Hughes keeps faith in Lescott to add steel to City's defence

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The Independent Football

Mark Hughes yesterday rejected criticism of his Manchester City team's recent defending as he set his sights on ending the club's 34-year wait for silverware.

Although City, who face Championship side Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup tonight, have lost the fewest matches in the Premier League, the new-found solidity that guided them to four straight clean sheets at the start of the season has deserted them recently and they have conceded in each of their last seven games.

Despite scoring his first goal for the club in the 2-2 draw with Fulham at the weekend, Joleon Lescott, a £24m capture from Everton, has come under serious scrutiny but Hughes is baffled by those doubting the England centre-back.

Hughes is keen to point out that only Chelsea have conceded fewer goals and kept more clean sheets than his own side, who were so brittle last season, and is adamant that the deal for Lescott, 27, will prove to be good business.

"I thin he has played well," Hughes said. "The more games Joleon and Kolo Touré play the better they will gel as a pair. He's a young player; the stage he's on now, with the expectation level, that will enable him to fulfill the expectations he has for himself.

"I've no doubt Joleon will be an outstanding player for many, many years and people will see that very quickly. What he has got is real determination to grow and develop.

"His attitude to work on a daily basis is exemplary and if you have a player who wants to work and improve every day then you can only get better.

"The profile Manchester City have got brings scrutiny but I know that is one of the reasons why he wanted to come here – because he wants to be exposed to that. He knows he needs that to grow as a player, as an international, but that doesn't faze him."

It appears inevitable that City will make a significant improvement to their Premier League position this season, but, with no major trophy since the 1976 League Cup win, Hughes is keen to bring something tangible to Eastlands.

"We want to do well in a domestic competition, it's important to us this year and we have shown that in terms of the strength of the sides we have put out and that is going to continue," Hughes added.

"We need that experience as a group to win together, that does help, that understanding of winning, it's an important step in your development."