Bradley Johnson and John Ruddy face up to Norwich City's play-off prospects after Middlesbrough defeat
PUBLISHED: 13:57 18 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:57 18 April 2015
The frustration of Friday night's loss to Middlesbrough was still clear to see on the faces of Norwich City players John Ruddy and Bradley Johnson this morning.
The Canaries duo were in the Sky Sports studios as guests on Soccer AM following the painful televised 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road, ahead of the afternoon’s Championship matches.
Losing to Boro resulted in Alex Neil’s side dropping to fourth place and the visitors moving into top spot, ahead of fellow promotion hopefuls Bournemouth hosting Sheffield Wednesday and Watford entertaining Birmingham this afternoon.
It leaves City facing up to the probability of having to take the play-off path to promotion, with their top-six place already confirmed.
Ruddy, who had bombed forward to join his outfield team-mates in trying to force a late equaliser against Boro, was determined to remain upbeat about his team’s promotion prospects though.
“When the new manager came in we were 11 points off top spot and if someone would have turned round and said ‘if you beat Middlesbrough in the third from last game you’ll go top of the league’, I don’t think even the most hardened of Norwich fans would have believed you,” the Canaries goalkeeper told presenters Helen Chamberlain and Max Rushden.
“So that’s testament to the manager and us as players for the amount of effort we’ve put in to get ourselves in this position.
“If we have to do it the hard way via the play-offs, then so be it.
“There’s more positives than negatives to take out of the last four months, definitely, and like I said, we’ve given ourselves every chance, if we would have won last night we’d have been top of the league.
“Unfortunately that didn’t happen, we’ve got two games now, we need to win those two and see what else happens, football’s a funny game, anything could happen.”
Johnson had returned from a two-game suspension for the match and was named in the starting line-up before being replaced by striker Gary Hooper in the 78th minute as City poured forward in search of a goal.
There appeared to be some tired legs as Neil’s side failed to secure a third win in seven days and the 13-goal midfielder admitted the City squad are going to have to dig deep to find the energy for the final two matches of the season – at Rotherham on Saturday and at home against Fulham the following Saturday.
“I’ve missed the last two games through suspension so yesterday was my first game in two weeks so, I don’t feel fine, but I feel all-right,” Johnson said.
“But these lads, Ruddy had a couple of games with the lads at Leeds and Bolton, and last night maybe took a toll on a few of us, maybe a few of us were tired. Myself I feel fine now but it’s been a long season, there are so many games in the Championship, it’s going to take its toll.
“You don’t lose your fitness (missing two matches) but I was on a roll, I scored two goals in my last game and then missed two so when you’re scoring goals and confident you want to play the next match as soon as possible but I got a silly booking and I had to miss two games and it was my own fault.
“It was hard to come back into because you sit and watch games and you think you want to be involved but I don’t think you lose much fitness and yesterday was just one of those days, it wasn’t about fitness, it was about the result and they got the three points.”
The Carrow Road faithful were frustrated by persistent time-wasting by the Boro players during the game, which led to seven minutes of injury-time being played at the end of the match.
Johnson admitted he would be happy to frustrate an opposition side in similar circumstances though, saying: “It’s obviously frustrating for the players and especially the fans, you could they were getting upset and annoyed with it, but of course you’d do it.
“If we were winning 1-0 with five minutes to go, I’m telling everyone to go down and if I get subbed I’m walking off.”
Ruddy also had praise for Aitor Karanka’s side though, praising the performance of the league’s meanest defensive unit, which included former Norwich centre-back Dani Ayala.
“I think the first 15 minutes killed us, they started well, which shouldn’t have been a surprise to us because they played Wolves the other night and were 2-0 up in 11 minutes,” the former Everton shot-stopper added.
“But for whatever reason we started slowly, they capitalised on that, got an early goal and then they showed why they’ve got the best defence in the division.
“Their two centre-halves were superb, they won everything that came in the box and credit to them, they came with a game-plan and they executed that. Ultimately we just didn’t have enough to break them down.”