Fans deserved better than this
CHRIS LAKEY Ipswich 3, Norwich 1: Danny Haynes will be given the freedom of Ipswich soon - which should sit nicely alongside the certificate which says “You are hereby granted the freedom of the Norwich City penalty area”.
Danny Haynes will be given the freedom of Ipswich soon - which should sit nicely alongside the certificate which says “You are hereby granted the freedom of the Norwich City penalty area”.
Haynes, if you need reminding, is the striker who came on and, should we say, “effected” the winner at Carrow Road in February. Without a dubious goals panel for the Championship, you have to decide for yourself who scored that day - Haynes or unfortunate City defender Gary Doherty, who clearly got the last touch. Haynes accepts it was handball on his part, so it's a tricky one, but you can argue until you're as blue in the face, as it were, down Suffolk way, where Haynes gets the vote every time.
What isn't in doubt is that he scored two goals in the final quarter of an hour or so at Portman Road yesterday to finally confirm what most of us had known since around mid-day - that Ipswich were going to win their first home derby since February 1998.
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The two goals were 100pc his, no question - and quality finishes they were too. Although even by the time he struck his first, Ipswich should have been out of sight, in terms of chances and in terms of quality of play.
The only surprise on the day was that City had actually managed to take the lead before - rather like the Jasper Carrott sketch where he finds himself apologising for being a Birmingham fan when they take the lead at Old Trafford - Ipswich were allowed to regain control of the game and carry on unhindered towards three of the easiest points they will win for a long time.
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And if you think losing 5-0 at Stoke was bad, this could have been worse, with only some dodgy finishing by the otherwise excellent Alan Lee and the promising Billy Clarke keeping it respectable. Yes, 3-1 at Ipswich was respectable, given the circumstances. Had Robert Earnshaw buried a header in the second half to make it 2-2 then it could have been a different story, but it's very unlikely.
Norwich were as poor as they have been under Grant and there were some horrible reminders of Plymouth away and Burnley at home that no fan, whoever they follow, should be forced to dredge up.
So why, after beating Sunderland and Cardiff without playing particularly well, then performing better in victory at West Brom, did City capitulate so meekly at a ground where they had more reason than ever to up their game?
Grant had a major decision to make in defence and chose to drop Dion Dublin - who had, with Jason Shackell, kept two clean sheets in the last two games - for the fit-again Gary Doherty.
It was a tough call, with Grant's logic being to save the 37-year-old's legs on an admittedly heavy pitch. But Dublin plays more with his brain and, with an extra day's rest behind him, as well as the recent boast that he was as fit as any other player at the club, he could have lasted 90 minutes.
If not, then Doherty could have come on from the bench. And, after all, why change a winning team? There's an argument either way - but that's what Grant earns his beans for.
Youssef Safri was also axed to accommodate Luke Chadwick down the right, Carl Robinson taking the Moroccan's holding role, flanked by Andy Hughes and Dickson Etuhu. None of them covered themselves in glory against an Ipswich midfield that jumped on them every time they got the ball. They couldn't create, which left Earnshaw unemployed, they couldn't defend, which left Doherty and Co with their hands more than full. And with Darren Huckerby practically anonymous - his only contribution being to the “fouls committed” tally - it left City impotent in attack.
Lee pulled the defenders this way and that, leaving Clarke to prod and poke, and the likes of Sylvain Legwinski and the excellent Gary Roberts to pick up the pieces and keep City on the back foot. And, having taken the lead, that's where City found themselves when Legwinski levelled matters as, once again, Ipswich were allowed to hold the ball at will in the City penalty area.
Clarke had chances to make it 2-1 either side of half-time, but it was his withdrawal on 76 minutes for Haynes that produced that final spark that Town needed. They'd come close, but, as West Brom found out the previous weekend, close isn't good enough.
Haynes went that one step further, getting ahead of Jurgen Colin to head home his first and then, in injury time, curling a shot around Paul Gallacher to give the scoreline a look that meant it was in closer proximity to the performances.
Which, if you're an Ipswich fan, is all well and good. If you're a City fan, you have very right to ask why your team can win at West Brom and Birmingham, but not at Portman Road, when it matters so much more, if that's possible.
The players and the manager might treat it just like any other game and another set of three points to be won, but they're in a minority, because no-one else does. More than 2,000 fans had passion in sackloads waiting to explode - and all they got was a damp squib from the players.
They deserve more, and Grant has been handed the task of making sure they get it. That means finding players who don't show up one week and then go AWOL the next. It isn't easy, because players like that are worth their weight in gold, which City don't possess.
Which means that, assuming Delia won't be posting another cheque for £3m in January, Grant will be looking in the bargain basement and working on the squad he's got. He says there are some nuggets in there - the art is separating fool's gold from the real thing. Yesterday's showing should give him a head start.