Norwich City legend Roberts forecasts away win
Late comebacks have defined Norwich City’s Championship season to date but Thursday’s East Anglian derby could hinge on their penchant for scoring first on the road.
Paul Lambert’s men are unbeaten in 17 away league games this campaign when they have taken the lead – 12 wins and five draws – in a run which has underpinned their Premier League push. City also have the weight of derby history on their side with the Canaries breaking the deadlock first in the last eight Portman Road encounters stretching back to Craig Bellamy’s match-winner in October 1998.
City scoring legend Iwan Roberts notched a brace in a 2-0 away win the following season at their arch rivals and believes Lambert’s attacking policy has reaped dividends.
He said: “It’s a testament to how Paul Lambert plays. They don’t sit back. If they get a goal they try to kill sides off and make sure the opposition can’t get back into the game. They’ve only lost four away from home which is as good as anything in the division and is unbelievable. In previous seasons, that was probably the club’s Achilles heel – whereas they made Carrow Road a fortress.
“Its not often these days I wish I was still playing but as a player you look forward to big games and they don’t come any bigger than a local derby against your fiercest rivals and old enemy.
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“This one is probably as big as any we have had in the last few years. With four games left I think it would be the biggest three points of the season and like last week (against Forest) a win puts pressure on the other teams up there.”
Roberts feels City have the attacking arsenal to maintain their Portman Road goalscoring record.
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He said: “Ipswich will want to put a spanner in the works, especially after getting battered at Carrow Road. They’ll want to pay us back for that but I think Norwich will be too strong.
“They’ve got a better squad of players and they will have too much firepower for them. Ipswich have picked up of late but they lost to Watford 3-0 and Reading 3-1 at home last month.
“I still remember that game when I scored the two goals. It was a great afternoon for us, Bryan Hamilton’s first game in charge, and we absolutely outplayed them.
“That just goes to show form does go out of the window because they were riding high and we were struggling.
“We could have won by three, four or five in the end. I never lost a derby match when I was at the club, albeit there was a spell when Ipswich were in the Premier League, but I just can’t see them getting anything this time. Norwich are a far superior team.”
Lambert’s offensive policy has been forged on the collective strengths of Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan again this campaign after their starring roles in the club’s League One title triumph. Roberts was delighted to see the duo’s inclusion in the PFA Championship team-of-the-year.
He said: “Both have had tremendous seasons.
“Wes is a bright, clever player who creates and scores goals from midfield and Holty has just carried it on from last year.
“What more can you say? I think both him and the boy Danny Graham are the two best centre forwards in the league.
“They have got a hatful of goals and people at Cardiff may say different with Jay Bothroyd but I would pick those two ahead of him any day. They’re more of a threat in that penalty box.”
• City’s opening salvos in the past eight East Anglian derbies at Portman Road.
1998-99: Craig Bellamy (won 1-0)
1999-00: Iwan Roberts (won 2-0)
2002-03: Malky Mackay (drew 1-1)
2003-04: Leon McKenzie (won 2-0)
2005-06: Darren Huckerby (won 1-0)
2006-07: Luke Chadwick (lost 1-3)
2007-08: Ched Evans (lost 1-2)
2008-09: David Mooney (lost 2-3)
• City on the road this season when they have scored first:
Wins (8): Scunthorpe, Preston, Bristol City, Derby, Coventry, Sheffield United, Barnsley, Leicester,
Draws (5): Millwall, Reading, Middlesbrough, Hull City, Watford