John Ruddy is braced for Norwich City’s acid test against Middlesbrough
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
John Ruddy insists Norwich City's Championship showdown against Middlesbrough is the acid test in their Premier League quest.
The Canaries can go top with a sixth consecutive league victory on Friday night at Carrow Road, and inflict major damage on the Teessiders' own automatic promotion hopes in the process (KO 7:45pm).
'This is a big pressure game but it's another one on the road to where we want to be and if you want to make it then you have to win these games,' he said. 'This is now the biggest game of our season. The top three or four clubs are going for two places and four into two doesn't go. There is plenty to play for. I think it will go right down to the wire.
'We can only do our job. If we win three out of three hopefully that is enough. It doesn't matter what the others do. It is cat-and-mouse and I would rather be the hunted than the hunter. If we do our jobs we stay in this position, and whether we finish first or second, it doesn't matter because we go to the same place.'
The 28-year-old aims to strike the first blow with current leaders Bournemouth and third-placed Watford both in action on Saturday.
'We have an opportunity to put the pressure on. Let's do that and see if they can do the same,' said Ruddy. 'You look at the last four games and we have played teams who were safe with nothing to play for. There is no pressure on them and sometimes those can be the more dangerous matches.'
Ruddy is not reading anything into City's 4-0 pummelling at the Riverside back in November.
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'For as good as Boro were that night we were poor, and we admitted it at the time,' he said. 'Middlesbrough are a good side, they have been up there most of the season. They have been a club in the past who might have slipped away at this stage but there seems to be a change in mentality.
'We knew we had to pull our fingers out. The manager wants promotion, the club does and so do the players.
'It is fair to say we are on a roll, we have momentum and confidence is high. We believe we are set up in a way that we can affect teams and stop them hurting us and that has been shown perhaps in these last few games where we might have slipped up in the past.
'We came through that spell with flying colours and three clean sheets in four games should say a lot.'