Nine years of hurt, Norwich the team in form, but there are reasons for Ipswich optimism...
PUBLISHED: 17:31 15 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:46 15 February 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town take on rivals Norwich City, at Carrow Road, in the second East Anglian derby of the season this Sunday lunchtime (12pm). STUART WATSON previews the action.
Nine years of hurt
Ok, as if you need reminding, here is the story of the East Anglian derby...
April 2009 – that’s the last time the Blues claimed bragging rights. Alan Quinn, Giovani Dos Santos and Jon Stead scored in a 3-2 win at Portman Road. Jim Magilton was sacked two days later to make way for the high-profile appointment of Roy Keane, while City were relegated to League One at the end of that season.
Few could have predicted just how chirpy the Canaries would be almost nine years on.
Town were humbled 5-1 (h) and 4-1 (a) as Norwich sealed back-to-back promotions to the Premier League. They would sit upon that lofty perch for the next three seasons.
There were then two defeats in the regular season (1-0 at home and 2-0 away), followed by a two-legged play-off semi-final defeat (1-1 at home and 3-1 away) as Norwich bounced back at the first time of asking in 2014/15.
Last season there were two 1-1 draws, while earlier this season Town lost 1-0 at Portman Road courtesy of James Maddison’s strike.
It means that, going into this game, both teams have 40 wins apiece in this fixture (20 draws).
Looking at the two teams’ line-ups last weekend, they had just 42 starts between them in these clashes (Ipswich 29, Norwich 13).
Town stalwarts Luke Chambers (7), Cole Skuse (7) and Bartosz Bialkowski (6) have experienced their fair share of derby heartache, but the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Callum Connolly and Bersant Celina have never started in this fixture.
Alex Tettey (6) and Tim Klose (3) are the only players in Norwich’s last line-up to have started more than once against Town, with players like Grant Hanley, Moritz Leitner and Nelson Oliveira having never faced the Blues in the yellow shirt.
Fans may be talking a lot about Norwich’s derby domination and whether that can continue, but do the players?
Forget history then and instead consider current form. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for the Blues either. Why is it that Norwich always seem to be the form team heading into these matches?
After winning at Portman Road last October, City then failed to win any of their next eight games in all competitions.
They’ve been on an upward curve since December 9 though (W6 D4 L1). Most recently there have been 1-0 wins against Brentford (a) and Middlesbrough (h), followed by last weekend’s comeback 1-1 draw at high-flying Derby – arguably their best away display of the season.
Town, by contrast, have largely toiled since that same date of December 9 (W4 D3 L6). Last weekend’s drab goalless home draw with Burton was definitely their worst home display of the campaign.
Gap has closed
During 2014/15, there was always a sense that Norwich were a class above with players like Nathan Redmond, Bradley Johnson and Lewis Grabban. That gap in quality has undoubtedly narrowed since then though.
The last three meetings back that up, as does the current league table with both teams locked on 44 points, bang in the middle of the standings.
Last season, Norwich fans staged a minute’s applause in the 16th minute of their home derby to mock Ipswich’s number of years stuck in the second-tier.
It was, to be fair, good football banter. However, it might be a moment that comes back to haunt our feathered friends. Their parachute payments end this summer and a cost-cutting exercise has begun in earnest.
The likes of Alex Pritchard, Russell Martin, Steven Naismith and Cameron Jerome were all moved on last month, while young star James Maddison looks destined for the Premier League this summer.
With Delia Smith not in the mega money bracket of owners, Norwich might be about to find out just how hard it is to stay truly competitive in the Championship these days.
Reasons for optimism
Norwich haven’t been that good at Carrow Road this season (W5 D5 L5 F16 A16 in the league). They too drew 0-0 against Burton on home soil.
Only four teams have scored fewer than the Canaries’ total of 31 Championship goals in 31 games (Barnsley, Bolton, Burton, Birmingham).
Town have only lost one of the last five and kept three clean sheets in that time. The goals may have dried up (two in six), but the costly defensive errors have been vastly reduced too.