Ipswich 1-5 Norwich: Covet Thy Neighbour
Thursday 21 April 2011
Promotion-chasing Norwich City reaffirmed their superiority over Ipswich Town as they condemned the Blues to a record 5-1 East Anglian derby defeat at Portman Road.
Taking charge of his first East Anglian derby in front of a season-high crowd of 29,258 at Portman Road, Paul Jewell made one enforced change to the Ipswich side that won at Bristol City last weekend. Lee Martin started a three match suspension for the red card he received at Ashton Gate with Jason Scotland taking his place in the starting lineup, meaning Connor Wickham dropped back into midfield. Arran Lee-Barrett continued in goal whilst Grant Leadbitter was included having recovered from the head injury he sustained at Bristol. On the Norwich side, Grant Holt - who netted a hat-trick in the Canaries' 4-1 derby win over Town at Carrow Road - was passed fit to start up front despite picking up a hamstring injury against Watford earlier in the month.
Third placed Norwich arrived at Portman Road with designs on climbing into the automatic promotion places, and they wasted no time in putting the Blues under pressure. Holt won a corner within ten seconds after his header from Andrew Crofts' delivery was deflected off Gareth McAuley, then Wes Hoolahan went down under pressure from McAuley as he raced Lee-Barrett to a Holt flick-on, but referee Jon Moss dismissed any claim of a penalty.
Town's first chance of the match came after 8 minutes, Scotland having a low effort saved by Norwich keeper Jon Ruddy after getting the better of Elliott Ward before David Fox was booked for a foul on David Norris. Scotland then released Wickham but the 18-year-old struck wide before Leadbitter drove off-target from long range.
Just as the Blues had been getting a foothold in the game however, Norwich grabbed the lead in rather fortuitous fashion on 13 minutes. Lee-Barrett attempted to cut out Hoolahan's low cross from the left but only succeeded in parrying the ball into the path of Andrew Surman to finish from six yards. The goal might have come somewhat against the run of play at the time, but the Blues had not started well.
Jimmy Bullard forced a save from Ruddy from 20 yards before Josh Carson struck wide as Town looked to hit back quickly, but within 10 minutes the visitors were 2-0 up - again in fortunate circumstances. Fox's corner from the left flew across the box and landed at the feet of an unexpectant Gareth McAuley running back at the far post, the Blues centre-back unable to avoid diverting the ball beyond Lee-Barrett into his own net.
Stunned by the early setbacks, Ipswich soon switched to 4-4-2 with Wickham and Scotland paired up front, but Town's biggest threat was coming from Bullard. The on-loan Hull City midfielder curled a free kick narrowly wide after Zak Whitbread was booked for a foul on Carson, then Bullard volleyed another shot over the bar. At the back however, the Blues continued to look vulnerable, Lee-Barrett doing just enough to deny Holt volleying in a third after a poor header back by Damien Delaney on 40 minutes. Bullard struck another attempt well off target before Moss blew the half-time whistle.
Town had looked like coming into the game after a slow start, but after the second goal, they had failed to create much in the way of genuine chances whilst always looking vulnerable at the back. Jewell responded by making a change at half-time, Carson shifting up front alongside Wickham and Scotland coming off to be replaced by Andy Drury in the midfield.
Bullard was once again leading the charge for the Blues in the first two minutes of the second half and came within inches of hitting the target on the volley after Whitbread had headed clear. Substitute Drury then struck off target himself before Marc Tierney's name was added to the referee's book for fouling Carson, Ruddy bundling Bullard's free kick wide for a corner. With around 20 minutes remaining, Carson struck across goal then Hoolahan went down in the box at the other end under pressure from Darren O'Dea, again with no response from Moss. The former Blackpool midfielder then hit a long-range effort over before Carlos Edwards' excellent run from the right set up Leadbitter to curl a shot just wide.
Despite an improved second half performance however, Town's lack of penetration was punished again after 73 minutes. Holt received a long ball forward and passed from the right for the in-form Simeon Jackson running into the middle, the former Gillingham striker sliding in ahead of McAuley and diverting the ball across Lee-Barrett into the net for 3-0.
