by Paddy Davitt
Friday, April 6, 2012
Norwich City will have to breach the meanest Premier League defence around on current form to beat Everton this weekend at Carrow Road.
The Toffees have won their last three games in all competitions without conceding a single goal in a run which has propelled David Moyes’ men upto seventh in the league and to a cross-city FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley.
City have only fired blanks three times at home in the top flight this campaign, but Everton’s impressive keeper Tim Howard is getting used to a watching brief. The American was a virtual spectator for long spells of last weekend’s latest 2-0 win over West Brom.
“We felt like we’ve been pretty solid lately,” he said. “We’ve had a good run since Christmas and we really felt like that started defensively, and we’ve been scoring goals as well.
“I don’t know how the manager is choosing the team at the minute but he seems to be doing the right thing, and giving guys a rest when they need it and they haven’t disappointed. I love our centre halves – Jags (Phil Jagielka) was our skipper against West Brom and he was fantastic.
“Since the turn of the year it’s not about if we’re going to concede, it’s about how many chances we’ll give up.
“As a goalkeeper when the guys in front of you are limiting chances like that, you know goals aren’t going to be scored. They’ve done such a good job of putting the opponent in areas where it’s difficult for them to get chances. Of course, when it happens that’s when I have to try and earn my money.”
Howard believes competition for places has underpinned Everton’s major improvement with even the likes of England international Jagielka not guaranteed a place under Moyes’ regime.
“I think Jags understands at the moment because the gaffer is getting his rotation right,” Howard told his club’s official site. “There’s a lot of miles on a guy like Sylvain (Distin) too and he needs his break. When Phil Neville isn’t there, Jags is our captain and we feel that.
“He played really well at Swansea and of course was disappointed to miss out at Sunderland but then he was back in against West Brom and was fantastic.”
Norwich will also have to blunt Everton’s cutting edge at the opposite end of the park with January window arrival Nikica Jelavic scoring twice in his last three Toffees’ outings.
“We’ve been scrapping and beating teams up and getting in front of goal, and Niki has been good at linking play up,” said Howard. “It’s great when you know if you do your job properly the boys up front will put them in, and they feel like they won’t have to score eight goals to win a game because we’re solid. That’s part of the feel-good factor.”