New Norwich City approach works well for Bradley Johnson
Norwich City midfielder Bradley Johnson believes the Canaries are finally reaping the benefits of a more defensive approach after grinding out victory at home to Stoke City on Saturday.
Johnson's impressive header just before the break separated the two sides but City's rearguard action in the second half was equally important in gaining the three points.
The former Leeds man hailed the performance of the back four, who had to withstand Michael Turner and Javier Garrido going off through injury in the second period.'We've been working on the training pitch to stop conceding so many goals from last year,' he said. 'Last year we had that motto 'You score, we score'. We look to close games out now and the fewer attempts we give to the opposition the better.
'The back four played terrific today – Turner has come in and been terrific with Bassong. We've been working on that and hopefully we can get many more clean sheets this year.'
Given Stoke's aerial approach the match was never likely to be a classic and so it proved. There were some heart-stopping moments in the second half when substitute Kenwyne Jones had chances to draw his side level but City managed to hold firm as a result of the character that exists within the ranks, according to Johnson.
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'It's hard and it takes determination and work rate throughout the whole team to stop them,' he said. 'Stoke are really good at putting the pressure on in the final third and when Crouchy is up there he is going to win the majority of headers.
'But our team ethic paid off today and we've got that never-say-die attitude and we will see where it takes us.'
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Johnson revealed the management team have been working hard on City's set-pieces this season and was delighted to see their work bear fruit just before half-time. Johnson rose highest to flick Robert Snodgrass' enticing free-kick beyond Asmir Begovic and the midfielder gained extra satisfaction from beating Stoke at one of their perceived strengths.
'To get a goal against Stoke from a set-piece, who are terrific from set-pieces themselves, is great for us but at the end of the day we got three points and that's all that matters.
'I'm not usually in the box for set-pieces but the gaffer has told me to get in there and we've been working on it this week. I've been working on the movement and Snods has found me from the free-kick and I managed to just guide it in. It's always nice to score but at the end of the day we want to shore things up at the back and stop conceding so much.
'My game is to break play up and help out the back four and we've got great forwards in our team who will always score goals for us. If I don't score then I'm sure someone else will.'
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was adamant after the match that the free-kick that led to the Johnson's goal should never have been awarded. Andy Wilkinson was adjudged to have clipped Snodgrass on the edge of the penalty area but the Potters' chief thought the referee had been conned.
However, Johnson leapt to the defence of his team-mate, insisting Snodgrass would only go down if he felt contact from the defender.
'I wasn't that far up the pitch to see it! But I think Snods is a tricky winger and if he goes down then he's not going to dive – it was a foul.'
Heavy defeats by Fulham and Liverpool suddenly seem like a lifetime ago for the Canaries' fans and Johnson believes his team-mates are reaping the benefits of all the hard work put in at Colney.
'It shows the character that we've got in this team,' he said. 'They weren't good results against Liverpool and away to Fulham but we've bounced back from that now and we've put things right on the training pitch and it's paying off for us now.'