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Lee Payne: City will be fine this season but the gap between us and Ipswich is closing

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 September 2018 | UPDATED: 18:00 03 September 2018

Grant Hanley shepherds the ball away from Ipswich's Kayden Jackson. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Grant Hanley shepherds the ball away from Ipswich's Kayden Jackson. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Derby day exposed where Norwich City are as a club.

Jamal Lewis tries to get away from Gwion Edwards on derby day. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesJamal Lewis tries to get away from Gwion Edwards on derby day. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Ipswich still can’t beat us, but the fact that a lot of us fans were happy with a draw shows that times have changed.

When City went to Portman Road back in 2011, I had no doubt whatsoever that we would win. The 5-1 scoreline was perhaps more emphatic than I had anticipated, but victory was duly secured as we headed for promotion.

Now, we are not heading for promotion. Some are even concerned that we might be involved in a relegation battle. I am not worried on that front. I am convinced that there is enough quality in this squad to avoid being dragged towards the bottom, even if I am equally convinced that there isn’t enough quality in it to be looking at the top six. You can’t get away from the fact that it doesn’t look like there’s much joy on the horizon for those of a yellow and green persuasion this season.

City may not have lost an East Anglian Derby since April 2009, but they have won only one of the last five.

We are just about holding on to our unbeaten run rather than emphasising it. Ipswich certainly haven’t got better in that time, so the only conclusion to draw – if you pardon the pun – is that we are getting worse.

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If, like me, you sat down to watch Match of the Day on Saturday night you will have seen one of the reasons why our meetings with the Suffolk team are being met with trepidation rather than confidence nowadays.

Norwich have sold a lot of talent in recent years. I’m not going to get into the financial side of things – there have been enough words printed about that.

Purely on the pitch, City have not been able to replace the players that have departed with ones of equal or better quality.

In the case of James Maddison, this was inevitable. Players like him do not come along very often and I don’t think I have ever seen someone in a City shirt who was so obviously too good for us.

He has looked right at home in the Premier League, right from kick off of his Leicester debut at Old Trafford.

The Murphy twins, however, are a different story.

We liked them because they were ours – brought through our academy and part of the FA Youth Cup winning side that made it into the first team. But neither of them ever looked too good for Norwich.

MORE: Six things we learned from derby day

Josh in particular was a victim of the more negative sections of the Carrow Road crowd towards the end. Yet, a year apart, both are playing in the Premier League. And City have not replaced them.

Some fans on social media now use ‘second division German players’ as an insult. I think that’s harsh. But it is true that City’s recruits over the last 12 months have not exactly been household names. How many of us had heard of Dennis Srbeny before he joined? We have unearthed some gems in the past, but it’s a risky approach.

If one of the signings doesn’t work out, you leave yourself open to accusations of being tight.

In a way Russell Martin being released by the club on Friday helps the point I am trying to make. He was the last of the City players who were involved in those two Ipswich thrashings in 2010-11 to leave.

It was a real sign of how times have changed. It’s no use reminiscing of the Lambert days. That was a special time and we will probably never see that sort of thing again. But the contrast is stark – we are going through a rough patch.

So another derby has passed and the unbeaten run goes on. But it feels like the awful prospect of losing to our rivals is getting closer.

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