The East Anglian derby - the stuff of dreams, or nightmares

As far as East Anglian derby matches go, they couldn't have been much more different.

The events of December 21, 2003 and April 19, 2009 are in the history books, written down along with the details of 89 other league and cup games and a clutch of weird and wonderful competitions between the region's biggest rivals. But the scorelines don't tell the whole story – not by a long way.

Delve a little deeper and you emerge with one story of complete and utter elation, another of near devastation.

Four days before Christmas in 2003, Nigel Worthington – working against the background of the on-off Darren Huckerby transfer – sent out a Norwich team that was on the verge of doing great things in League One (Championship). As they headed into the weekend, they were two points behind leaders West Brom in second and two places and four points ahead of Ipswich.

By the time they kicked off at Portman Road on the Sunday, West Brom had been beaten by an 89th-minute goal at Coventry the previous day, leaving the gate wide open for City to march through. All it needed was a stroke of genius – and a derby day hero.

Enter Leon McKenzie, who had signed for City just days earlier from Peterborough. Born into a boxing family, McKenzie delivered two knockout blows which sent Town reeling. They managed to hang on grimly for five months, but by the time the play-offs came around they were shot birds – they didn't make the final.

By then City were celebrating promotion, McKenzie's goals having sent them to the top of the table to stay.

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His first came after 37 minutes, swept in from five yards after Town failed to clear Phil Mulryne's corner, keeper Kelvin Davis having been put off by the presence of Paul McVeigh.

Robert Green made good stops from Darren Bent and Alan Mahon, but, 14 minutes from time, McKenzie looped a header over Davis after a surging run and cross by Gary Holt and it was game over.

McKenzie spent 40 minutes after the match taking a 'random' drugs test, by which time most of the 2,200 City fans had gone. They'd done their piece, applauding the players as they came out for their warm-down and then enjoying the adulation of Delia Smith.

'Delia Smith went walkabout on the pitch for some mutual backslapping with fellow Carrow Road powerbrokers and some non-too-discreet Christmas kisses for the players,' the EDP reported at the time.

The fact that City were top of the table for the first time in five and a half years clearly had significance added by the venue, which Town fans haven't been allowed to forget. It didn't sit well with the fans and it didn't sit well with Ipswich's chairman of the time, David Sheepshanks.

'What really stuck in my gullet was hearing the Norwich supporters singing, 'Top of the league, at Portman Road'.'

There have been nine matches between the sides since then: City won the first two, but then had to wait half a dozen games for their next success, a 2-0 home win under Glenn Roeder. The joy was short-lived: Roeder was sacked the following month and by the time the two old foes met again, Bryan Gunn was in charge.

City, it's fair to say, were in dire straits. The visit to Ipswich was the third from last game of the season. With Charlton already relegated the battle to avoid the drop was being contested by four teams: City, Barnsley, Forest and Southampton, all cramped within the space of four positions and two points difference.

The day before the derby, Forest had beaten Coventry, Barnsley had got a point at Reading and Sheffield Wednesday had beaten Southampton 2-0.

Victory for City would keep their heads above water – a draw would keep them out of the drop zone on goal difference. Defeat was not an option.

David Mooney put City ahead, but Ipswich were level by half-time and ahead on 62 after a penalty. City weren't impressed – Kevin Lisbie appeared to have handled before he was brought down by keeper David Marshall, Giovani Dos Santos converting. Jonathan Stead made it 3-1 in the final minute before Sammy Clingan scored from the penalty spot.

City duly dropped into the bottom three and while there were only two games left to retrieve the situation, it was clearly a significant moment.

The team that day contained five loan players – Jason Shackell, Ryan Bertrand, Alan Gow, former Tractor Boy Alan Lee and David Mooney, while another – Adrian Leijer – was on the bench. A fortnight later they would all go their separate ways, back to their parent clubs. It wouldn't be long before they would be followed by Marshall, showing undue haste in signing for Cardiff, and Sammy Clingan, who went to Coventry City. Lee Croft, who was injured with 20 minutes to go, would make just one more appearance – to collect his Player of the Season trophy before, out-of-contract, he headed for Derby County.

And you can read into those departures what you want: Marshall, Clingan and Croft were perhaps reluctant to play in League One, but the presence of so many loan players did nothing to help City's cause.

It was a system widely used by Roeder and by the time Gunn took over in mid-January, he was perhaps left with no other option than to continue the trend – it's not as if he would had much time to search for permanent signings.

Relegation was City's darkest hour for many years, but losing to Ipswich so close to the date of execution was hard to take.

Town fans enjoyed their moment: why shouldn't they? Just as City had rejoiced in going 'top of the league at Portman Road', then they would have been delighted to have helped consign the Canaries to the third tier of English football for the first time in nigh on half a century. That it meant no more derbies for at least a season would have meant little to Blues fans.

That the derby is now back on the fixture list is testament to Paul Lambert and his coaching team as well as a major overhaul of Norwich City Football Club behind the scenes.

It's a different place nowadays – will Ipswich discover on Sunday just how different?

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