I doubt we will see such a big derby mismatch again
Summing up a Norwich City performance has never been easier for me than it was at Portman Road last week.
I said at the final whistle that it was as good a local derby display as any that I ever played in or have seen in the 17 years that I’ve been living here in Norfolk.
But that, of course, was when the adrenalin was still flowing. And in such circumstances you can easily get carried away with things and make statements which later, on reflection, you realise that you might have slightly over-egged.
But eight days on, nothing has changed.
Because City were simply brilliant at Ipswich last week. No other way of describing it.
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They were completely in control of the contest, totally dominant and they produced some wonderful football.
Right from the start you could see that the Canaries had quickly settled into their rhythm. The team oozed authority and confidence befitting a side that is pushing hard for promotion to the top flight, and to do so in the circumstances of a passionate local derby made it all the more impressive.
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At one stage midway through the first half Norwich were zipping the ball about the pitch like Barcelona, and some of their accurate and penetrative one and two-touch passing proved just too much for Ipswich to handle at times. As soon as City opened the scoring, the result was as good as a foregone conclusion, as was ultimately proved.
It was a truly magnificent performance. One which not only had you half-pinching yourself to make sure it was really happening at such incredibly high standards like that, but also one that made you thoroughly proud to be a Canary.
I hope I’m wrong, but I reckon it will be a very long time before we see such a one-sided local derby like that again. It was essentially a mismatch.
And then on Easter Monday City treated us to one of the best moments here at Norwich for a very long time indeed.
When the excellent Simeon Jackson bundled the ball over the line with virtually the last kick of the game, Carrow Road basically erupted.
I think those goal celebrations bettered even those that followed Chris Martin’s late winner against Leeds last season and also Adam Drury’s last-gasp header that saw Norwich claw their way back from 4-1 down to 4-4 against Middlesbrough back in the Premiership days.
It wasn’t surprising to witness the regulars of the Barclay and Snakepit momentarily “losing it”, but this time it was all four corners of the ground. I even saw complete strangers kissing and cuddling each other!
Marvellous. And, as I said afterwards, even I was behaving like a complete lunatic when that ball crossed the line, when I really ought to have been maintaining a professional discipline. But you know what, I don’t make any apology for it whatsoever!
• NORWICH CITY BOSS LAMBERT POSSESSES WEALTH OF QUALITIES
The Canaries have deservedly had plenty of praise heaped on them this season. And many people have speculated as to precisely what the qualities are that manager Paul Lambert possesses that have enabled him to totally transform the team since his arrival here at Carrow Road just under two years ago.
Well, the list would indeed be lengthy, with no single one of those qualities being any more or less important than all the rest.
It’s when you put them all together in the melting pot that it enables the magic to be created.
But consider this. When Norwich were 4-1 up at Portman Road last week, the game was done and dusted and all three points were already in the bank.
So when City broke upfield in stoppage time on the counter-attack, resulting in Dani Pacheco virtually walking the ball into the Ipswich net to make it 5-1, you could have been forgiven for thinking that loan signing Sam Vokes might not have reacted in the manner he did.
Vokes, of course, already knew that he was returning to his parent club after the game, having been recalled from his loan spell by Wolves boss Mick McCarthy.
And, of course, he had been here for only a brief period. Yet when Pacheco casually picked his spot and banged the ball into the roof of the net to complete the rout, before he congratulated the goalscorer for effectively putting the icing on the cake, Vokes initially wheeled away over to the Norwich fans while involuntary punching the air in delight.
This, in stoppage time don’t forget, at 5-1 up and the result already long having since been decided, for someone who hasn’t been here long and who was about to leave the club the very next day.
Like I say. There are many reasons why Norwich are now an unrecognisable outfit from the one that was struggling so desperately not so long ago.
But the fact that there is clearly such a close-knit bond in the dressing room, and that each and every single one of the pool of players that Lambert has assembled in his squad is seemingly willing to sweat blood for his team-mates, the manager himself and the football club, might just be one of the biggest reasons for City’s success.
• TALK ABOUT SQUEAKY BUM TIME!
It might have been the perfect day for the Canaries last Thursday. But apart from the result, I have to say that I’ve certainly had better days.
Allow me to explain.
I was in London on Thursday morning, and so decided to allow myself at least 4� hours travelling time to get to Portman Road in order that I would arrive at the ground in plenty of time before kick-off.
What I didn’t expect, though, was the journey from hell.
It took me one hour to travel the princely distance of just two miles at one point, with the North Circular basically resembling a car park. The A12 wasn’t any better, and time was fast running out on me. I eventually got to within close proximity to the ground at about 6.30pm.
Now all I had to do was find somewhere to park my car.
The first car park I found was scheduled to close just 30 minutes after the final whistle. So no good for me then.
At the next one, which was quite near to the stadium, I was unfortunate to be greeted at the gate by a complete jobsworth, who not only seemed genuinely pleased with himself that he had the power to turn down my plea for him to allow me in without the necessary pass on account of me due to be live on air in about 15 minutes time, but who then revelled in doing so. He’s probably a traffic warden by day. And still single.
The next car park I stumbled upon was jammed full to capacity – all except for one space that was allocated... for motorcycles. I had no choice. It was park up now, or risk missing the start of the game.
Except I then discovered that I had no change for the pay and display machine!
In desperation, I ended up giving someone a �10 note for about �4 worth of coins!
I ran the last mile to the ground like Seb Coe in his prime, and arrived at my commentary position sweating like a pig with exactly two minutes to spare before we opened the show.
Oh, and to cap it all, when I got back to my car after the match, I found a parking ticket attached to my windscreen because I had parked in a “parking space not designated for this class of vehicle,” blah, blah, blah. I hope that Ipswich Borough Council spend my �70 parking fine wisely. I really do.
Maybe they could even think of donating it to one of their car park attendants to put towards the cost of reversing his personality by-pass operation.
• One final thought from a truly amazing week. City’s late, late winner on Monday afternoon was the 12th occasion when they have scored in stoppage time this season. It’s not coincidence. And it’s not down to just pure good fortune either. It’s much more than that. It’s a steely determination and inner belief that the players possess in themselves and each other that has enabled them to nick goals so late on and so frequently in matches.