Alex Neil aims to draw on Ipswich success to sink Middlesbrough
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's East Anglian play-off semi-final saga against Ipswich was the perfect preparation for Wembley, according to Alex Neil.
The City boss successfully plotted Town's downfall in the biggest derby battles since the clubs met in the last four of the 1985 League Cup.
Neil was unbeaten in three clashes against Norwich's neighbours since his arrival in January, and the Scot believes his men can reap an extra dividend when they face Middlesbrough with a place in the Premier League on the line for the victors.
'It was a good exercise, in terms of dealing with the pressures, because the fact is that second leg was probably the biggest local derby there has been, certainly in the last 30 years,' said Neil. 'If you look in terms of preparation for Wembley and how much it meant to everyone, never mind what was at stake in terms of the league and promotion, but local pride was at stake and that means even more for me than anything else. It was huge and it is good build up for us going into this final.'
Neil warns City must improve at both ends of the pitch when they face the Teessiders, after emerging unscathed from a bruising 4-2 aggregate victory over the Blues.
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Town managed to keep the Canaries in their sights during the opening 45 minutes of both semi-final games, before City's greater quality and attacking intent tipped the balance following Christophe Berra's red card at Carrow Road.
'I think we are capable of playing better, certainly in the first half when teams are trying to close you down and make it a battle and a scrap and squeeze you into areas where they do not want to let you play,' said Neil. 'It is always difficult with the quality we have and the way we want to get the ball down to overcome that, which is what we showed in the second half of both those ties.
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'For me, it is important you are tight at the back, have a good structure and you carry that threat at the top end of the pitch. What we don't want to do is go too gung-ho or be too defensive. If we can get that right then its about showing no fear and expressing themselves. I want them to show everybody why a lot of people think we are such good side.'