Resilient Norwich City proved they are no pushovers on their home patch with defensive strength against Manchester City
Okay, I admit it. I was fearing the worst when I tentatively settled into my seat at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Having seen Manchester City hammer Norwich 7-0 just three months earlier and with the combination of them smarting from a home defeat to Chelsea and knowing a win would be enough to take them back to the top of the Premier League there was genuine worry that the billionaires might run up a rugby score against the Canaries. They did in the end but thankfully it was a Scotland rugby score.
It's hard to remember a goalless draw being celebrated so enthusiastically. Proof that football matches don't necessarily need to end 4-3 to provide pulsating entertainment. While much has been made of the Canaries' struggle to score goals, this was a triumph for those who play at that other, less heralded, end of the pitch.
The abacus that I'd packed in fear of Manchester City's usually rampant forward line came in handy instead when it came to working out that Norwich clocked up 300 minutes without conceding a goal at home in the Premier League towards the end of that game. They have shut up shop since Danny Welbeck netted for Manchester United back on December 28th. John Ruddy has now only let in 6 goals in his last 9 home appearances. Carrow Road may not quite have reached fortress status this season but at least the Canaries are becoming stingy hosts. They are the friends we all have who never get the biscuits out when you pop round for a cup of tea. 'You don't get much when you go to their place', the sort of reputation that's better applied to your football team than incorporated into your home life.
Norwich City's steadfast refusal to concede at home has been made all the more remarkable by the fact that Sebastien Bassong seems to have a different partner every week. We all have friends like that too.
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A settled defence is supposed to be the ideal but this triple century in terms of minutes of meanness started with Michael Turner at centre-back before Ryan Bennett stepped in for the games against Hull and Newcastle and with him now stricken by injury Jospeh Yobo was on hand to be Bassong's glamorous assistant in the gameshow that aims to send its competitors home empty handed.
If Bassong had hosted the French version of Bullseye no-one would ever have won a speedboat, he would probably have taken the Bendy Bullies off all the contestants too before telling them to clear off and find their own bus fare home.
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So yes, that clean sheet on Saturday was great but another one tonight at West Ham would be even better.
Andy Carroll won't be there despite the Hammers trying every trick in the book to get their main striker's red card against Swansea and subsequent three-match ban thrown out. When news broke of the West Ham delegation asking the FA to look again at the video evidence even after the original appeal had been thrown out I had visions of the Mitchell Brothers and Ray Winstone hanging menacingly around outside the committee rooms.
But the FA stood firm in the face of such East End persuasion which has rather damaged the image that flashes into my mind of Softy Walter and his friends from The Beano whenever anyone mentions an FA Panel. These mysterious adjudicators are made of stronger stuff than I thought but even so, if I was them I'd be staying out of the Queen Vic for a while.
I'm clinging to the fact that they pride themselves on being good hosts in East London, the life and soul of the party always looking for an excuse for the next knees-up. So we should get a nice plate of biscuits with the tea tonight. Oh and three points.