Football - Hughton hoping for fresh start

Norwich manager Chris Hughton hopes his side can banish their nightmare Christmas to keep themselves clear of the relegation scrap in 2014.

The Canaries head to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace on New Year's Day following successive home defeats to Fulham and Manchester United which have dropped them back to within just three points of the drop zone.

Hughton, though, remains positive for the challenges which await in 2014, with his side having shown signs of improvement in recent weeks and counting themselves unfortunate not to have taken something against the champions, who eventually won 1-0 after Norwich had created several first-half openings.

"It has been a disappointing Christmas," said Hughton.

"Would I prefer to be higher in the table? Yes, I would. We know we are three points from being in a position we don't want to be in and the same applies to the top 10.

"We need points to make life a little bit more comfortable.

"We managed to finish in a good position last season after we had a difficult Christmas.

"We lost all four games this time last year so that is proof this period doesn't define the season, but we would like to have picked up more points."

After once looking set to be down with the Christmas decorations, Palace have hauled themselves out of the bottom three - above Fulham on goal difference - as results improved dramatically following the appointment of Tony Pulis in the wake of Ian Holloway's decision to stand down.

Norwich beat Palace 1-0 on November 30 in what was Pulis' first full match in charge.

Hughton has been impressed by the way the Eagles have responded, but is confident his men can produce the required response at Selhurst Park.

"They have felt the effects of a new manager coming in with different ways, and they have made themselves harder to beat, which we found at Carrow Road," said Hughton.

"Tony is somebody that is used to this division, but it has to be about our philosophy going into the game and we have to make sure we give ourselves every opportunity like we have done in recent games away from home."

Forward Gary Hooper should be fit after he was troubled by a tight muscle in his leg against Manchester United, while centre-half Michael Turner returns from suspension. Midfielder Jonny Howson remains doubtful again following his back problem.

Hughton moved to allay reports from Holland over midfielder Leroy Fer, who has come through a tough settling in period since his summer move from FC Twente to develop into a key performer.

The Norwich manager also stressed there were no plans to allow the likes of Ireland duo Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan to leave in January, with Aston Villa and Swansea both said to be showing interest.

"The talk normally around this time is of players coming in and that generally is all we are interested in," said Hughton.

"You can never anticipate what deals happen in a window, but our focus is on decisions we need to make regarding players coming in, certainly not going out.

"I expect to be busy with phone calls and watching plenty of DVDs, but we will only do anything if it is right for us in any position of the squad to strengthen to secure ourselves going into the end of the season, then we will do.

"But we won't bring players in for the sake of it and those are the assessments we make."