That strike prompted a frantic few minutes as the game entered the final quarter of an hour, Drury striking over and Henri Lansbury replacing Fox for the hosts before Ipswich snatched a goal back from an unsurprising source. Having been the Blues' best player of the night by far, Jimmy Bullard took the ball into the middle before unleashing a superb 25-yard drive into the top-left corner.
Having found a goal out of nothing, Town momentarily looked like making a game of it, winning a corner as they chased a quick second. Having pushed too many men forward however, the Blues' set-piece was to prove more productive for Norwich. With the ball headed clear, Hoolahan ran away on the break and crossed from the left, the ball skipping past both Edwards and O'Dea before reaching an unmarked Russell Martin on the right who rolled calmly under Lee-Barrett. With the scoreline now at 4-1, the Canaries were set for an unexpected repeat of their victory at Carrow Road.
With his side's work done for the evening, Norwich boss Paul Lambert replaced Holt and Hoolahan with loan pair Sam Vokes and Daniel Pacheco, Vokes quickly getting involved as he laid off the ball for Jackson to fire into the side-netting. Surman then lashed a volley wide from Lansbury's cross from the right as the visitors kept up their relentless pressure.
The Canaries' win over Ipswich in November had been their most emphatic in official East Anglian derby history, but astonishingly, they managed to break the record for a second time this season in injury time. Yet again on the break, Vokes somehow got the better of Leadbitter and McAuley before exchanging passes with Pacheco to set up Jackson on the right. Jackson looked sure to have made it five as he lifted the ball over Lee-Barrett only to watch it come back off the bar, but there was substitute Daniel Pacheco to fire the rebound high into the net for 5-1.
Mercifully, that proved to be virtually the final touch of the game as Moss blew the final whistle to condemn Town to their heaviest home defeat since October 2006. Like many matches this season, despite enjoying reasonable amounts of possession, Ipswich had once again lacked any cutting edge and were repeatedly exposed on the break, whilst Norwich were clinical with their chances. Bullard had been the standout Blues player whose goal was perhaps the only saving grace of the evening for Jewell's side. What's more, Town's bizarre inability to win a weekday league match under the Portman Road floodlights has now extended throughout the entire season.
The defeat comes as a fairly stark reminder of how much work Ipswich still have to do if they are to launch a promotion campaign next season, with Jewell again highlighting the need for a clinical goalscorer as well as a holding midfield player. Much like the Blues' first home defeat to QPR way back in September, this derby loss was also something of a reality check; having perhaps gotten a little carried away after a good recent run against teams who in truth were all fairly poor, Ipswich were again given a nasty shock upon then coming up against a side with real quality. Indeed, with a trip to promotion-hunting Swansea City on Easter Monday, it is safe to say that any slither of a chance the Blues might have had of a playoff place has been well and truly extinguished.
Norwich consequently moved up into the automatic promotion places and look good for a place in the Premier League next season, whilst Town remain in 12th, 6pts off the playoffs with most other teams in the Championship yet to play over the Easter weekend. The disappointment of the defeat will hit hard with Jewell and his team probably never believing they could possibly achieve a worse result than Roy Keane's Ipswich did at Carrow Road in November. However, the key difference on this occasion is that the Blues can still be confident that they are heading in the right direction despite this result, with their future in the division secured as they focus on trying to follow the Canaries' example next season.
Ipswich: Lee-Barrett, McAuley, Delaney, Carson, O'Dea, Leadbitter, C Edwards, Norris, Bullard, Wickham, Scotland (Drury 46) - Not used: Fulop, Peters, Brown, Whight, Healy, Civelli
Norwich: Ruddy, R Martin, Whitbread, Ward, Tierney, Crofts, Surman, Hoolahan (Pacheco 84), Fox (Lansbury 76), Holt (Vokes 82), Jackson - Not used: Rudd, R Edwards, Lappin, McNamee
Were you unfortunate enough to witness this hammering at Portman Road on Thursday? Has it given you doubts about next season, or do you think we should write this off and simply focus on how we are to improve over the summer? Do you think Norwich will be promoted - and do you care, for that matter? Have your say on this game as well as all things Town by joining Vital Ipswich: