The Tuckster reports on the draw at Southampton and vindication of the manager’s decision to buy Mark Bunn…
This match was overshadowed from the start by the news from John Ruddy`s own twitter account that he needs surgery on a torn thigh muscle. He is due to have surgery on Saturday and is likely to miss the next three months.
This is clearly a body blow for City after Ruddy has shown such imperious form this season and seemingly established himself in the England squad.
However, it gives credibility to Chris Hughton`s pre-season pursuit and capture of Mark Bunn. Many questioned this move at the time with the ex-Blackburn man costing around £1m. I read so many quotes from fans at the time saying “We don`t need a goalkeeper, we need another striker?” Clearly Chris Hughton knows exactly what he`s doing.
With Michael Turner still injured and Ryan Bennett ably deputising again, Bunn would be the only change to the team that started at Everton.
The game was fairly frantic early on with both teams showing plenty of endeavour albeit few genuine chances.
Snodgrass went close to scoring when his shot was beaten away by Saints` keeper, Paulo Gazzaniga and after that, the home crowd screamed for a penalty as Bassong went shoulder to shoulder with Adam Lallana. The Saints man went down but referee Clattenburg waved play on.
Incidentally Mr Clattenburg was roundly applauded by both sets of fans before the game – this was his first match for a month after the shameful accusations made against him by Chelsea.
The next time Lallana got into the box he hit a fearsome volley just over the bar after Lambert picked him out with a lovely pass.
On 32 minutes though, Southampton did find the net after Clattenburg awarded the home side a soft looking free kick. The ball was lofted into the box and hit Grant Holt before deflecting to Lambert. The ball hit Lambert`s arm and fell nicely for him to score from close range. The City players appealed for a free-kick for handball but nothing doing from the ref or linesman.
Scoring has not been a problem for Southampton this term, it`s keeping clean sheets that has been the issue with 13 points dropped from winning positions so far.
And so it proved again on the stroke of half time.
City were awarded a free kick that Snodgrass stepped up to take. His effort evaded the wall but somehow, Gazzaniga allowed the ball to go under him and into the net. Paulo is the third keeper that The Saints have tried so far this season, with both Davis and Boruc both having been given their chances but failed to convince. It was a bit of a howler to be honest.
The goal was deserved and saw the score level at half time.
In the second half though, Gazzaniga regained some pride with a great stop from a point blank Holt header after a City corner.
Bunn also had to be alert when he saved from the dangerous Jason Puncheon a short time after.
Lambert and Lallana also had further chances, as did Pilkington but the score remained level and it was another well earned point on the road for the Canaries.
This draw extended City`s unbeaten run in the Premier League to seven games, eight in all competitions.
Norwich have become very difficult to beat and are currently conceding very few goals. So much so, I have even been toying with transferring a City defender or Keeper into my Fantasy Football Team.
If you were to do that last season your team would chalk up plenty of minus points. Javier Garrido or Seb Bassong look worth a punt, I reckon.
Before his nasty injury I was also thinking about John Ruddy but that`s clearly not an option now. On his replacement though, Mark Bunn has looked very assured so far, both against Spurs in the League Cup and here on his first City League start. He will certainly now have a run in the team and as I said at the start, Chris Hughton has been vindicated in his decision to buy another goal keeper.
I am a firm believer in “any away point is a good point” and this will be seen as a better result for us than Southampton. We may not have got ourselves an away victory yet but these draws are keeping the points tally ticking over.
We next face Sunderland on Sunday afternoon, live on Sky and we need to target that as three points for the taking. A victory against Martin O`Neill`s struggling side will put clear daylight between us and them.
The current solidity to our side is very pleasing to see, we just need to score a couple more goals, preferably from Grant Holt – the big man is due and I have a bet to win.