England hopeful John Ruddy is pleased that Norwich City have been keeping it clean
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Keeper John Ruddy insists a play-off final shut-out reinforced Norwich City's growing defensive solidity under Alex Neil.
The Canaries' 2-0 victory came with the club's number one having to save just one weak shot on target from Middlesbrough loanee Patrick Bamford during the Wembley showcase. And although the shot-stopper had the crossbar to thank for keeping Jelle Vossen's first-half thunderbolt at bay, Ruddy was quick to dish out praise elsewhere after keeping a ninth clean sheet under his current boss.
The 28-year-old said: 'Every bit of credit has to go to the guys in front of me. I thought, from Cameron (Jerome) up front, to Seb (Bassong) and Russell (Martin) at the back, we were fantastic to a man.
'And it's been that way for the majority of the season, certainly since the new manager came in. It's been superb, we've looked a lot more solid as a unit, conceded a lot less goals, and I think since the new manager's come in you've seen a different Norwich.
'You get used to the way people play and get comfortable with the people in front of you. That's what it's all about. To maintain a consistency which will enable us to keep clean sheets. That's what we've done. We've managed to keep the goals we've conceded quite limited when we have conceded goals too.'
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Steven Whittaker, Bassong, Martin and Martin Olsson formed City's back four during their three end-of-season fixtures in the shoot-out for promotion from the Championship. They and their goalie behind them were breached on just two occasions – at home and away against fierce rivals Ipswich Town.
Such resistance has been an underlying theme to Neil's work with Norwich conceding an average of just 0.84 goals in 25 matches under the Scot compared to a total of 1.2 while Neil Adams was in charge for the first 25 league games of the campaign.
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A painful mid-season period ruined the latters' initially impressive rearguard record with the Canaries conceding 11 in four matches from the moment they went behind during the 4-0 drubbing at Boro. But things have been far less disappointing following January's managerial change at Carrow Road.
That upturn paid off again on Monday with City bossing things from the off, looking unbreachable and securing a memorable victory.
'The atmosphere was unbelievable. To see half the crowd yellow and green and the other half red was a special moment,' said the man who has recently been linked with Chelsea again.
'Being able to sing the national anthem at Wembley is something every (English) player dreams of. We really kicked on and I think we handled the situation a little bit better than Middlesbrough did. I think that showed in the first 15 minutes.
'The start they made at our place – when they scored early and sat back and defended resolutely – we knew we had to start well.
'The first 15 minutes was absolutely key. To get the two goals, it certainly wasn't job done, but it made us a lot more comfortable. We had a game plan and we executed it perfectly.'
Under Neil Adams (league games only)
Games played: 24
Goals conceded: 29
Number of clean sheets: 6
Biggest amount of back-to-back clean sheets: 2
Most goals conceded in a game: 4 (v Middlesbrough A)
Average number of goals conceded per game: 1.21
Under Alex Neil (league and play-offs)
Games played: 25
Goals conceded: 21
Number of clean sheets: 9
Biggest amount of back-to-back clean sheets: 2 (on 3 occasions)
Most goals conceded in a game: 2 (on 5 occasions)
Average number of goals conceded per game: 0.84