Norwich manager Alex Neil refused to heap the blame on his goalkeeper for the fumble that cost his team two vital points on Saturday.
The Canaries were in control of the game against their promotion rivals and held a first half advantage courtesy of Cameron Jerome's 31st minute strike. But a win that would have put the Canaries above Derby into fourth spot in the Sky bet Championship table, was denied them by an uncharacteristic second half blunder.
England keeper Ruddy tried to claim an in-swinging corner from Derby's 19-year-old debutant Jamie Hanson with one arm, but could only spill the ball into his own net. In his keeper's defence manager Neil claimed that Derby midfielder Jeff Hendrick was holding Ruddy's other arm as they wrestled for the incoming ball.
However, despite the mistake being credited as an own goal, Neil deflected any criticism from his goalkeeper in a strong appraisal of his form so far this season. Neil told the Eastern Daily Press: "John Ruddy has been fantastic since I came here. He has made some big saves in crucial games and he has been one of the main reasons we are where we are. It will be highlighted more because he is a goalkeeper but he has been fantastic.
“I’ve looked at the goal back and the lad (Jeff) Hendrick has a hold of his arm as he is trying to collect the ball with one arm from a ball swung in 30 or 40 yards which is not easy. These type of things happen.”
Despite Ruddy's mistake proving critical, his opposite number, Derby's Lee Grant, staked his claim for the headlines, making a string of fine saves as Norwich looked to take the three points their performance merited. Grant saved well from Sebastien Bassong and Gary Hooper in the closing stages and Norwich's Bradley Johnson and top-scorer Jerome also should have done better with presentable late chances.
Norwich now lie fifth in the table but only three points below both Watford and Middlesbrough in second and third place respectively. Norwich also hold an identical + 31 goal difference with those two teams above them and travel to Huddersfield on Tuesday night where they will be looking to return to the formidable form that has brought seven wins from nine matches.