Perfect timing for Norwich City to prolong Ipswich Town’s agony
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Norwich City’s sense of timing matched the sense of occasion at Portman Road.
Norwich City have now scored first in their last 10 visits to Portman Road
1998-99: Craig Bellamy (won 1-0)
1999-2000: Iwan Roberts (won 2-0)
2002-03: Malky Mackay (drew 1-1)
2003-04: Leon McKenzie (won 2-0)
2005-06: Darren Huckerby (won 1-0)
2006-07: Luke Chadwick (lost 1-3)
2007-08: Ched Evans (lost 1-2)
2008-09: David Mooney (lost 2-3)
2010-11: Andrew Surman (won 5-1)
2014-15: Lewis Grabban (won 1-0)
• Statistics courtesy of David Cuffley
You would arguably have to travel far beyond the club’s recent Premier League episode for such an uplifting week. In less than seven days Neil Adams secured his first win as manager at Carrow Road, then followed that up with a thrilling comeback to sink Blackburn in a display that revived memories of when City routinely wore down opponents through sheer willpower, before a first away win of his tenure brought the added bonus of maintaining regional dominance at the expense of a limited Ipswich outfit.
City’s opening weekend league defeat at Wolves raised more questions than answers but the intervening evidence has proved compelling. Adams stressed definitive conclusions were premature following those 90 minutes at Molineux, which turned on Martin Olsson’s dismissal; that assessment now given credence as much by Wolves’ impressive start to life back at this level which includes wins over all three relegated Premier League sides as much as City’s own reaction.
So in that same spirit, expect no-one inside the City camp to run away with the notion three Championship wins on the spin and another day to savour at the expense of their bitter rivals means Norwich will be unstoppable in the second tier.
The road ahead remains arduous, the pitfalls obvious given the heavy workload on Adams’ squad and the inevitable downside from the irrefutable fact City are emerging as one of the strongest in the pack. That merely hardens the resolve of the rest of the division to upset the odds, to strive to level the playing field.
Ipswich’s formula was honest toil and endeavour. David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy are totemic figures up front who the Blues strive to hit at the earliest opportunity before shovelling balls into wide channels and cramming the opposition penalty box.
Just like at Wolves, Norwich were bombarded during phases of the battle, but at Portman Road they demonstrated their versatility.
Adams has an enviable richness of resources for all seasons. This City squad can deliver the knockout blows as well as feint and counter-punch. If teams want to try and match them for creativity and attacking thrust, like Blackburn tried particularly in a breathless opening salvo at Carrow Road, they will respond. For those who prefer different, less-refined methods steeped in physicality, they appear to have acquired an antidote.
Michael Turner was inspirational at the heart of a defence which overcame the early injury absence of Ryan Bennett to erect a sturdy barrier in front of John Ruddy that was only sporadically breached.
Murphy’s far post header five minutes after the interval when he isolated Javier Garrido should have brought Town level, but that was a poor return from the hosts and the prolonged silence from those home fans as City powered away on numerous penetrative counters was telling.
That fire and intensity never remotely threatened to overwhelm the composed visitors. The noise swirling around Portman Road was loudest in away areas.
Those 2,000 in attendance visibly saw once again a collective growing under Adams’ astute leadership. The symbolism of the celebrations between both parties on the final whistle only served to cement the bond.
City’s support have re-connected with a team playing in a style and with a swagger they crave; not weighed down by constant reminders about the unequal nature of top flight combat and subservience that was too often brutally exposed in the latter phase of the Premier League journey.
Alex Tettey’s integration alongside Bradley Johnson in front of the Norwich backline has injected a greater degree of athletic power in a key area of the field.
City have dominated centrally in the last three Championship tussles and the dividend for the likes of Lewis Grabban and Wes Hoolahan is a fertile ground to create goalscoring opportunities.
Norwich should have added more to their growing collection than Grabban’s cute header following confusion in the Town ranks from Hoolahan’s initial corner directed back into the six-yard box by Tettey.
But if relative failure to convert their derby dominance into greater tangible reward was the only justifiable criticism, then Adams and his players deserve praise rather than castigation.
Norwich will stumble again before the finish but the first four matches of this new season demonstrate they possess strong powers of recovery. They are also streetwise. Adams has sought to equip his squad with the nous and experience so important in the testing phases of a long season.
Gary O’Neil’s introduction in the closing stages at Portman Road disrupted any stirrings of a final home hurrah. Carlos Cuellar and Cameron Jerome were kept in reserve among a substitutes’ roster McCarthy must have cast envious glances towards as he prowled his technical area.
Right now there is more that separates than links these neighbours. But the spoils of derby success pale against the bigger prize.