Mixed memories for Norwich City

Current form goes out of the window when it comes to derby matches, especially when there is so much riding on the fixture.

Ipswich have quietly crept into a position where the play-offs are again a possibility: the fact that their own manager is laughing off the suggestion that they will finish in the top six proves it's purely academic. Mathematically they can –the law of probability says they won't.

But their big incentive at Portman Road on Thursday is quite clearly to put the brakes on City's promotion challenge, in a way that would make Fabian Wilnis a proud man. No one in this part of the world expects anything different, and why should they? If the boot were on the other foot, City fans would like nothing more than to spike Ipswich's guns.

But they're not. City are the aggressors, sitting third and gunning for automatic promotion. If they don't make it, a place in the play-offs would be a soft landing.

Honours have been pretty even in recent seasons, although prior to the current campaign Ipswich had always been higher in the table. This time, it's been Norwich looking down on their regional cousins.

Turn the clock back to November, 2007 and it was a different story – we start five years ago for no other decent reason than it's a nice, round number and all of the games had some sort of meaning: middle-of-the-table affairs they weren't.

Ipswich came to Carrow Road fourth in the table on November 4, 2007 – City were rock bottom. Peter Grant had walked – he couldn't do much else really – and Glenn Roeder was taking charge for the first time. Alan Lee and Pablo Counago ensured a worrying start to his tenure, but whatever Roeder said to his players at half-time worked.Martin Taylor's header went in off Owen Garvan early in the second half to give City hope, and Jamie Cureton's 67th-minute lobbed volley levelled it, Darren Huckerby seeing red in the final minute. The Roeder regime had started well – although it was the beginning of the end for a number of the players he inherited.

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The second meeting of the campaign didn't go quite so well. With three games remaining, a 2-1 defeat at Portman Road left City just four points off the bottom three and it would take a home win over 10-man QPR in the penultimate game of the season to guarantee survival. City started well, Ched Evans scoring early, but Alex Pearce's own goal and one from Danny Haynes just before the break gave Ipswich the win.

Revenge of sorts was gained in December, 2008, when City won 2-0, with second-half goals from Lee Croft– a real screamer – and Matty Pattison. But while some saw it as a revival, it simply proved to be the only really steady footstep on the slippery path to League One.

City had won only one of their previous seven games, and went on to win just one of the following eight, culminating in an embarrassing FA Cup defeat at home to Charlton who couldn't usually buy a win. Coincidentally, City lost assistant manager Lee Clark to Huddersfield soon after the Ipswich game –- a departure that many consider to have been a major factor in City's decline and subsequent relegation.

By the time City went to Portman Road in April, it was squeaky bum time. By the time they left it was almost all over. Bryan Gunn was in charge and, after a brief flurry of promise in March, City had slumped. They headed into Suffolk as one of four teams who were fighting to avoid joining Charlton in League One. By the time they left they were in the bottom three.

David Mooney put City ahead but Alan Quinn and a Giovani Dos Santos penalty made it 2-1, Jon Stead adding a third in the final minute before Sammy Clingan converted from the spot.

It's one thing losing a vital game; it's another when you lose it in front of the nasty neighbours.

Defeat contributed to a season when the East Anglian derby label was attached to City against Colchester United – which was just plain wrong, although curiously our friends from Essex played a major part in ensuring that genuine hostilities have been resumed this season. Their 7-1 win at Carrow Road on the opening day prompted Gunn's departure and Lambert's arrival – from Colchester. The 5-0 win at their place in January cemented City's title credentials.

Which leads us nicely to November 29, 2010, one of the finest days in the club's recent derby history. The last time it felt that good was quite possibly when Leon McKenzie scored twice at Portman Road in December, 2003, to famously send City top of the old First Division for the rest of the season. For McKenzie read Holt; for two goals read three.

It finished 4-1, with 10-man Ipswich driven into the ground by a rampant City. Holt set the ball rolling, and although Damien Delaney levelled after 29 minutes, he was red-carded two minutes after Holt made it 2-1 – a brilliant pass from Henri Lansbury almost eclipsing the finish. Delaney went for a foul on Holt – and that was it for Town. Holt added a third after 76 minutes and Wes Hoolahan completed the rout two minutes later.

Paul Lambert watched from the stands – the result of a touchline ban – and while he always does a good job of hiding his true feelings from the media there could be little doubt that he was a very happy man.

When the teams lock horns again on Thursday it will, once again, be a game that means something. But more so for City than Ipswich, for a change.