Paddy Davitt verdict: Norwich City must prepare for their Championship day of reckoning
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Frustration is a commodity never in short supply during Norwich City's Championship odyssey this season.
But the latest instalment was borne not out of a team who had failed to perform, or one who had failed to compete, or even one who had succumbed to less gifted opponents. Norwich were good, very good at times, but found Bartosz Bialkowski an imposing figure for all bar the fractions of a second it took the ball to leave Jacob Murphy's foot and rocket inside his near post.
But for the Ipswich keeper, City's dominance of possession and territory would have brought greater reward.
Alex Neil had cause to rue his side's wasteful streak but they fashioned enough clear-cut chances to win any number of games.
As it was, such slim productivity was still good enough to retain the upper hand in recent squabbles with the neighbours. Ipswich must wait for that first derby win since April 2009, instead of seeking solace in the history pages. The pre-meditated round of applause that rippled through the home areas in the 15th minute to mark the longevity of their bitter rivals in the second tier was the stuff of genius; a mocking yet searingly accurate reflection of the different trajectories of these two clubs in the modern era.
You may also want to watch:
Norwich's dominance of this East Anglian clash has been beyond question in the intervening period since Ipswich took up residence in the shadow of the Premier League.
This season's combat may have been unable to separate the sides, with a 1-1 Portman Road draw finding a mirror image on Norfolk soil. There is arguably a debate to be had whether the gap has narrowed through City's regression or a modicum of improvement from the Blues, who even without the talismanic Tom Lawrence, offered more of a creative threat than in many recent meetings.
- 1 'Too close to home': Neighbours' shock as body found at Mousehold Heath
- 2 Which? warning to avoid sun cream brand for children
- 3 Chicken restaurant closes 'due to unforeseen circumstances'
- 4 Hospital confirms two patients have died from Covid
- 5 New beauty salon and massage rooms open at country club
- 6 'Like an invasion' - locals speak out over five-day festival
- 7 What are the top 10 new shops opening in Norwich?
- 8 More than 70 speeding drivers snared in police day of action
- 9 'Cold and desolate' - Anne Robinson's Countdown jibe at Norfolk
- 10 Lifeboat crew rescues three girls out to sea on lilos
David McGoldrick edged out Wes Hoolahan in a battle of the talented Irish playmakers. Hoolahan was suffocated for space, with Mick McCarthy's well-drilled outfit programmed to funnel back into a defensive five whenever Norwich roamed forward.
Perhaps a greater source of frustration lay not in the failure to convert City's superiority for large spells but the adverse knock-on effect to those distant play-off hopes.
Neil is right to crunch the numbers and point out the seismic undercurrent to this weekend's Championship away trip to Sheffield Wednesday but after the Owls stumbled against Leeds and Reading, Fulham and Huddersfield all dropped points on Saturday this was a massive missed opportunity.
Beating Ipswich would have proved a delicious side dish to the bigger prize on offer over these coming weeks. By no means is it time to hoist the white flag but that point will rapidly loom into focus should they fail at Hillsborough or against any of those sides in these upcoming games.
For many who view such a fixture list as fraught with pitfalls it is undoubtedly City's best hope of a top six finish. Wins against their nearest rivals will have an exponentially bigger impact. That is the theory, but Norwich have to deliver.
It was fine margins against Town on another day when Neil's collective were so close to falling the right side of the line; a boundary they successfully navigated routinely at this stage two seasons ago.
Norwich found a way under their driven Scottish manager and kept on finding a way to generate a surge of momentum that almost carried them into the automatic promotion spots, before triumphing at Wembley. That has long gone this time around but the top six remains a viable alternative.
The same questions and the same fears regarding their ability to mix it away from the secure confines of Carrow Road will be levelled at the Canaries prior to this weekend's Yorkshire test. Burton is still fresh in the memory and the big-spending Owls have the ammunition to punish another anaemic offering from City in what looks and no doubt will feel like a play-off tie in all but name.
Until this advanced point of the campaign there has always been a fallback position; always sufficient games left in a gruelling season of highs and too many lows to arrive at the right location. But after another weekend of what might have been the window is closing. The reckoning is coming.