A derby day to forget for off-colour Norwich reserves

Chris LakeyNorwich City Res 0, Ipswich Res 1: Norwich City players came in for rare criticism as the second string tamely handed East Anglian bragging rights to their visitors from Ipswich.Chris Lakey

Norwich City Res 0, Ipswich Res 1

Norwich City players came in for rare criticism as the second string tamely handed East Anglian bragging rights to their visitors from Ipswich.

Honours had been even back in October at Portman Road, but a first-half penalty yesterday helped the Tractor Boys to a win which left reserve team boss Ian Crook struggling to defend his players.

Carrow Road, with just 341 supporters inside and a light covering of snow on the pitch, was a far cry from the red-hot affairs of first team derbies, but Crook refused to use either as an excuse.

'We had probably even less when we played Ipswich at their place,' he said. 'Do they feel like derbies? No. I think the one thing you feel with a derby usually is that there is an atmosphere. Are you going to get that with the reserves? Probably not, but players can generate an atmosphere.

'I thought they played it like a derby. I didn't think we did.

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'I will be the first to defend players all day long, but I can't defend that today.'

It was possibly the first time any City players have been publicly criticised since the opening day of the season, when then boss Bryan Gunn had to explain away a 7-1 defeat by Colchester - and explained a longer than usual post-match inquest.

'We said some things,' said Crook. 'I constantly say to them before every reserve game, 'don't give the gaffer an excuse to leave you out of the next first team game'.

'Today we gave him an excuse to not play them.

'Last week (away to Wycombe) they were excellent on a really, really bad pitch at not the greatest of venues, but they were excellent, played some really good stuff and shouldn't have lost the game.

'I will defend them all day for that, but today is difficult.

'It was poor. Not good today at all.

'The benefits today were that Jens (Askou) had 60 minutes and Mickey Spillane had 60 minutes, both on recovery for them, so that was good, but not a great deal else.

'I thought Declan Rudd did okay, and young Georgie Francomb probably came out of it with some dignity. That was probably as bad as we have been.'

It was Rudd who was at fault for the penalty, having brought down Reggie Lambe as he chased Devann Yao's ball into the area. Rudd and Lambe collided, centre-half David Stephens got a foot in as well, but referee Rob Whitton's hopes of playing an advantage ended when Rudd grabbed the ball. Rudd was fortunate to escape with a yellow card, by which time Crook was concerned enough to send back-up keeper Remi Matthews out to warm-up.

Ed Upson sent Rudd the wrong way from the spot and Town were probably just one foul better than their hosts at that stage. But from then on it was the visitors who were in control of the orange ball on a slippery pitch.

There was a hold-your-breath moment when Town new-boy Yao went in late on Spillane, earning himself a yellow card.

The finger Spillane pointed in admonition was his last act as he and Askou went off, the latest stage in their recovery sorted.

City should have gone further behind on 68 minutes when Carlos Edwards side-footed wide, and Rudd was grateful when a ball that pinged around the area dropped into his hands.

Ipswich piled on the pressure as City struggled to get out of their half. Midfielder Alan Quinn fired a free-kick just over, substitute Billy Clark saw a header ruled out for offside and Rudd had to punch away a shot by left-back Shane O'Connor.

And if anyone expected a grandstand finish from City they were let down: it never happened and the home side got what the deserved: absolutely nothing.