Holt inspires Norwich City to new heights

The Canaries’ thumping of their arch rivals at Carrow Road was just about as emphatic as it gets in local derby clashes.

City dominated for virtually the whole 90 minutes, because apart from a few minutes immediately after Ipswich equalised, the game was effectively played in their half.

As always, the game started at a frantic pace, with time and space the rarest of commodities, and the scene was set with an early flare-up between the two sets of players that centred around a tackle from Grant Holt. It seemed as though the City skipper was putting down a marker to let it be known as early as possible that Ipswich were not going to be in for an easy ride.

And, boy, did he make sure that was the case.

Holt was essentially unplayable yesterday, and he frightened the life out of those Ipswich defenders with as menacing a centre-forward display as you’ll get at this level. He never gave the opposition a moment’s peace, and his finishing was superb.

Of course he will rightly be the first to admit that it was a team effort above all else and that each one of his team-mates stepped up to the plate and delivered a first-class performance, but that isn’t going to prevent this from forever being referred to in future as “Holty’s derby.”

Once the Canaries had edged themselves in front for the second time, though, the result was never in doubt. Even though Roy Keane’s team were reduced to 10 men with a decision that on another day might have been dealt with by the referee issuing a yellow card instead of a red, considering how well City were acquitting themselves anyway, I’d suggest it wouldn’t have made all that much difference.

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City were that good. They caused their opponents so many problems going forward and some of their approach play was of the highest order.

Defensively, apart from conceding from another set-piece and the accompanying frustration that goes with that, they restricted Ipswich to precious little in terms of a threat on John Ruddy’s goalmouth.

It was also particularly impressive to see how professional the Canaries were in the second half, especially the patience the players showed when faced with opponents clearly trying to frustrate them by getting every man behind the ball. Being at a numerical disadvantage, Ipswich opted for a second-half gameplan of allowing Norwich to have the ball and inviting them to make mistakes from which they could spring counter-attacks.

City, though, were having none of it, and they kept possession with short, accurate passes that eliminated risks and effectively turned the tables and instead asked questions of their opponents.

Once Ipswich gambled on being more adventurous by introducing a second striker, City happily exploited the spaces that inevitably appeared and then killed the game stone dead. It was a textbook performance from Norwich, first class from start to finish. And one that could quite easily have resulted in a much bigger victory.

• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – GRANT HOLT: Even on a day when everyone in a yellow shirt hit top form it’s still probably the easiest decision of the season to name the City No 9 as top dog yesterday as he was absolutely unstoppable. I’ve said many, many times that the reason Holt is so valuable to the City front line is that he can upset and unsettle the opposition and is likely to make something happen even if he isn’t scoring goals or playing at his absolute best. He gives it everything, regardless. Yesterday, though, he scored the goals that his performance not only merited on the day, but also for the contribution he has provided to the team since the day he signed.