Canary kid keeper Declan Rudd tonight proved that he's certainly made of the right stuff as his fifth and final penalty blasted City into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup with a 4-2 win on penalties over visitors Stoke City.
Not content with smashing the best spot-kick of the night high into the roof of his opposite number's net, Rudd had earlier saved the Potters' first two spot-kicks as Ricky Martin's youngsters earned their due reward for dominating the preceeding two hours of football.
In all they wood hit the woodwork four times before second-half substitute Tyree Clarke guided a far post cross in over the head of the Stoke keeper four minutes into the first period of extra-time.
The City youngsters – unbeaten in six Under-18 Academy games going into this evening's contest – let their guard slip just the once as their Premiership opponents prised a leveller out of the contest six minutes from the very end.
That then set the stage for a penalty shoot-out in which Rudd reigned supreme.
“Before the penalties I told him [Ricky Martin] that I was going to put us through,” said Rudd afterwards, a statement born of little more than simple confidence in his own abilities.
He had, after all, just won a penalty competition at Colney the day before and had bagged himself the crucial No5 slot should it all come down to the very last kick of the night.
It did. And Rudd delivered – as promised.
Much has long been predicted for both Rudd and his younger stable-mate Jed Steer by City boss Glenn Roeder. He watched from the directors' box as Master Rudd's pre-match promise was put to the test.
“So I had to keep to my word, really,” he said. And he was duly swamped by his joyous team-mates afterwards; their hopes of going all the way in this season's competition briefly hanging by a thread.
“I never really take pens,” he admitted, when quizzed about the evening's surest of spot-kicks that saw Norwich deservedly home.
“The day before yesterday, we had a penalty comp – and I won that. So Ricky [Martin] said that I could be No5.”
Hed already more than done his bit by saving penalties No1 and No2 – at which point Stoke's hearts sank and legs went. Norwich could even afford to see JohnBull Omoregie's penalty saved before their teenage Master Blaster stepped up to the plate.
“I just guessed, went the right way and made the save – that's all,” said Rudd, a feat he would perform twice in quick succession.
“It was a brilliant feeling when the crowd are buzzing because of what you've done,” he added. “It makes you feel really good – and to put your team through to the next round of the cup is even better.”
There was, he claimed, never any doubt as to the outcome. The kid has clearly not witnessed too many attempts by his senior peers to perform a similiar feat; at those moments, veteran City watchers have every doubt as to which way a spot-kick competition will go.
“Their legs had gone,” he said. “Whereas we still had that little bit of energy left to stay calm and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Danish centre-half Dario Dumic set the tone with his coolly-taken opener – lifting the ball high into the top right-hand corner. His centre-half pal and partner David Stephens would follow suit. Nick Davey tucked his away with careful ease.
It should have been over long before extra-time and penalties, shouldn't it?
“You can't really say that – their keeper made a couple of really good saves,” said Rudd. “It just wasn't our day to finish and put the ball into the back of the net.
“So we just had to do whatever we could to win and if it had to be by penalties, then that's the way that we had to do it. I think we just had the mental strength to keep going. And I think we knew that we were going through.”
In his pre-match Press conference Martin made much of this squads close bond; how they all head to the cinema together on te Sunday before teir FA Youth Cup outings. Was there a chance that, if possible, victory in tonight's manner might have brought them even closer together?
“We're close already so it can only make us better as a team and, hopefully, help us push on to a higher position in the league and then we'll see who we get in the next round,” said the England Youth keeper.
That draw is next week with the game due to be played before the end of the month.
Who did he want? A home clash with the one team that Martin quite fancies, Spurs?
“I don't mind – anyone,” said Rudd. “Bring anyone on.”