Stuart says: Eight observations following Ipswich Town’s dramatic 1-1 draw at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 18:08 18 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:01 19 February 2018
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Ipswich Town’s nine years of hurt in the East Anglian derby goes on after a dramatic finale to this afternoon’s 1-1 draw at Norwich City. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.
Nine years of hurt goes on
You have to laugh or else you’ll cry...
When Luke Chambers’ bullet header found the net in the 89th minute, direct from Martyn Waghorn’s corner, it seemed for all the world that the Blues would finally reclaim their long lost regional bragging rights.
Then, in the fifth and final minute of stoppage-time, a long ball forwards caused chaos in the Blues defence and Grant Hanley crossed for fellow centre-back Timm Klose to head home.
Town have now gone 10 games without a victory against their bitter rivals (L6 D4) – a miserable run which stretches back to April 2009.
Mick McCarthy charged out of his technical area after his side took the lad. The Sky Sports television cameras document him twice pumping his fist in an apparent ‘up yours’ gesture and aggressively shouting ‘f**k off’ in what appears to be the direction of the 2,000 or so travelling fans.
The Blues boss denies that was the case. He insists it was simply the emotion of the moment. Watch the footage and make your own mind up.
There was motive. Audible boos had greeted the introduction of Jordan Spence in the 79th minute. Then the chants of ‘Mick McCarthy, your football is s**t’, which have had intermittent outings over 12 months now, were given an outing. No matter how rude the customer is, you simply can’t react like that.
The Yorkshireman started this season insisting he wanted to win back hearts and minds. Yet he’s increasingly felt unloved and unappreciated. That’s angered him – and he can’t hide it. The spiky, snarky, sarcastic, dismissive tone he’s adopted in so many of his press conferences has, sadly, overshadowed any of the sympathy he could and should have garnered over budget and injuries.
This feels like a drawn out and sour end to a long-term relationship. Today’s gesture could be his Roy Keane moment – the equally explosive Irishman sealing his fate when gesturing to Town fans to be quiet towards the end of his reign.
Surely there is no way owner Marcus Evans can offer him a new deal now? There’s too much water under the bridge. Too much damage has been done. McCarthy’s wrong when he says winning games is the only way he get people on side. It’s gone beyond that now.
Tale of two halves
Town actually performed really well in the first half. They played with real intensity, pressed high and had Norwich rattled. Keeper Angus Gunn and defender Christoph Zimmermann looked particularly shaky and the home crowd soon fell quiet after a raucous start.
Jonas Knudsen missed the best of the chances though when heading wide. And Martyn Waghorn failed to make the most of several free-kicks in good positions.
It all changed after the break. Town looked like they’d punched themselves out and Norwich’s creative talent, James Maddision in particular, began to find room to play.
Only one team was playing to win the game in the final stages.
It’s hard to know how to rate Bartosz Bialkowski.
Town’s keeper produced two fine saves from James Maddison free-kicks and an even better one from Nelson Oliveira’s low strike during the one-sided second half.
Yet it was his rush of blood to the head which cost the Blues at the end when he raced off his line and ended up frantically back-peddling as Hanley did brilliantly to keep the alive on the by-line and cross for Klose to score.
All of that could have been avoided if Knudsen had taken the ball to the corner and run the clock down moments earlier instead of crossing behind. It was shades of the two points dropped against Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road earlier this season.
McCarthy abandoned his usual 4-2-3-1 system to match-up Norwich’s 3-5-2 formation.
Some will say it’s negative to play with ‘seven or eight defence-minded players’ and leave creative players like Berant Celina, David McGoldrick and Mustapha Carayol on the bench. That’s a valid argument.
You can also make a strong argument that this set-up plays to the strengths of the personnel though.
It gets both Adam Webster and Cameron Carter-Vickers in the team alongside skipper Luke Chambers at the back. It better suits the attack-minded but defensively-suspect Dominic Iorfa. And it allows Martyn Waghorn – a better No.9 than a No.10 – to operate further forwards in support of Joe Garner.
The changes McCarthy made, rather than his starting line-up, was probably a bigger bone of contention with many.
Keeping it tight and then introducing potential match winners as legs tire would have been palatable. Instead, the changes which were made looked very much like ‘protect a point’ decisions – something we’ve seen all too often before.
David McGoldrick came on for Joe Garner first. The latter was on a booking and playing on the edge. McGoldrick, subsequently, barely got a touch.
Luke Hyam then replaced a tiring Stephen Gleeson as Norwich’s midfield began to purr. Jordan Spence, finally, came on for Iorfa who, McCarthy says, was cramping up.
Norwich fans, just like in this game last season, conducted a sarcastic period of applause in the 16th minute to mock the number of season’s Town have flat-lined in the Championship.
That may, however, come back to haunt them. The Norfolk outfit’s parachute payments run out this summer and owner Delia Smith is not in a position to pump in millions every year.
Like Town, the Canaries look very much a mid-table side these days.
Yes, very much two mid-table sides – the difference is Norwich are a club at the start of a new project, while Ipswich seem to be drifting towards the end of an era.
Sporting director Stuart Webber communicates Norwich’s plan transparently and regularly. It was refreshing to hear affable head coach Farke talk warmly about the togetherness of the fans, staff and players.
At Ipswich, meanwhile, we hear nothing from owner Marcus Evans. And McCarthy’s souring relationship with fans has been well-documented.
When outsiders ask ‘what do Ipswich fans realistically expect?’ they miss the point entirely. This over-riding feeling of apathy and disillusionment runs far deeper than simply the position in the table.