Osman messes up returning Ruddy’s clean sheet, but City almost win at Wolves as Surs returns

Norwich City came so close to recording their second away win of the season at Goodison Park on Saturday and in so doing very nearly kept their first clean sheet this term. Alas the pantomime villain of the piece was Leon Osman, who diverted Drenthe’s shot past Ruddy with nine minutes remaining to earn Everton a draw and shatter City’s hopes of a first clean sheet this season.

The first of City’s two away day tests in close succession saw Lambert stick with the same line up who beat Newcastle so convincingly. Holt and Morison both started up front. Everton have had a problem scoring goals this season and Lambert presumably reckoned that if his in form hot shots could continue their recent excellent scoring record there was a good chance that the Toffees would come to a sticky end.

And so it proved. Everton dominated for most of the first half and in the latter stages of the second, but the City defence kept them out until almost the very end. Martin made important stops in both halves. John Ruddy was inspired on his return to the club where he spent five years, appearing only once for Everton’s first team, and made five magnificent saves to keep the Canaries in the game.

Perhaps inspired by the presence of celebrity fan Ed Balls, both Morison and Holt played excellently and the latter in particular won rare praise from Mark Lawrenson on MOTD for being “an old fashioned centre forward” and a “battering ram”. But even the MOTD pundits had to admire the skill displayed when Norwich scored. From Fox’s free kick late in the first half Morison pushed the ball through to Holt who, although surrounded by blue-shirted defenders, was able to pirouette like Rudolph Nureyev in his prime and score off the inside of the post.

Holt seems to enjoy his visits to Merseyside and has now scored memorable goals at both Anfield and Goodison this season. Immediately afterwards a frustrated Fellaini protested vehemently that Holt had caught him with a stray elbow. The words” kettle”, “pot” and “black” spring to mind. Fortunately the ref was not impressed, and if my lip reading is correct told Fellaini to put his curlers in, sit under the hairdryer for a few hours, engross himself in his woman’s magazines, shut up, and calm down.

City’s lead lasted until nine minutes from time, and City fans raised their eyes to heaven and muttered “If only’ but in the end we were happy to hang on for a point which was both hard won and well deserved.

Buoyed by their success at Goodison, City travelled to Molineux on Tuesday roared on by 3,000 fans, many of whom had travelled on the 22 free coaches laid on by the club. The Canaries dominated the first half hour and deservedly led after 12 minutes when former Wolf Surman’s pass down the left picked out Wes, and when the Irishman whipped in his cross, Surman himself was on hand to score with a downward header.

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Ebanks-Blake equalised after 37 minutes, but City continued to press and regained the lead after 76 minutes when Jackson, who had replaced Holt only one minute earlier, converted Morison’s cross. Could City hang on for the win so cruelly denied to them on Saturday? No they could not. With only eight minutes remaining Wolves full back Zubar scored from a corner, and City’s hearts were in their mouths when Fletcher turned in Jarvis’ cross in time added on. The decision was marginal, but this time the linesman’s flag for offside saved City and ensured that justice was done.

It would have been a travesty if City had left the Wolves’ lair pointless after such a positive performance. But in both away day tests City might well have come away with three points.

Those of you who see the glass as half empty will see these games as four points lost, and moan that the Canaries must learn to hold on to a lead if we are to survive and make an impression in the Premier League. I on the other hand am an incurable optimist. I always see the glass as half full. Two good points and two very good performances. Well done and keep up the good work lads in the two games over the festive period in the cauldron of Carrow Road, against Spurs and Fulham.

OTBC and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.