Positive start is key again for Norwich City

This 2010-11 campaign just keeps getting better and better for Paul Lambert and his Norwich City side.

Similar to so many of their games this season, City were magnificent at Pride Park on Saturday.

At one end of the pitch they showed once again that they are capable of causing any team in the division big problems when they attack with purpose, while at the other end they demonstrated an admirable ability to defend effectively as individuals, in units and ultimately as a team whenever it was required.

It’s been patently clear over the past 18 months or so that the Canaries will always set out to try to win matches. They don’t take to the field with any negative thoughts or under instructions to try to contain the opposition. And it’s so refreshing to watch.

You think back to the number of occasions in years gone by when away trips usually meant City producing little in terms of an attacking force and it would invariably end in defeat and bitter disappointment.

It couldn’t be more different from the positive approach the side shows nowadays.

Right from the start on Saturday, City went for the jugular.

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And when they earned themselves a deserved two-goal lead after barely 12 minutes, Derby didn’t know what had hit them.

Indeed, some of the incisive, slick and penetrative approach play City produced in the opening half was as good as, if not better, than anything we’ve seen from them this season. And that’s saying something when the demolition of Ipswich in the local derby is still fresh in the mind, plus many other occasions this season when Norwich have proved so effective going forward.

The team switched play well, they were good enough to select the best passing option and they looked likely to create something every time they crossed the halfway line.

It would only be fair to say that once Derby recovered from that early blitz, they did look a very capable attacking outfit themselves and they pushed City hard for the remainder of the contest, but Norwich could seemingly do no wrong.

If it was City’s attacking capability that undoubtedly caught the eye so much in the first half, it was their ability to protect a lead and keep their opponents at arm’s length that impressed in equal measure in the second period.

The players restricted what has been a free-scoring Derby outfit on home soil this season to relatively little in terms of a threat on John Ruddy’s goal.

True, the home side did create a few decent chances, but when they managed to breach the Canaries’ defensive lines they found that the ’keeper was in equally terrific form as his outfield team-mates.

What it all underlined once again is that this Norwich team is competent in both the attacking and defensive aspects of the game and basically ticks all the relevant boxes.

You really can’t speak highly enough of how well the Canaries acquitted themselves. They were absolutely superb.

• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – LEON BARNETT: Saturday’s encounter was yet another in an ever-increasing list of matches when so many City players stepped up to the plate and delivered a top-drawer performance. John Ruddy made a couple of vital saves at crucial stages of the game, David Fox was very tidy and economical with his distribution in midfield, whereas Chris Martin worked incredibly hard all afternoon and scored a very well-taken goal. But it’s Barnett who gets my vote. If he lost a single headed challenge at Pride Park then I didn’t see it. He was as solid as a rock at the back and so reliable whenever he was called into action. In short, he was strong, determined and thoroughly effective yet again.