City keeper John Ruddy could walk away from Goodison Park with his head held high after – almost – defying everything his one-time employers could throw at him.
In the end, it needed Leon Osman to deflect Royston Drenthe’s 81st minute hopeful effort past the Norwich No1 and, finally, give City’s hosts a share of the points, but not before Ruddy had added to his growing reputation with a string of fine saves – prompting the pundits’ applause on Match Of The Day no less.
“I was here long enough to know what the expectation level is at the club,” said Ruddy, whose five year spell at Everton yielded just one appearance – and that as a substitute. That and a whole host of loan spells as the one-time Cambridge United prospect sought to prove his worth to boss David Moyes.
Little wonder that this weekend’s 1-1 draw meant so much to the 25-year-old. In particular, the level of his own, individual performance in the teeth of an early Everton gale.
“They did start off strong – put us under a lot of pressure, but we dealt with it really well,” Ruddy told BBC Radio Norfolk, after he was forced into a fine, spreading save at the feet of Marouane Fellaini in the game’s opening exchanges.
Grant Holt’s superb, 28th minute opener would nip all that nonsense in the bud – or, at least, until after the break when Everton once more turned the screw. It would then require a fabulous, reaction stop off the lively Drenthe to ensure a point returned to Norfolk last night.
“We grabbed the goal and then I thought we took control of the rest of the first-half,” he added. “But, obviously, second-half they came out and put us under intense pressure.”
The fact that a clean sheet still eludes Paul Lambert’s men matters little, he suggested. Not when you’ve already got 19 points to your name.
“People are making a lot of the clean sheet business, but we’re just concentrating on picking up points and if that means we’re conceding one, two goals a game – then so be it.
“As long as we’re picking up points, that’s all that matters,” he said.
Traditionally, 40 points is cited as the safety mark for Premiership survival. Few would be rash enough to count any chickens – not after the Blackpool experience last year – but City are certainly set very fair.
They have the January transfer window to strengthen their hand again. Plus the likes of Elliott Ward and James Vaughan to call on again post-injury.
Equally on current form and fortune, Bolton and Blackburn face a long, hard winter trying to dig themselves out of the bottom three. Both could yet be seeking new managers come the New Year. Both have something of a desperate, doom-laden air about them.
“Everybody talks about the 40-point mark, but we’re halfway there with less than half the season gone. So we’ll take the positives not just out of today, but out of the season as a whole,” said Ruddy.
“We’ve adapted really well and to come to places like Goodison and Anfield and pick up points shows what we’re about.”
He did, however, admit that the players might still look at this game as one in which they let two points slip. They were just those nine minutes away from the end of normal time when Everton’s pressure finally paid off.
“I think so,” said the City No1. “We’ve defended well throughout the game and they did pressurise us a lot in the second-half. And it was probably their weakest attempt on goal that got them a goal via a deflection.
“But we take the positives out of the performance. And it was a good point – we’re happy with it,” said the Canary keeper, who would swap shirts with his counterpart Tim Howard at the end of the game.
The two, it appears, remain big pals – even if Ruddy had to take a couple of steps back career-wise before moving on apace with Norwich and Lambert.
“It was good to come back,” he said. “And I got a decent reception and seeing some old faces was nice – but three points would have been even nicer.”