Norwich City’s extra desire makes difference
NORWICH CITY 4, IPSWICH TOWN 1: It's days like this which prove that last season's trips around the grounds of League One were worth it.
As City slogged their way out of the third tier of English football, it was in the knowledge that around the corner lay a greater prize: not the Premiership – the hope is that comes later – but the opportunity for revenge.
The players might not see it like that, but rest assured the fans do.
The howls of laughter that burrowed into the recesses 19 months ago when City virtually surrendered their Championship membership card in a limp 3-2 defeat at Portman Road, have now gone. Long departed are the bunch of loanees, many of whom couldn't give a monkey's chuff about the future of Norwich City Football Club, and those who couldn't wait to get out as soon as the trapdoor opened.
The philosophy around the place has changed – and yesterday was the biggest opportunity to date to prove it. And didn't they just.
A hat-trick by Grant Holt – the first league treble of his career – set City up for the best win over the old enemy in the history of the East Anglian derby – although they have won a few of them 3-0. Only once before had City scored four against Town – and that was in a League Cup tie at Portman Road in the League Cup in 1968. Hugh Curran scored a hat-trick that day. Holt's was the first since.
Holt enjoys hero status at Carrow Road, but if anyone was in doubt about his credentials for such adulation, he wiped them away with three magnificent strikes.
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It was played out in front of a crowd of 26,532 – an all-seater record and the biggest since 1984, when a crowd of 26,811 crammed in for a fourth-round FA Cup round replay against Spurs.
Records like that deserve the sort of performance City produced. Aside from a short spell after Ipswich scored, the Canaries were in control. Yes, it helps when your opponents have a centre-half sent off before half-time, but in all honesty, the Town back four looked so nervous it might have happened anyway.
What they didn't need was Holt all fired up for the big day. Within minutes of the kick-off he had sparked a huge exchange of 'handbags' and insults when he hacked down Jack Colback.
It earned him a booking, but it was a warning shot fired across the Town bows which had a message: 'I will jump down your throats if you make the slightest mistake.' Which came 10 minutes later.
A Town corner was headed out by David Fox, Simon Lappin played it down the left flank and Darren O'Dea – the only defender Town had back – panicked when he heard the sound of Holt bearing down on him. There was contact as Holt applied the pressure, and it was enough for O'Dea to surrender possession without a whimper. Holt did the rest, slotting the ball perfectly past Marton Fulop.
City had decent claims for a penalty when Andrew Surman looked like he'd been clipped from behind by Gianni Zuiverloon, but referee Keith Hill waved play on.
City new-boy Henri Lansbury curled one wide after good link-up play with Andrew Surman, but Town were level on 29 minutes: Leon Barnett had already been warned about Tamas Priskin's aerial ability when he leapt highest to connect to Grant Leadbitter's free-kick. He did the same on 29 minutes. Priskin headed goalwards rather than off target the second time and Delaney was there to nod it over the line.
That signalled Town's best period, but John Ruddy only had shots from distance to worry about. Town huffed and puffed with little end product.
Then came one of the best moments of the game, and perhaps one of the best passes we've seen in a while – Holt's second of the game the perfect accompaniment. Lansbury had possession way out. Town's defence was square and Holt, on the left, saw a gap. He ran across the back four, staying onside, and Lansbury, who was drifting in the opposite direction, arrowed a pass to his feet. Holt defied the big, bustling centre forward stereotype to finish neatly. The run, the pass, the finish – all top drawer.
From then on, Town hardly had a look-in.
Delaney's dismissal on 37 minutes was debatable. Fox played the ball forward to Holt who pushed it past the defender, just inside the Town half, and gave chase.
Delaney then did the most ridiculous thing you could do – he stuck out an arm and impeded Holt, who went to ground. While the only man ahead of him was the keeper, there was a lot of green between them – and there's no telling if anyone would or could have caught him. The red card came out immediately – with few complaints from anyone in a blue shirt, it has to be said.
Any Norwich fans who didn't think City were going to win really should have had more faith on a Sunday.
Lambert, watching from the directors' box as he served the first game of a two-match ban, was passing notes and conferring with his staff as they tried to second guess Roy Keane's next move.
Holt had an effort blocked, Surman saw a header well saved by Fulop and Elliott Ward fired wide as City ended the half well.
Fox had a few pops from distance, but City were patient, waiting for Ipswich to show another weak spot.
Surman, who had needed treatment in the first half on the same knee which had kept him out for nine weeks, was replaced just after the hour mark by Wes Hoolahan.
A change like that makes a difference, but did Keane boob when he gave a debut to loan striker Rory Fallon, taking off the awful Zuiverloon and changing it to three at the back, Colback and Colin Healy at wing-back? It was a change that lasted long enough for City to score two goals which killed off any hopes Town had.
City probably needed a third to be sure – and when they opened up, they certainly looked like they'd get it.
Lansbury was involved in both, playing the ball in from the right, first for Hoolahan to set up Chris Martin in the area for a chance which, when he was closed down, became an assist as he rolled it right for Holt to fire home for his hat-trick.
Two minutes later it was Hoolahan's turn: the ball came much the same route, but the little man waited until he saw the whites of Fulop's eye before knocking it home.
Carrow Road erupted for the fourth time. The game was won. The memories expunged. And, for once, there was a strange solidarity between the two sets of fans. The Yellow and Green Army chanted 'You're getting sacked in the morning', to Keane – Town's angry followers joined in.
Keane thought this game gave him a chance of forgiveness – the phrase snowball in hell's chance comes to mind.
One of the reasons Ipswich lost is that they didn't show the same resolve, the same attitude, the same commitment and desire as Norwich did.
That, on derby day, is unforgivable.