New-boy Ruddy makes an instant City impression
Mark Armstrong Stevenage 0, Norwich City 0: Goalkeeper John Ruddy showed he is more than capable of filling Fraser Forster's shoes at Carrow Road this season with a fine second-half penalty save last night to earn a goalless draw at Stevenage.
Stevenage 0, Norwich City 0
Goalkeeper John Ruddy showed he is more than capable of filling Fraser Forster's shoes at Carrow Road this season with a fine second-half penalty save last night to earn a goalless draw at Stevenage.
The former Everton man, who arrived on a free transfer earlier this month, plunged himself low to his right to deny Stevenage full-back Scott Laird and nullify worries the Canaries would miss Forster in the Championship next season.
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When Zak Whitbread upended Charlie Griffin in the penalty area, it looked like the Football League newcomers would pull off a shock win, but Ruddy had other ideas with an excellent stop.
A draw was a fair reflection on the game as a whole, although City new boy Simeon Jackson will be disappointed that he didn't open his Norwich account as he came close twice during a lively first 45 minutes for his new club.
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David Fox was impressive in anchoring the midfield and demonstrated on several occasions that he has a keen eye for a pass.
City boss Paul Lambert would have been delighted to see his side tested by Stevenage, who had other chances to bag a win - but both sets of fans will have been heartened by their teams' performance.
It was your typical pre-season fare in the opening stages as both sides sized each other up.
Jackson, who was making his first start in a City shirt since his �600,000 arrival from Gillingham last week, caught the eye in the opening stages with the diminutive front man happy to drop deep looking for the ball.
A lovely exchange of passes between Wes Hoolahan and Chris Martin saw the latter earn a free-kick on the edge of the area, but when it was teed up for Andrew Surman his scuffed shot could not find a way through a crowded penalty area.
Martin almost picked Chris Day's pocket in the 18th minute when the Stevenage keeper looked favourite in a race on to Fox's pass but, after finding a way passed the former Millwall, he lost is footing and the chance had gone.
Stevenage were posing a threat however when they came forward and Rudy had to make a smart save to keep out Joel Byrom's free-kick, while Adam Drury made a fantastic defensive header whenBoylan looked set to pounce in the penalty area.
Norwich certainly had more composure in possession however, none more so than Fox, whose sumptuous ball over the top released Jackson in behind the Stevenage defence just after the half-hour mark. The striker was suddenly bearing down on goal but his decision to opt for power over placement played into Day's hands and the keeper parried well to deny.
As the half wore on Norwich exacted more control over proceedings and Nelson came within inches of opening the scoring when he met Fox's corner, but his downward header rebounded off the post. The danger still wasn't cleared by Stevenage and only Whitbread will know how he didn't score when he stole in at the near post to meet a pinpoint cross.
Jackson had another great chance before the break after being teed up by Hoolahan, but his fearsome left-footed strike was beaten away once again by Day.
Stevenage made the brighter start to the second half and should have gone in front when Stacy Long's cross found its way to the back post where Mark Roberts arrived right on cue, but his header cannoned back off the post. The hosts had an even better opportunity in the 52nd minute when Whitbread clipped Griffin in the penalty area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Laird stepped up but saw his low effort brilliantly saved by Ruddy down to his right and the travelling Norwich contingent breathed a sigh of relief.
Norwich looked heavy legged for large proportions of the second half with their exertions during a training camp in Germany clearly taking its toll. However, Russell Martin mustered up enough energy to get down the right hand side and meet Surman's deep cross.
His header looked destined for the bottom corner until Darius Charles' huge frame got in the way.
On the hour mark Lambert decided to shuffle his pack by replacing his whole side apart from Oli Johnson, who came on at half-time.
The changes predictably had a disjointed effect on the Canaries and Stevenage started to control proceedings. Jed Steer was called into action soon after coming on to make a smart save from Roberts' header and Tudur Jones had to make a vital interception after Ronnie Henry made good progress.
McNamee looked eager to make an impression in the closing stages with the former Swindon man posing a threat down the right. He almost released Johnson in the 78th minute but the pass was slightly overhit and Ashley Bayes came out to smother.
t Stevenage (4-3-3): Day (Bayes 76), Henry, Bostwick, Roberts (Foster 76), Laird (Winn 65), Murphy (Wilson 46), Byrom, Long (Bridges 80), Vincenti (Savage 57), Boylan (Charles 46), Griffin (Riza 70).
t Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy (Rudd 60), Martin (Brindley 60), Nelson (Tudur Jones 60), Whitbread (Francomb 60), Drury (Lappin 60), Fox (Gill 60), Crofts (Smith 60), Surman (Ball 60), Hoolahan (McNamee 60), Jackson (Johnson 46), Chris Martin (Dawkin 60).
t Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)