John Ruddy's renaissance at Norwich City has answered any questions over who is the Canaries' number one goalkeeper
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Norwich City battled harder than at any point this season to fend off Newcastle United on Tuesday night - but it was their last line of defence that stood tallest.
Some may have feared Alex Neil could have a serious goalkeeping issue to resolve this season, as the City boss threw summer signing Michael McGovern into his Championship reckoning after the opening games – before the Northern Irishman and Euro 2016 hero then struggled to convince.
It was injury that first took John Ruddy out of action but off the back of an indifferent Premier League campaign and duels with Declan Rudd, there were still plenty of question marks over whether the Canaries had the best glovesman at their disposal to make this campaign a success.
It’s a question that now hasn’t been asked for a while.
Ruddy’s string of fine saves on Tuesday were as good as anything the 30-year-old goalkeeper has produced during his six and a half years at Carrow Road.
From preventing Aleksandar Mitrovic making it 2-0 so early in midweek, to the smartest of stops to thwart Ayoze Perez following Newcastle’s equaliser – it was a night Ruddy could feel proud.
And yet, the City number one’s renaissance is not about one game.
Before last weekend, Ruddy was averaging a Championship clean sheet every other game since his return to the side at Loftus Road back in mid November – a key change, given how few and far between they were before then.
There have been wobbles of course. This is a City season unlikely to be short on improvement any time soon.
However from one superb save to deny Tom Ince earning back-to-back clean sheets over Brentford and Derby during the New Year period, to a dominant aerial display in the wilds of the Welsh capital as City won at Cardiff earlier this month – it’s been enough to leave the remaining questions and accusatory looks from supporters aimed at other areas of the pitch.
One of my Newcastle Chronicle colleagues before Tuesday’s kick-off labelled the City keeper as the player he felt could cause United the most problems. I’ll confess that his answer raised an eyebrow.
Come full-time, it was hard not to nod in agreement – with the promise of much more to come as City continue their desperate fight to regain Championship ground.