City keeper John Ruddy has paid tribute to the efforts of veteran Canary full-back Adam Drury in Tuesday night’s 2-0 home defeat by Spurs – clear evidence, he suggests, of just how much team spirit there is within that Norwich dressing room.
Drury, 33, found himself suddenly back in Paul Lambert’s first team thinking after regular left-back Marc Tierney tweaked his groin in the run-up to the Tottenham clash.
With both Tierney and Ritchie de Laet rated no more than “50-50” by Lambert for this weekend’s home clash with Fulham and the Bank Holiday trip to Loftus Road, opportunity could again knock for Drury.
All of which suits Ruddy as the veteran Canary full-back slotted seamlessly back into the City rearguard – an ability he shared with Leon Barnett as he, too, found himself back in the line of fire on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got good enough players here who can come in without unsettling anyone,” said the Canary keeper, with Zak Whitbread another one to return to the starting fold of late.
His efforts at the heart of that Canary defence were rewarded with a sponsors Man of the Match award for the Spurs game; it would be harsh to point too many fingers of blame at anyone that failed to keep Gareth Bale under wraps for the full 90 minutes.
“Zak’s come in at centre-half and done really well since he’s been back. And then when Ritchie [de Laet] had to go off and Russell [Martin] went to right-back and Barney [Leon Barnett] came in at centre-half, he’s done as well as he has done all season.
“So it’s not the end of the world if other people have to come in – we know that we have good quality throughout the squad.”
Including, of course, Drury as the last surviving member of Nigel Worthington’s Premiership hopefuls dropped back into Lambert’s starting line-up and rolled back the years.
“It was like he had been playing all season – he was absolutely tremendous,” said Ruddy, as the Canaries prepare for a busy, 72-hours of Premiership action.
“That’s the kind of character and spirit that we’ve got in the squad,” he added. “That if people are called upon, you know that they will come in and do just as good a job as the person they’re replacing.”
The level of Drury’s performance after so long in Tierney’s shadow came as no surprise to anyone within that City dressing room.
“Not at all,” said Ruddy. “Adam is a great guy and a really good professional. He’s kept himself in tip-top shape whilst he’s not been in the team. He’s just been biding his time, not moaning, doing his stuff until he gets back into the team.”
And finds himself face to face with Kyle Walker – not exactly the slowest of Premiership opponents.
“Kyle Walker didn’t beat him once,” said the City No1. “He tried to beat him once, didn’t. And then he just resorted to deep crosses – so Ads did his job tremendously well and it’s testament to him both as a person and as a professional.”
Inevitably the subject of clean sheets cropped up in conversation; almost inevitably, it is not Ruddy’s favoured topic of conversation. The point, however, remains the same – that the Canaries still sit 11th in the table, still on course to hit that magic, 40-point survival mark with just over half the season remaining.
“It’s not something that we’re overly concerned about,” said Ruddy, whose own individual efforts away at Everton almost delivered that first clean sheet – only for Leon Osman’s smart deflection to deny Norwich near the death.
“If we weren’t playing well, scoring goals and creating chances, then – yes – it is a problem. But we’re playing well enough to merit a clean sheet; it’s just some games we haven’t had the bounce.
“But as long as you’re picking up points, then I don’t think it matters how many goals you concede.”
How Lambert reshuffles his rearguard tomorrow is likely to be one of his bigger, overnight decisions. The suspicion remains that Russell Martin will continue at centre-half; Naughton will return to right-back and – subject to Tierney’s late fitness test – Drury could continue at left-back.
Further forward and Anthony Pilkington did his hopes of a return no harm with an eye-catching last 20 against Spurs; width and pace could, likewise, be served by a run for Elliott Bennett at right-wing.