Football League comfortable with decision to bring derby forward
The Football League have backed the decision to move Norwich City's game against Ipswich forward by two days amidst claims that Paul Lambert's team have gained a huge advantage in the promotion race.
The East Anglian derby was moved from its original Good Friday lunchtime date at Portman Road to the previous evening, while all of City's main rivals played on the Saturday – which gave City longer to prepare for the Easter Monday round of games.
Police advice prompted the change of date way back in October, but it wasn't until the events of the Bank Holiday weekend unfolded that criticism followed – and they became even louder when City beat Derby 3-2 on Monday, thanks to a goal by hat-trick hero Simeon Jackson deep into time added on.
Managers of rival clubs have had their say, but a Football League statement yesterday suggested that their cries of 'foul' are wide of the mark.
'Norwich City's fixture against Ipswich Town on Thursday, April 21 was rescheduled in October, following consultations with the local police,' said a Football league spokesman.
'Wherever possible the Football League arranges fixtures to best suit supporters and clubs with the safety of those involved as a priority.'
In effect, the Football League are backing the decision to change the date of the fixture, which perhaps won't satisfy the likes of QPR boss Neil Warnock, Cardiff's Dave Jones, Swansea's Brendan Rodgers and Derby manager Nigel Clough, who have all railed against perceived injustices in the scheduling.
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Warnock went far as to say that joint owner Delia Smith had 'friends at the Football League'.
With the season approaching a thrilling finale, it has effectively come down to a straight Norwich v Cardiff fight for the second automatic promotion spot – and the Welsh camp's players have joined their manager in having their say. Stephen McPhail has already complained about the scheduling, and now team-mate Jlloyd Samuel has tried to avert the pressure from his team on to the Canaries.
'It's going to go down to the wire as long as we keep winning,' he said. 'We've just got to keep the pressure on, that's all that we can do.
'The pressure is on Norwich because obviously it's in their hands now. We had the control, but unfortunately we weren't able to win against QPR on Saturday.
'But we went to Preston knowing what we had to do – and we did that by winning 1-0.
'Now it's up to us to keep winning our games and hopefully Norwich will slip up.'
Cardiff fans will have a double header of football on Monday – with the Canaries providing the late show in south Wales.
The Bluebirds are at home to Middlesbrough on Monday evening, kicking off at 5.15pm, but fans can stay behind and watch Norwich's televised clash at Portsmouth, which kicks off at 7.45pm, on a giant screen at the ground.
Cardiff players will perform a lap of honour after the game – their last at home this season – and are expecting the largest ever attendance at the new stadium.
If Cardiff lose and Norwich win, it means the Canaries are promoted – a horror show double bill for the Welshmen.