Ipswich 0 Norwich City 1
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Norwich City’s red-hot striker Lewis Grabban struck his fourth Championship goal of the season to inflict fresh derby misery on East Anglian rivals Ipswich in Saturday’s televised 1-0 win at Portman Road.
Grabban was left unattended to despatch Alex Tettey’s header from close range in the 24th minute to move Neil Adams’ men briefly top of the standings before Nottingham Forest and Watford moved ahead of the Canaries later in the afternoon.
City could have added to their lead with a series of counter-attacking bursts, with Town’s best chance spurned by Daryl Murphy in the 50th minute when he headed wide from six yards.
Adams retained the same line up that finished the midweek 3-1 Championship win over Blackburn. Steven Whittaker remained at left-back although Javier Garrido was fit to be included on the bench after his half-time exit with a hamstring injury against Rovers. Russell Martin was on the opposite flank with Ryan Bennett partnering Michael Turner.
New signings Carlos Cuellar and Cameron Jerome were both included on the substitutes’ bench, but there was no place for Andrew Surman.
Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy restored David McGoldrick to his line up with the prolific striker still being eased back into frontline action after knee ligament surgery towards the end of last season.
Kyle Lafferty’s tip tackle on Tyrone Mings provided Ipswich with an early opportunity to load the ball into the City penalty box, but Whittaker’s presence was enough to see the initial delivery eventually drop harmlessly out of play.
Ryan Bennett then went down with a pained looked on his features after being caught on his left ankle by Murphy. The City centre back was eventually stretchered off with Garrido made a quicker return than he may have expected following lengthy discussions by Norwich’s management on the touchline. Martin switched back to central defence and Whittaker to right-back.
McGoldrick underlined his importance with a potent burst to wrestle his way past Whittaker but the clip to the back post was stabbed over by Murphy.
Predictably there was little real pattern to the frenetic early skirmishes with Town trying to turn City’s back four using McGoldrick and City trying to control matters through sporadic bouts of possession.
The overlapping Whittaker briefly threatened in behind Mings but Dean Gerken dropped comfortably on his near post cross.
Ipswich-bred Luke Hyam and Bradley Johnson were involved in a minor skirmish which referee Stroud wisely decided to cool with a soothing word or two.
Nathan Redmond used Garrido’s decoy run to slip in Grabban but the in-form striker drilled to Gerken’s right from 20 yards.
Ipswich failed to heed the warning and it was Grabban who nudged City ahead in the 24th minute when he reacted quickest to Tettey’s header back in from Hoolahan’s corner to flick past Gerken from five yards out.
Ipswich tried to reply when Cole Skuse’s clever free kick entice McGoldrick to drill a right-foot shot which rolled a yard wide of Ruddy’s far post.
Tettey and Lafferty both tried from range with the game increasingly stretched. Redmond then teased Hyam down the left flank but Lafferty miscued eight yards out.
Ruddy was well-positioned to gather Murphy’s curled effort at the opposite end before Whittaker’s misplaced ambition proved his undoing when Town’s midfield swarmed over the Scottish international outside his own area but the slaloming McGoldrick hammered over.
Tettey was the latest Norwich player to require treatment following a full-blooded but fair challenge from Mings.
Skuse lifted over after City switched off in their defensive responsibilities at a home corner. Lafferty miscued his header at the opposite end after Redmond delivered a pinpoint free kick earned by the England Under-21 international at the start of seven minutes of additional time for Ryan Bennett’s earlier injury stoppage.
Jay Tabb’s near post run was tracked by Martin who deflected the half-volley behind for a corner hammered over by Paul Anderson.
McGoldrick was then unable to contort his body to connect with Tommy Smith’s flick after the centre back got a run on Turner in the final meaningful act of the opening period.
Ipswich tried to up the ante immediately after the restart but City crowded out Skuse at the edge of Ruddy’s area.
Murphy then planted a header wide from the angle of the six yard box after rising above Garrido to meet Tabb’s cross in an aerial mis-match. But Norwich missed an equally gilt-edged chance and it was Grabban of all people after he profited on confusion in the Town backline to race through but an attempted lob over Gerken drifted over from 10 yards.
Elliott Bennett was introduced in the aftermath for Lafferty with Ipswich now operating at a ferocious pace across midfield and up front in their collective urgings to press City. Grabban led the breakout but was unable to test Gerken again before McGoldrick tested Ruddy at his near post from an acute angle.
Gerken was resolute in the 59th minute when he went full-length to parry from Grabban with Norwich now operating on the counter to a greater degree than at any time in the derby.
Smith then denied the rampant City frontman when he kicked his shot off the home goal line after the striker had rounded Gerken before the over-worked Ipswich keeper dropped on Johnson’s guided shot from City’s number seven.
Town made a trip substitution for the final quarter but City continued to suggest they had survived that home onslaught following the interval; Redmond guided a left-footer over from 20 yards following another break.
Turner’s positioning was key to cut out a dangerous incursion triggered by McGoldrick.
City broke out in the 80th minute with Garrido’s adventurous burst taking him clear but Gerken was resolute at his near post but the Canaries navigated the remaining minutes with few alarms.
• Ipswich: Gerken, Mings, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Skuse, Murphy, McGoldrick, Anderson (Sammon 71), Tabb (Henshall 71), Hyam (Bru 71). Subs (not used): Bialkowski, Parr, Bajner, Hewitt.
• Bookings: Skuse (foul on Lafferty, 28); Mings (foul on Tettey, 82)
• Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, R Bennett (Garrido 7), Turner, Whittaker, Tettey, Johnson, Lafferty (E Bennett 53), Hoolahan (O’Neil 83), Redmond, Grabban. Subs (not used): Rudd, Cuellar, Jerome, Josh Murphy.
• Booking: Lafferty (foul on Tabb, 36)
• Goal: Grabban (24)
• Added on time: 7 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
• Attendance: 25,245 (2,064 away fans)