Two more deserve a tribute in song
NORWICH CITY 1, CARDIFF CITY 1: Time to credit the unsung heroes of Norwich City's season.
While fans sing the songs that prove their love for Grant Holt – a player whose popularity means he is lauded as some sort of caped crusader on certain social networking sites – and the possessor of the sweetest left foot in the Championship, one Wes Hoolahan, the call needs to go out to the terrace composers to think up some new chants.
Craig Fleming got his own 'There's only one F in Fleming' chant a few years back, so it shouldn't be beyond the realms of someone's fertile imagination.
John Ruddy and Russell Martin are top of the list for those in need of a very public acclamation of their contributions to the Norwich City cause.
Martin's claims are clear: apart from scoring the goal at the very death which earned City a point they more than deserved, he also slotted a certain Craig Bellamy into his back pocket and kept him silent – well his boots at least – on his first competitive return to Carrow Road. More of that little battle later – but Martin is a player who has taken a little while to convince one or two detractors of his value to this Norwich City team.
He arrived as a player who led Peterborough to promotion, but was deemed not good enough for the Championship. That decision seems ludicrous given his recent form – in fact given his form over the last year, although that hasn't always been appreciated. In some circles he has earned the nickname Cafu – it raises a laugh, but not in a derogatory way.
After 10 minutes he'd been felled by an accidental collision as he and team-mate Leon Barnett both tried to stop Bellamy, who set off on the first of two early runs. Thereafter the Welshman did little that will make his return one that sticks in the memory – except moan and moan and moan.
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After the early Cardiff flourish had subsided, Martin was such an attacking force that Bellamy was pegged back and only rarely caused concern. Shame for Martin that it was Barnett who produced the little cameo of the day, leaving Bellamy scrapping like an amateur for a ball the City man casually allowed to run out of play, right in front of the Barclay.
Martin has now scored four goals this season – not since 2001-02 has a right-back got that many in the league, and in Darren Kenton's case, he alternated between that position and centre-half. Curiously, Martin has now scored the only City goals at Carrow Road this year, having scored the winner in the New Year's Day clash with leaders QPR.
Ruddy has also had to convince a few fans, after a couple of rickets which painted a not entirely accurate picture.
However, the consistent form of recent weeks was exemplified by a save on Saturday which kept City in the game. When Bellamy fed Michael Chopra from the left flank it was hearts in mouth time as he collected the ball on the edge of the six-yard box. It needed one good touch from Chopra, which it got, then a second to put it away. But Ruddy reacted quickly, closed Chopra down and when the shot came he scooped it away.
Saves like that change matches, and this one kept City in it.
It had been a story of long periods of Norwich possession coming up against a brick wall that was the Cardiff defence – this time defending as a back eight, rather than just four men exposed.
City will argue that they should have been given the chance to level it early on, when Grant Holt was tripped by Paul Quinn. Referee Keith Stroud was close enough to see it, but perhaps gave a clue as to what these chaps talk about when they have their seminars and workshops: 'Grant Holt? Con man. Warnock said so. Keep an eye on him, if not he'll make you look like a mug.' Unfortunately, it was Quinn who left Stroud with egg on face, although 'what goes around comes around' does come to mind.
Holt had the ball in the net when he followed up Chris Martin's shot which keeper Tom Heaton spilled, but there was no doubt that the officials got that one spot on.
If there were concerns it was the reliance on Hoolahan as the creator – and the fact that so much good work in and around the Cardiff penalty area was only rewarded in the final minute.
The quality of football from City was, at times, exhilarating, but Cardiff were no pushovers. Parkin, who had benefited from his own flick-on and then the chest-back from Chopra to score from 20 yards, made a fine debut. They call him The Beast, not to his face, but he has a quality touch.
Mark Hudson stretched every which way to provide a series of blocks for Cardiff to keep Hoolahan, Chris Martin and Andrew Crofts away from Heaton, while his opposite numbers, Barnett and Zak Whitbread, were equally as commanding in the face of battle with Parkin. Usually in these confrontations there's a winner and a loser: this time both defenders and strikers came out with credit.
The fact that City left it until 36 seconds before the match moved into time added on meant they didn't quite add to their stat of scoring five goals in injury-time this season. It says an awful lot for their character and resilience.
What's exciting for fans is that Henri Lansbury may stay to the end of the season, if he and Paul Lambert can persuade Arsene Wenger to extend his loan deal, and that Andrew Surman, Elliott Ward and Stephen Hughes are all close to returning from injury. How Lambert fits them all into a squad that is doing so well is difficult to work out, suffice to say it only strengthens what he has available.
If there was a disappointment from the weekend, it was Bellamy's return. He's an easy target to attack, but in this instance he has brought it upon himself. Perhaps it was the frustration of being shackled by Martin, but his influence on the game waned to the point of being negligible.
His motor mouth finally got him into trouble 10 minutes from time when he went into the referee's notebook for dissent.
Within minutes he had pushed Adam Drury over as he shepherded a ball out of play a few yards from goal. It was totally unnecessary and had Drury been injured in a collision with an advertising hoarding, he could have rightly pointed a finger at the Cardiff man.
Not surprisingly, mild-mannered Drury and the rather more verbose Bellamy (I'm thinking chalk and cheese here) were still debating the issue as they walked off the pitch. Bellamy might have had the final say in that little argument, but it was perhaps his only victory on the day.