Andrew Crofts backs John Ruddy after ‘killer’ goal
Andrew Crofts felt Manchester City's second goal was the game-clincher on Saturday – but he is confident Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy will bounce back from his error.
For all the home side's possession, territory and chances only one piece of wizardry from Sergio Aguero separated the two sides at the interval – after which, the Canaries played with renewed ambition that could have seen them level but for Elliott Bennett over-running the ball.
Those fleeting Norwich hopes were soon over however, as Samir Nasri's tame free-kick somehow found its way through Ruddy – setting Manchester City up for a 5-1 win and their seventh victory from seven at the Etihad Stadium.
'It's obviously disappointing; they are a top, top side and you could see why they were top of the league – and it's right they are up there,' said Crofts. 'But from our point of view it's disappointing because most of the goals we conceded, more than anything they were sloppy bits of play from us.
'Conceding the second goal was the downfall. Second half we came out in the first five minutes and thought 'you know, we're looking all right here' and we had a go.
'Then the goal goes in and it kills you a bit…obviously that changed it a bit for us. We came out and started well and if that doesn't go in you don't know, you may have a chance of coming away with a point maybe.
'But 'Rudds' has made some fantastic saves in the past and he will put that behind him. He's a big lad, he has kept us in games before and he will go again.'
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On Saturday's evidence, Roberto Mancini's Manchester City and their millions will take some stopping. They remain five points clear of closest rivals – geographically and in terms of the Premier League table – Manchester United and 12 ahead of Arsenal in fifth.
But Norwich can take solace in maintaining their own healthy midtable position and the six-point gap down to the top-flight relegation zone.
That was the benefit of Norwich doing the business seven days earlier against Queens Park Rangers.
'Those are the games we have got to win if we want to stay up and today, anything we got would have been a bonus – but last Saturday was a massive three points and you've got to get as many of them as you can on the board,' said Crofts.
'Today wasn't our day, but next Saturday is big again (at home to Newcastle United).
'We are gutted we lost but we are already regrouping. We've got a fantastic bunch of lads, a fantastic mentality and we want to stay in this division and we'll be doing everything we can to do so.
'We're not disheartened, definitely – no one expected us to get anything here from the start.'
Manchester City's starting XI read like a who's who of world class players. The bench wasn't bad either.
'They've got world class players – every one of them is world class and you could see why,' added Crofts. 'It was the movement, the speed of it. They're top players and rightly so because they do it week in, week out – and this is why we want to be in the Premier League. We want to be playing teams like this.
'Maybe we sat off them a little bit too much but we tried to contain them and if you get in 0-0 at half-time you can come away with something.
'Before the second goal you never know. But it wasn't our day and the main thing is to stay in the league.'
Saturday saw a minute's applause and black armbands across the country in respect to Wales manager Gary Speed, who died last weekend.
Welsh international Crofts added: 'He had so much respect and, out of the game he was a fantastic person – and our thoughts are wholeheartedly with his family; it's a sad and difficult time.
'You can see the millions of support he has got from around the world, and he deserved it. He deserved every tribute he gets.
'I absolutely loved him as a manager straight away and when I heard the news I was devastated. He was a great man.
'He was creating something special for the Wales team and that was down to him. He put the foundations in and hopefully we can pay that back to him as a tribute.
'That's what he would like us to do – but more importantly, we've lost a great person.'