making a mistake in a 1-1 home draw with Reading, where he let Yakou Meite’s powerful effort squeeze underneath him late on.
But the manager is more than happy with the options he currently has at the City Ground, and reiterated the need to have three senior goalkeepers fighting for a place in the side.
“We’ve always got (Abdoulaye) Diallo. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that he came in and has been injured for a long period of time.
“That would be the only disappointment I’ve had with that goalkeeping group, because he’s missed a fair chunk of the season so far.
“Apart from what we’ve got here in the young goalkeepers, you want three goalkeepers that are applying pressure on each other and applying a level of competition for each other.”
Fair play to Smith. He seems like a really good character and he never moans about being back-up to arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
He’s now 26, though, so you do have to wonder whether he will be happy with playing as back-up to Samba in the next couple of years or so.
Hughton seems pleased with the options he has, and it’s more about sorting things out at the other end of the pitch from his point of view.