, , , , , , , ,

14th March

Norwich City     1          Cameron Jerome 31

Derby County    1          John Ruddy (o.g.) 66

Sometimes a point is a bitter disappointment.

Last Saturday, for instance.

Sometime a point is a terrific result.

Today, for instance.

On the back of three disappointing results and visiting the division’s form team with a squad diminished by injury the Rams did very well to take a point, a point that may just be crucial come the season’s end.

Pre game discussion inevitably centred upon Jamie Hanson’s first team debut, one of two changes to the team that played Birmingham last week.

A Friday training injury to Omar Mascarell enabled the impressive academy player to step into the defensive midfield position that is so important to our style of play.

And how well he played in such a crucial game. Initially the Norwich midfield dominated but as the game went on Hanson got more involved and showed he is a player of poise and promise.

Talk in the week of either or both of George Thorne and Chris Martin being involved in some way proved not to be the case and what once felt like a deep squad is starting to look skimpy as injuries take their toll.

Our other change was a swap with Ryan Shotton coming in at right back for Cyrus Christie, a change happening increasingly regularly for away games, presumably for greater defensive solidity offered by the former Stoke City defender.

The hosts dominated possession in the early periods of the game without creating any clear cut chances and the Rams worked hard with players tracking back. There were notable defensive interventions from both Johnny Russell and Jamie Ward.

Rams had a spell of greater possession from 25 minutes or so in with Hughes and Ward featuring and looking to create something. Our only decent attempt on goal at this time came with a Will Hughes shot going over.

Just as it felt as if we had subdued the hosts, Cameron Jerome gave them the lead on 31 mins after Hoolohan and Olsson combined well to get behind our line and set up the big striker for a tap in.

Good work by Johnny Russell after a quickly taken free kick on 40 minutes almost created a chance for the Rams, the opportunity just failing for the lack of someone to tap the ball in, the hosts clearing away from danger.

With results in other games going against us we needed a big second half and the Rams started promisingly, again without really creating any clear cut chances, but nearly were authors of our own downfall in giving away a needless corner on 55 minutes after a phase of messing around with the ball in defence.

Jamie Hanson lived up to his nickname of “bruiser” after a clash of heads with Alexander Tetty left the Norwich man prone on the turf and gained the debutant a Terry Butcher tribute head bandage.

It was our debutant that created our equaliser from an unexpected source, John Ruddy turned around a Tom Ince shot round for a corner. Jamie Hanson’s corner was then bundled into the net by Ruddy to bring us level. The credit for the goal may go to the Norwich keeper but in spirit this was a debut goal for Hanson.

Johnny Russell worked as hard as ever throughout the game, proving to be a nuisance, he struggled to find threatening positions with the ball but his work rate off the ball was as terrific as ever and he kept the Canaries defence occupied throughout.

Jamie Ward was similarly hard working and committed and it is good to see him getting back to his early season form.

Until they started lumping the ball forward towards the end of the game the Canaries were subdued for much of the second half and credit to the Rams for that. However it took a superb save from Lee Grant, keeping out a Jerome free header from no more than six yards, followed up by great save even later in the game from a shot from Norwich substitute Gary Hooper to preserve this point.

This was a good gritty and pleasing performance from the Rams in the second half, disciplined and organised.

As if we did not have enough injuries to worry about Johnny Russell took a kick to the face from the already booked Russell Martin that left blood splattered all over his face and questions being asked about why his Scottish international team mate did not get his marching orders.

Steve McClaren mused afterwards that JR has a broken nose so we can look forward to another outing for the phantom of the opera mask soon.

Raul Albentosa is looking increasingly at home and made a crucial tackle to stop Gary Hooper late on – the defensive strength we so crave could well be resting on his shoulders.

This Norwich team has by far the strongest squad at its disposal in this league and have easily been the best team I’ve seen at the iPro this season, so for us to emerge from Carrow Road with a point is a big boost at a time of the season when both the injuries and the worries have been piling up.

Played GD Pts
1. AFC Bournemouth 37 +39 69
2. Watford 37 +31 69
3. Middlesbrough 37 +31 69
4. Derby County 37 +29 67
5. Norwich City 37 +31 66
6. Brentford 37 +11 62