Canaries get what they deserve
CHRIS WISE NORWICH 1, IPSWICH 2:There may have been more than a touch of luck about both opposition goals, but there's absolutely no doubt that Norwich City got exactly what they deserved at Carrow Road - nothing.
There may have been more than a touch of luck about both opposition goals, but there's absolutely no doubt that Norwich City got exactly what they deserved at Carrow Road - nothing.
Ipswich needed the help of a massive deflection to haul themselves back into the game just five minutes after new boy Jonatan Johansson had given the Canaries the lead, while their late winner was a scrappy affair with more than a hint of handball about it.
But no bad luck stories were being trotted out after the game, and rightly so. A draw would have flattered the home side after one of the most embarrassing no-shows in recent derby history, so there was a feeling of justice being done when a combination of Danny Haynes' arm and Gary Doherty's outstretched leg bundled the ball over the line in the 88th minute to give the visitors all three points.
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City have held the upper hand in this fixture in recent years, losing just one of their previous nine encounters against the old enemy, but the tables were turned in no uncertain fashion this time around as the men in blue handed out a real footballing lesson to their struggling hosts.
A cracking atmosphere at Carrow Road appeared to bring out the best in the visitors, who stroked the ball around neatly from first minute to last and created enough chances to have won this game comfortably. It's just as well they lacked any punch up front or this really could have been the nightmare to end all derby nightmares.
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As for City, well, it appeared that they were intimidated by the occasion rather than inspired by it. In stark contrast to Ipswich, they played in a nervous and hesitant fashion, with pass after pass going astray - and even the bonus of a goal which came completely out of the blue failed to get them going.
There was the occasional bright moment, the occasional near thing - but it was difficult to believe you were watching a team who were playing host to their big local rivals.
Instead of dictating the pace, the Canaries were being dictated to - and it didn't make for comfortable viewing for the home fans, many of whom were quick to make their displeasure known after the final whistle.
You could fully understand their frustration. City went into this fixture knowing it provided an ideal chance to put their season back on track after a miserable start to the New Year.
Three defeats out of four had left the Canaries 10 points adrift of the play-off zone - but a game against Ipswich provided a wonderful opportunity for a fresh start.
A win over the old enemy would have providing a timely boost to morale, while keeping the play-off dream alive at the same time. It would surely have given even the biggest of cynics a new sense of purpose at a time when City have just added three Premiership recruits to their ranks, one of whom came with a potential £3.5m price tag attached.
Promotion may have still been a long-shot, but bragging rights would have remained in Norfolk and the deep depression that has hung over Carrow Road for much of the season may just have lifted, if only for a week or two. Wishful thinking? I should say so.
As we all know now that was not the way it turned out and a painful defeat really does mark a new low point in what has been a bitterly disappointing season so far.
City are now 12 points behind sixth-placed Preston, who have the further security of a game in hand. They are in the bottom half of the table and would have to win 12 of their remaining 14 fixtures to stand a realistic chance of extending their season beyond April 30. Teams have gone on runs like that before - but judging by yesterday's performance there's no way this Norwich side could scale the necessary heights over a prolonged period.
I'm sure they'll bounce back from this debacle by winning a few games between now in the end of the season. But 12 games? I doubt it.
This City side clearly have some ability - as they showed when they reeled off five straight wins just before Christmas - but there is a worrying fragility about them these days, which manifested itself yet again in this early morning encounter.
Having ridden their luck and taken the lead with a beautifully worked goal - full credit to Youssef Safri and Johansson for that - the Canaries suddenly had a wonderful opportunity to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and put their past failings behind them. Sadly that proved to be too much of a tall order.
A composed Ipswich side simply shrugged off the setback, got the lucky break they deserved through Jimmy Juan's deflected free-kick, and proceeded to dominate the rest of the game. As Nigel might say it really was as straightforward and simple as that.
The introduction of Darren Huckerby and Carl Robinson at half-time didn't change the balance of power one iota. Most of the game was still being conducted with Ipswich in possession and although Johansson hit a post for City midway through the half that was the only moment of excitement for the home fans, with Town continuing to have most of the chances.
Joe Royle's men also had a good shout for a penalty turned down when Robert Green appeared to catch Haynes as he burst through, so it wasn't exactly the biggest surprise of all time when the Tractor Boys finally scored the goal they had been threatening in the dying minutes.
If that was predictable then so was the demonstration outside the ground afterwards, because this had been a truly dismal display from the Canaries. In this of all games.
As for whether the 'let's be sacking you' pleas will have the desired effect only time will tell. For the time being I think it will be a case of 'let's be backing you' from Delia and Michael - but if the ripple of protest becomes a tide between now and the end of the season then he may be forced to act.
Personally I hope it doesn't come to that. But I'm not so sure I am in the majority any more.