Norwich City defeat could prove to be the spark Ipswich Town need in Championship promotion push


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Just days after the highs of snatching victory against Southampton, Ipswich Town fans have been left feeling low after yet another derby day passes by without them beating Norwich City.

It has been 15 long years since Ipswich Town last beat the Canaries and it’s been even longer since the Blues were victorious at Carrow Road. For context, the last time Town were victors in this derby Gordon Brown was Prime Minister and Lady Gaga had just peaked at number one in the charts with Poker Face.

Marcelino Nunez’ long-range free-kick, sneaking past Vaclav Hladky’s near-post, proved to be the decider in what was far from a classic for the neutral. Town produced ten shots but just three were on target – their fourth-lowest for the season. From those efforts they mustered an expected-goals (xG) tally of 0.81 – their eighth-worst from the season.

It took until beyond the hour-mark for Town to register a single effort on target when Kieffer Moore’s header was saved by Angus Gunn. Their best effort was on 85 minutes when Town fan Harry Clarke put fellow substitute Ali Al-Hamadi through-on-goal – but Gunn was on hand to deny the Iraq international.

Boss Kieran McKenna said afterwards: “If I’m honest I think the space that we usually exploit really well was there. I don’t think our execution in the first half was on the level [we expect]. The spaces we look exploit in the football pitch were there in the first half and we didn’t manage to utilize them,

“Of course the feel of the game changes a little bit on the first goal and Norwich then defended really compactly. Especially the longer the second half went on they were able to defend with good bodies, good organisations, with the crowd behind them. They always carried a little bit of a counter threat with Josh Sargent as well.

Kieran McKenna talks to the media after Ipswich Town lose 1-0 to Norwich City at Carrow Road

Kieran McKenna talks to the media after Ipswich Town lose 1-0 to Norwich City at Carrow Road

“There’s nothing in particular that wasn’t available to us today, nothing that was new or anything anyone has done to stop us. I think it was more of us not executing to our best level.”

Josh Sergeant, who didn’t feature in the reverse fixture at Portman Road, had moments of quality in which he could have inflicted further misery on the Blues. Borja Sainz also snatched at an opportunity when Hladky was caught off his line.

Town rode their luck defensively and were fortunate to finish the 90 minutes with eleven men.

Most inside Carrow Road thought Axel Tuanzebe should have been sent for a shower when he brought an end to Sargent’s run; he escaped with only a yellow card, although replays suggested he had in fact won the ball.

Skipper Sam Morsy, usually an ever-reliable leader in midfield, was also partial to mistakes and was almost made to pay for one when his heavy touch allowed Sargent to burst forwards. The two of them tangled on the edge of the box but referee Matt Donohue felt it was just a coming together and waved play on.

Town remain in the Championship’s automatic promotion spots after Leeds United (3rd) dropped points. Leicester City’s late win over Birmingham City sees them leapfrog Town by a point and they still have a game in hand.

The maths remains clear though. If Town can find ways to win their remaining five matches, they will be in the Premier League next season. But football rarely proves to be that simple.

The result strengthens Norwich City’s hold on sixth-place, whilst also increasing the likelihood that these two could meet twice more this season in the lottery of the play-offs.

“We don’t speak about the points total much but in reality we know there are two outcomes for us now,” says McKenna. “Of course the incredible work everybody has done to this point it’s possible we could secure an automatic place.

“As much as that’s going to take a record points total, it’s possible and we will fight for that right to the last game. But lets be realistic again, if we were to say [at the start of the season]we would be in a play-off position we would say that was fantastic.

“Who ever we play we know it will be a good side and we also know coming out of this game we know there’s nothing for us to fear and that we can be a good team.”

The remaining opponents and league positions for Leicester City, Ipswich Town and Leeds United

The remaining opponents and league positions for Leicester City, Ipswich Town and Leeds United

This is, of course, a fixture that means so much more to supporters. For many it was seen pre-match as being the ideal time to end their hoodoo and keep firm their aspirations of achieving automatic promotion.

Instead it was the bitter taste of defeat that was left being felt by those of a blue persuasion. But these three points aren’t worth more simply due to the opponent, the opportunity of promotion remains in Town’s hands and, even more importantly, they’ve proven on countless occasions to be leaving and breathing examples of their mantra of running towards adversity.

“It’s three points lost and we are losing to our bitter rivals,” adds Morsy. “It’s really disappointing but our biggest strengths of the season have been how we bounce back.

“We bounced back from Cardiff City [2-1 loss] wit a couple of wins on the spin. We bounced back from Preston [3-1 defeat] with a lot of wins too. Ultimately we will be judged by how we bounce back.”

Fortunately for Town they’ve soon got the opportunity to get back to winning ways on home turf when Watford and Middlesbrough come to visit. McKenna is still yet to lose back-to-back league games but at this stage of the season every point could be pivotal.

“Football is never straight forward,” he added. It’s about how we will bounce back. At Southampton we did not think the league was won and today we do not think the league is lost.

“We will go again. We have calm heads. We will dissect the game and see how we can improve and get better.”


About Author

When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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