Norwich City to do battle over Holt red
Local hostilities between the region's top two clubs are now less than a fortnight away – but which manager will be best prepared?
Paul Lambert will today prepare the case for the defence of Grant Holt as they appeal against his red card at Reading on Saturday.
If they are successful, it means Holt will be available for his first derby. If not, he will miss Leeds and Ipswich at home and Derby County away – with the very worst, and you would have to consider it the most unlikely, scenario being an even harsher punishment should the FA decide an appeal is 'frivolous'.
The Holt-Chris Martin partnership looked back to its very best at Reading, before the intervention of referee Michael Oliver, but as well as the prospect of a successful appeal, there is another glimmer of hope on the horizon, with the return of some key players from injury. Centre half Michael Nelson was one of the two 'spare' players at Reading on Saturday, having returned to training, while Adam Drury and Andrew Surman aren't far away.
Derby passion is already evident among City fans, who have been waiting 19 months for another bite at the old foe, while Lambert's thoughts will, no doubt, be on Saturday's home game against Leeds.
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But over the border in Suffolk, Ipswich boss Roy Keane appears to have problems of a very different nature.
Town were beaten 3-1 at home by ex-City striker Mark Robins' Barnsley on Saturday – perhaps the fact that at one stage Blues fans cheered every successful Barnsley pass is an indication that all is not well at Portman Road.
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Keane's Ipswich side were poor in midweek as they suffered a home defeat at the hands of Derby and they were again picked off with ease by a visiting side.
Winger Goran Lovre opened the scoring on 21 minutes when the influential Adam Hammill's deep cross was headed back across the face of goal by Jim O'Brien to leave Lovre the simple task of volleying into the net from six yards. Goalkeeper Marton Fulop then saw a Hammill shot come back off a post, hit him in the back, and then go over the line. Garry O'Connor wrapped up the win with a simple finish to leave the home fans far from happy with Keane.
The former Manchester United captain was the subject of derisory chants all afternoon from the home crowd, who were given a crumb of comfort when defender Tommy Smith headed in late on.
'When you lose, every decision is going to be analysed and criticised,' said Keane. 'That's the nature of football these days.
'We've got to remember the fans were pretty supportive last year. We went 14 or 15 games without victory and they were very good to us.
'A couple of weeks ago we were all great. Now we've lost a couple and they (the supporters) want me out and they're questioning substitutions.
'But they can question all they want. We can't control the supporters. I see better managers than me saying 'it's just not happening'. We've just got to stick at it – and we will do.'
Keane vowed that his side will work hard to improve their poor form.
'It was a poor result and performance but that's the way it's going for us at the moment,' said Keane. 'No sympathy. We've just got to get on with it and look to bounce back next weekend. I was frustrated. I could give lots of excuses about players missing and the second goal summed up the way things are going, when their shot hit the post and went in off our keeper. But we've got to stick at it.'
Town had nine players out of the 18 in the squad at 21 or under.
'In a strange way I was pleased with a lot of the younger players,' he said. 'You have to be brave when things are not going your way and get on the ball and look to play and we had boys who did that.'
Robins described his side's display as the best produced since he has been in charge.
He said: 'It was without doubt the best performance since I became Barnsley manager.
'And it was a continuation of what we saw on Tuesday night against Preston.
'The players took the confidence they gleaned from that game into today. We passed it well, the movement was fantastic and what we added today was our finishing.
'It's a step in the right direction and very pleasing.
On his side's turnaround in form, he added: 'What a difference a week makes in football.
'A couple of weeks back we'd lost two games in the same space of time, against Coventry and Burnley. There was a massive over-reaction and that's the nature of the Championship.'