Ipswich Town 1-1 Norwich City
Portman Road, 20 August 2016
Local derbies are the games that fans look forward to most: blood, thunder and despite the best efforts of bye-laws, streets ringing with songs and awash with alcohol. More often than not though, there is precious little of the actual football that fans have paid to watch. But, for a derby between two faltering East Anglian giants, this contest was unexpectedly urbane. “You’d expect it to be a scrap, wouldn’t you?” said Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy; “But there was a lot of quality in there as well. It wasn’t just a scrap, from both teams.”
The first half also throbbed with action. For Ipswich, Douglas scored from close range within three minutes only for the goal wrongly to be ruled out for offside. Murphy was a constant threat with head, feet, strength and positioning combining to make chances for himself and others. He had a good penalty shout denied in the 11th minute and a strong looping header nestling (in the roof of the net) minutes later. Yet it was Norwich who scored first in the 25th minute with a fine goal; the sort of strike that epitomises everything it takes to succeed in the Championship. Pinto outmuscled and outran Freddie Sears on the right wing, deep in Ipswich’s half. Short passing was precisely maintained as Naismith then Howson worked the ball across the penalty area to Jerome. From the centre of the Ipswich box and in the space created by the speed of the Norwich teamwork, Jerome hit a powerful and accurate shot against the inside of the post and into the goal. It was unstoppable and for Ipswich, after such a promising start, it could have been heart breaking.
The fact that it wasn’t may have had something to do with the discipline that McCarthy instils, the incessant noise from the Ipswich fans or perhaps just the fact that the players lived up to the term ‘professional’ and did not lose their heads. But after a further scrappy 20 minutes of football, in which Norwich had marginally more of the play, Ipswich repaid the Norwich goal with an equally fine and similar effort of the own. Once more from the right it was played short to Murphy, who flicked the ball deftly left to Sears, who continued the theme and flicked left once more to Jonas Knudsen. Ipswich’s left footed Danish left back then stumped the Norwich defence, by threading through a glorious right footed shot from the edge of the area. It cut through or cut out four Norwich players; Portman Road went wild.
The second half saw no further goals but lots more entertainment and some decent quality. Whittaker was swapped for Norwich’s lively Pinto at half time, a decision soon justified by Whittaker’s ground shot bouncing up only to be headed off the Ipswich goal line by Webster. Then on the 75th minute Webster’s dreadful clearance set up Whittaker to slam the ball against Ipswich’s left post, with Bialkowski beaten. Yet Ipswich super sub Teddy Bishop, who came on for Bru in the 70th minute, also had two chances to win the game late on, within 20 seconds of each other. Both were blocked: from short range by a Norwich defender, then the goal keeper.
This was a fair result for two teams that purely on this showing, should be in the Championship’s top ten. Given the money that Norwich have spent that won’t be good enough and it will be Mick McCarthy who will be most pleased, based purely on this game, with his summer signings. Grant Ward, newly arrived from Spurs, won ‘Man of the Match’ from the TV pundits and despite fading in the last 20 minutes, Ward was again outstanding in defence and creative in attack.
On 27 August Norwich are away to Birmingham, who like Ipswich have five points and have made a reasonable start. Ipswich are at home to Preston who, having lost two consecutive league games at home, may be lacking confidence. Paddy Power’s offer of ‘evens’ for Norwich to win in the Midlands is very unattractive – but 23/10 for another away draw against a team in Blue might tempt you. 7/2 for an Ipswich win and both teams to score at home to Preston looks reasonable. Ipswich don’t keep many clean sheets, despite having in Bialkowski one of the finest current goalkeepers in the English Championship. If the rest of their defence can match his efforts, over the season they may yet catch Norwich.
Match reviewed by Grant Bage.