After Ipswich and Arsenal, how will Norwich City respond?
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The History Boys will have to make do with their star gazing for another few months after the Canaries left with the points from a Portman Road stadium seething with impotent rage as a generation of fans who have never seen an Ipswich derby win hurled facile abuse at anyone wearing yellow and green.
What impressed me most about the win wasn’t the way that City coped with the predictably robust approach of the hosts, but the level of composure with which they managed the second half of the game as they slowly squeezed the life out of Ipswich and ensured that there would be no late siege to withstand.
It was also a day of personal redemption for Timm Klose, who had been unable to handle the physicality of Daryl Murphy in last season’s corresponding fixture, a game in which serious questions began to be asked about his ability to adjust to the more muscular demands of Championship football.
On Sunday, the Swiss international barely put a foot wrong as he and Christoph Zimmermann handled David McGoldrick and Martyn Waghorn with ease, and his exuberant delight at the end of the game emphasised just how strongly he has bought into this rejuvenated Norwich City set-up.
While Ipswich generated a number of half chances, and one gilt-edged one as Yanic Wildschut’s slip allowed McGoldrick a free-header that he should have buried, their lack of composure, which included comedy slices from both strikers which went out for throw-ins, was thrown into sharp relief by James Maddison’s calm finish.
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Nelson Oliveira’s pre-match remarks about City’s superior quality might have induced serial apoplexy in deepest Suffolk, but events on the pitch did nothing to suggest that he’d been wrong.
City certainly received no assistance from referee Tim Robinson on Sunday, but his poor showing was thrown into insignificance two days later at The Emirates as Andy Madley produced a performance that was the refereeing equivalent of a two-hour selfie, such was his obvious delight at posing for the cameras as he strutted around the pitch dispensing increasingly unfathomable decisions in favour of the home team.
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The only real surprise at the final whistle was that he didn’t dash across to genuflect at the feet of Arsene Wenger, such had been his puppylike desire to please the Frenchman throughout the game.
It must rankle with Madley that his younger, and significantly more competent, brother Bobby has been a Select Group Referee for several seasons while he remains marooned in the Football League, but his apparent desperation to curry favour with the elite on Tuesday night was embarrassing.
However, he wasn’t the reason that City lost; that was down to missed chances and two mistakes that can be ascribed to tired minds and bodies, but there should be no recriminations towards a group of players who gave absolutely everything and were backed to the hilt by a travelling support that sang its heart out during the game and for some considerable time afterwards.
I suggested a few weeks back that we could be on the verge of something special, and having witnessed that performance (in which City effectively out-Arsenaled Arsenal as they controlled possession for long periods), the emotional group huddle on the pitch after the game and the various players leaping into the away section to give their shirts away, I am utterly convinced that we are.
However, the big question is how much that 120 minutes, following so closely after an intense derby, has taken out of City, although the easing of the injury situation and the end of Marley Watkins’ suspension will help.
While Derby have had a week’s rest, the sense of injustice in the City dressing room will undoubtedly be a motivating factor, but the players will need our help and today of all days Carrow Road must be a cauldron of noise.