Photo Gallery: Silence is golden for Norwich City
Everton 1, Norwich City 1: Managers preparing for away matches are often asked about the importance of silencing the home crowd in the early stages of a game.
He spoke of trying to turn the passion of the home following to one’s own advantage by frustrating their team, quietening them down and gradually getting the fans on their back.
As such, skipper Grant Holt’s seventh goal of the season, a delightfully-taken effort from a David Fox free-kick in the 28th minute, was the perfect way for the Canaries to stun the Everton faithful into silence after they had been on the receiving end for most of the opening stages of the game – except that one could have almost have heard a pin drop anyway, were it not for the sound being made by the Yellow Army in one corner of the stadium.
When the shouts of the players are audible above the noise of the throng, it suggests there is a certain lack of enthusiasm among the regulars, and perhaps the fact that Everton had managed just seven goals and two wins in their first seven Premier League home games contributed to the rather subdued atmosphere in their lowest home crowd of the league season.
It was all very different in the final 20 minutes after the introduction of Dutch substitute Royston Drenthe transformed the contest and the mood in the stadium and finally delivered the goal – touched home by Leon Osman – that earned David Moyes’ team the point their share of possession warranted but which had begun to look a little unlikely.
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City will perhaps have been disappointed not to have held on for their second away win of the season, but there was much to applaud in their defensive resolve as they reached the 20-point mark three games before the halfway stage of the season. Bear in mind that they still had only 20 points with seven games to go in their 2004-05 Premiership programme and it is a measure of how much better they are doing in the top flight this time round.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy, City’s star performer a short distance away at Anfield eight weeks earlier, appeared to relish his return to the club where he made just one first team appearance in five years, and he played no small part in another successful Merseyside mission.
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Ruddy was first called into action in the seventh minute when he smothered a shot from Marouane Fellaini at close range after Tim Cahill had flicked on Leighton Baines’ cross.
Ruddy had goalmouth acrobat Russell Martin to thank five minutes later, however, when Osman’s shot deflected off Marc Tierney, and Martin got his head in the way at the expense of a corner.
Out of the blue, though, it was the Canaries who took the lead when Holt demonstrated that there is a more subtle side to his game than he is given credit for.
World Cup final defender John Heitinga fouled Wes Hoolahan, Fox aimed the free-kick towards the far post and Steve Morison knocked the ball on to Holt, who, with his back to goal, dragged it away from Tony Hibbert, turned Heitinga splendidly and rolled his shot left-footed just inside the post.
It might even have been 2-0 seven minutes before the break when Phil Neville slipped but Hoolahan went for the cross rather than the shot, and Andrew Surman was unable to get any power or direction into a difficult header.
Ruddy saved from Osman soon after the restart, but Holt was inches from a second goal after 58 minutes when he headed just wide from Kyle Naughton’s cross with goalkeeper Tim Howard beaten.
Ruddy and Martin both blocked efforts from Louis Saha but a double substitution – Denis Stracqualursi’s arrival followed by that of Drenthe – finally paid dividends for Everton nine minutes from time.
Drenthe drifted past substitute Bradley Johnson and though his low left-foot shot lacked venom, it was diverted past Ruddy by Osman.
Drenthe was full of energy and Ruddy denied him twice, notably with just four minutes left, when he managed to divert a vicious, swerving effort over the bar with his right arm. It was all hands to the pump but when, in the closing seconds, full-back Tierney denied Stracqualarsi with a priceless tackle and third substitute Conor McAleny, following up, hooked the loose ball wide, a point was safely in the bag.
A similar steely determination would do nicely at Molineux tomorrow night.