Paddy Davitt verdict: The King is Dead. Long live the King
Flames? This was a raging inferno of an East Anglian derby. A collision of two immovable objects; one manager who used to be King of the Castle and another who has inherited his mantle.
The unseemly nature of that ugly flashpoint prior to the interval, that led to Paul Lambert’s dismissal, should not be condoned. The football authorities may in all probability take a dim view. But it underlined the ferocious nature of what was at stake at Carrow Road.
This was not simply three points.
This felt like footballing plates rubbing against each other. One club hurtling to League One. Another wide-eyed at the prospect of landing Premier League football.
For large spells of a contest rich in endeavour but only briefly peppered with genuine quality there was nothing to separate these old foes.
Ipswich recovered from the loss of an early goal that was entirely avoidable, and then the departure of their chief motivator, to pin City back after the restart.
There was a palpable sense of anxiety in home areas despite sitting on that slender lead from Onel Hernandez.
But all that effort and endeavour from the Blues could not disguise a woeful lack of punch where it mattered.
Tim Krul remained largely redundant. What Daniel Farke and those who rallied around the City banner craved was breathing space.
Town committed more men forward, the corner count rose but there was to be no tipping point.
No riposte, no threat to City’s dominance in this neighbourly squabble that stretches back to before Lambert had ever achieved anything in green and yellow.
You sense after this latest reunion the prospect of the fiery Scot earning the respect and affection he clearly feels due will remain an elusive proposition.
To hear him again discuss the manner of his departure back in 2012, during this build-up, was to feel he was somehow an unwilling particpant in the chain of events that led him to leave Norwich and pitch up at Aston Villa.
You can never take away what he achieved at Carrow Road, along with Ian Culverhouse and a special band of players. But the manner of his parting allied to his latest fractious return ensured he got the reaction he fully expected.
To be fair to those Norwich fans, Lambert’s entrance prior to kick-off almost passed unnoticed but for the posse of photographers crowded around the away dug-out. The home support was turned inward, towards Farke and his troops.
But once Lambert had scuttled away to the stand for the second half and Teemu Pukki moved centre stage, the baiting grew in volume and intensity.
On a human level, for a man who was so loved and cherished by the same fans it was a sad epitaph.
Yet Lambert is now firmly part of the past. So too Ipswich for the foreseeable future, barring an improbable cup meeting or two.
Whether Norwich seal the deal and reach the top flight or remain in the second tier they will not have to face Lambert or Ipswich next season with three points at stake. The gap is now a chasm to survive.
That is not solely down to Lambert, given he inherited Paul Hurst’s mess, but the effort and endeavour he has at his disposal was never likely to be enough against this Norwich collective.
Pukki’s double was all about incision and precision. Emi Buendia veered infield and cushioned two perfectly-weighted passes into the Finnish international to do the rest. One left foot, one right but the same unerring outcome.
The numbers that accompany Pukki are outstanding and sure to rise even higher.
They speak not only of his prolific output but his importance to a squad who fully cashed in on fresh stumbles for rivals Sheffield United and Leeds United over the past weekend.
Farke wisely detached himself from the first half brawl triggered by Jon Nolan’s naughty challenge to tip up Max Aarons, that turned up the temperature to boiling point. The hands remained tucked in his pockets. The verbal barbs and insults left to others.
He was also happy to leave the stage to his players at the final whistle.
But that is now impossible. There is a ritual his public demand, a swaying, baying orchestra to conduct. It used to be Lambert taking the acclaim of the Barclay in times past. Now it is Farke.
City’s head coach is the living embodiment of a ‘flame in the heart but ice in the head’ mantra he so poetically used to assess the scale of this task on Friday.
Do not as I say, but as I do.
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