David Freezer verdict: The undisputed number one
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There's one area that Norwich City don't need to worry about during the summer transfer window and that's between the posts, where their undisputed number one Tim Krul continues to reign supreme.
As long as all of the Canaries players can maintain their composure and concentration, to defy tired legs and minds for just another fortnight, then they will all be part of the Championship's undisputed number one team as well.
That all-important momentum has been wrestled back from Watford in the nick of time. The Championship trophy is within reach, with victory over Reading at Carrow Road on Saturday or at Barnsley on the final day enough to add the title to an already excellent promotion success.
The 3-1 winning margin was nowhere near as straight forward as might be expected by those who weren’t at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium – although City were full value for their three points.
The roar of celebration as Krul grasped the loose ball after his penalty save said so much. The experienced Holland international knew his team needed him and stepped up with his speciality, at an absolutely crucial time, leading to his head coach once again hailing him as the best keeper in the division.
The 33-year-old bounced on his line, spread his arms wide and paced back and forth, as he pulled out all of his usual tricks to try and distract QPR striker Lyndon Dykes.
The hosts had been presented the opportunity of an equaliser in the 55th minute, after a clumsy foul from skipper Grant Hanley, who was teased into a challenge by a deft dummy from Chris WIllock in the box at the end of a slick Rs counter. Given the excellence of Hanley this season, City fans will be willing to let that one slip into the mists of time.
Yet for large dominance and a succession of chances, for Teemu Pukki and Kieran Dowell in particular, Krul needed to pull off his party trick to ensure the confidence didn’t start to flow again for a QPR team who were out of play-off contention but searching for a fourth consecutive win.
The Dutchman had been the best Canaries player in midweek, when a 1-0 defeat to title rivals Watford had continued a strange few days at Carrow Road, as promotion partying was greeted by a hangover of back-to-back defeats – with one double save particularly impressive against the Hornets.
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We’ve been here before with Krul though. Not just his two spot-kick saves in the same Premier League game against Manchester United or his FA Cup shootout heroics at Tottenham, but at Rotherham in October.
That was the day when things started to turn, denying a Freddie Ladapo penalty to prevent the Millers going 2-0 up. Eventually it was Jordan Hugill slotting a penalty winner in injury-time and the recently-relegated Canaries had lift-off, shaking off an underwhelming start to the season, safe in the knowledge that the transfer window was closed.
On Saturday he sensed his moment again and guessed correctly, holding his position to stick out a leg and deny Dykes’ low spot-kick. Then it was over to Kenny McLean to lead the offensive charge with two excellent assists for Max Aarons and Emi Buendia in a 3-1 victory.
Just last week Krul had admitted that there had been Premier League interest in his services last summer, telling a Dutch newspaper that being settled and happy at Norwich meant that only an irresistible offer could have tempted him away – with game time at this summer’s Euros to fight for.
If the Champagne is flowing again during the next two weeks, that crucial moment from City’s number one will be remembered as another turning point. He also made an important block before the break when the score was 1-0, denying Dykes with his feet after the striker had charged through on goal.
As long as six goals aren’t conceded during the final two games, to add to the current total of 33, then Daniel Farke’s team will break the club record for fewest goals conceded in a 46-game season.
Krul clearly can’t take all of the credit for that, with Hanley, Ben Gibson and Oliver Skipp among those also crucial to that defensive strength.
Yet the sight of the former Newcastle favourite, a man who has played and won a World Cup quarter-final shootout, is an imposing obstacle for many Championship players. The psychological battle with Dykes was won before he struck the ball – and this time Krul didn’t even need his famous water bottle.
Orjan Nyland and Michael McGovern may well stick around for the Premier League ride but they will know who is in possession of the gloves, who has earned the trust of all around him and who leads from the back.
So it’s a good job that in December a new contract until 2024 was agreed, and revealed on Christmas Day, as a very welcome extra present for Canaries supporters.
With the play-off places settled and Reading falling short, it’s difficult to predict how the Royals and Barnsley will handle the approaching matches.
Yet with the encouraging number of chances created by City at QPR, both teams will need to be ready for a squad that has dominated the division and has one final point to prove before moving on to the new challenge.
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