City boss Paul Lambert praised his penalty hero John Ruddy after a spot-kick save proved to be the catalyst for a stirring 2-0 win over play-off contenders Swansea.
With the game drifting towards a goalless stalemate, it all went a little crazy in the last six minutes with that penalty stop from David Cotterill preceding an Ashley Williams own goal and Simeon Jackson firecracker to give Norwich three vital points.
And Lambert was on top of the world afterwards. It’s true what they say; football is a funny old game.
“It was a huge win because Swansea are a top side,” said Lambert, speaking to reporters after the game.
“John Ruddy has had to live with the ghost of Fraser Forster since he’s been here, which is not an easy thing after what Fraser did for this football club.
“John has had that to contend with but in the last two games, he’s been absolutely brilliant for us. It puts the Fraser thing to bed and he’s been pivotal for us in the last two matches.
“It was a great save – it galvanised us and it lifted the atmosphere. You’ve got to hang in there and these players have got that in abundance,” added the Canary chief, who also agreed that the penalty decision was a correct one.
City started the game with real purpose and for the first 20 minutes, it was all Norwich. Lambert’s men gave the Swans no room to breathe and really should have been at least a goal to the good by this point.
On nine minutes, a Grant Holt shot was blocked from the edge of the box but the best opportunity fell to Korey Smith on the quarter hour mark. It came from a neat passing move and when Holt laid it on a plate, with the former Academy youngster steaming into the area, you’d have put your money on Smith finding the back of the net.
His shot was stopped by Dorus De Vries but it could not stem a flow of constant Canary pressure, with Holt the next one to go close with a header from a corner.
On 26 minutes, his effort flashed past the visitors’ post – it really was that close – and City really should have been in front at this point.
Brendan Rodgers’ men slowly started to settle, however, and three minutes later, the Canaries had Elliott Ward to thank after he made a brave block to deny Stephen Dobbie from close range.
The Swans were growing in confidence though and on 36, Cotterill – once a Nigel Worthington transfer target – weaved his way in and out of the City defence. Luckily for the hosts, his chipped cross could find a team-mate.
Cotterill was involved again three minutes later and after a terrific move, with Darren Pratley and Nathan Dyer in the thick of it, the Welsh international couldn’t keep his shot down. It had definitely been Swansea’s 15 minutes though, after a storming City start.
The second period was slow to get going but the Welsh club had a glorious opportunity 10 minutes in through former Chelsea starlet Scott Sinclair. After evading the sliding Michael Nelson, Sinclair raced into the box, only for Ruddy to save well with his feet.
After a lively first-half, the second 45 was a little cagier, with both sides knowing that the first goal was all-important. Dobbie was, however, continuing to look dangerous and he had two shots in as many minutes with the Swans pressing.
City went up the other end and Wes Hoolahan arrowed it wide after a free-kick fell to him outside the box but the longer the game went on, the more it looked like an entertaining goalless draw was going to be the outcome, even though the Swans were probably shading it.
Then, to coin a Danny Dyer catchphrase, it all kicked off on 84 minutes when Swansea were awarded a penalty. The dangerous Sinclair was played through once again and even though he went to ground, it did not look like there was contact between him and Ruddy. A replay afterwards proved otherwise.
The referee pointed to the spot and showed the new City ‘keeper a yellow card. But if any cynics in the crowd thought that Ruddy was now the villain, he soon became a hero with a save out of the top drawer.
Cotterill looked to have slotted it into the corner of the net but the St Ives-born shot-stopper produced a wonderful one handed stop to push the ball onto the post and it was still game on.
Things then got even better for the home faithful with that 87th minute goal via the unfortunate Swans defender Williams. A drilled McNamee cross from the left should have been routinely cleared but as is often the case, Williams found his own net rather than Row Z.
Jackson’s injury-time second compounded Swansea’s misery but to be fair, it was a goal worthy of clinching any contest with the summer signing volleying home a Holt cross, after Martin stole the ball on the halfway line.
And that, was that. City are on the up.
City: Ruddy; R Martin, Nelson (Askou 90), Ward, Drury; Smith, Crofts, Surman (McNamee 64); Hoolahan (Jackson 81); Holt, C Martin. Subs not used: Rudd, Lappin, Fox, Johnson.