John Ruddy brilliant as Norwich City keep clean sheet against Chelsa
14:15 23 January 2012
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I knew it was going to be a good day when I met a cheerful and optimistic Ed Balls, proudly sporting his yellow and green scarf at Liverpool Street station at some ungodly hour in the morning.
Our optimism was not misplaced. Norwich City drew 0-0 with Chelsea at Carrow Road on Saturday in front of the lunchtime Sky TV cameras. In a game that was always interesting and never a bore draw. The Canaries shaded the first half and on another day might have taken the lead courtesy of attempts by Morison and Johnson, while Chelsea had the advantage in the second half.
At the final whistle the Canary fans rose to applaud their team. The result was a moral victory for Norwich, who had gained another precious point in their quest for Premier League survival, and a moral defeat for Chelski, who had missed out on three points in their bid for the Premier League title.
Inevitably the pre-match hype centred on the contrast between the two sides’ centre forwards. Fernando Torres, who cost Chelsea £50 million, had one good chance which Ruddy turned aside, and was guilty of one glaring miss from ten yards when even I could have scored. When he was substituted with fifteen minutes remaining he left to a predictable chorus of “What a waste of money”.
Grant Holt, who cost Norwich £400,000 lasted the full 90 minutes and led the line superbly. Holty has now scored seven Premier League goals in 21 appearances, and Torres two in 17. The latter has not found the net since September. The Barclay were quite unequivocal. “Grant Holt, we’d rather have Grant Holt”. On Saturday’s performance few would argue. Not even Alan Hansen on MOTD.
Lambert is nothing if not the master of tactics and systems, and seems to change his gameplan each time we play. His selection surprise this week was to relegate Hoolahan to the bench. But his decision paid off as Morison and Holt were a constant handful for the Chelski defence. Chelsea’s new £7 million signing Gary Cahill did not even make their bench, much to the disappointment of the large cohort of press photographers who had turned up in the hope of snapping his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt. Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas spent much of the game whistling at his players as though they were a pack of sheepdogs. Lambert did not need to whistle; instead he applauded the excellent performances of his centre backs Ayala and Man of the Match Whitbread. On the few occasions when Chelsea did break through, an inspired John Ruddy was always reliable and ready. He made several excellent saves, particularly in the second half.
The anoraks and statisticians amongst you will be pleased to note that this match finally dispelled the notion that Norfolk folk cannot keep clean sheets. It took City until their 22nd game in the Premier League to do so. Now Blackburn hold the record, and have not kept a clean sheet for 22 games so far. Saturday’s game was also remarkable in that there was not a single foul committed in the first half. Nobody can remember when that last happened, if at all.
So City remain unbeaten in 2012 and have only lost one of their last nine league and cup games.
The club are keeping their cards close to their chest on the transfer front. The January transfer window closes in about one week, and despite all the rumours, only one deal seems to be imminent, with Jonny Howson poised to join our squad. He is apparently a useful player. There has been some debate recently about whether Premier League clubs should be allowed to have their feeder clubs playing in the lower divisions. That does not pose a problem for Norwich City. We already have a feeder club playing in a lower division so that its best players can graduate and be elevated to plying their trade at the highest level. Our feeder club is called Leeds United…