East Anglian derby preview: In-form Ipswich Town have a score to settle – and all the pressure is on Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 February 2017
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town take on bitter rivals Norwich City at Carrow Road this lunchtime (12pm ko, Sky Sports).
THERE’S A SCORE TO SETTLE
Town’s glorious history will always dwarf City’s, but that trump card has been played by Blues fans in desperation over the last few years. While Ipswich have been stuck in the Championship for 15 successive seasons, the Canaries have been in Premier League for four of the previous five seasons.
No-one needs reminding of the painful pair of derby thrashings in 2010/11, or the Play-Off pain of 2014/15. Town’s last triumph in this fixture came courtesy of Jon Stead’s late goal in a 3-2 win at Portman Road back in 2009. Their last victory on enemy territory was in 2006 via the ‘Hand of Haynes’.
ALL THE PRESSURE IS ON THEM
Norwich started the season as firm favourites for automatic promotion alongside Newcastle. They started well, but just three wins in 14 saw them tumble down the table and manager Alex Neil come under heavy pressure.
An upturn in form – 14 points from a possible 18 – put them back in contention, but last weekend’s surprise 2-1 defeat to Burton leaves City seven points adrift of the play-off places.
AND TOWN HAVE HIT FORM AT THE RIGHT TIME
It was all doom and gloom just a few weeks ago. Town had lost 3-0 at home to Derby, while a chaotic January transfer window closed with no multi-million pound replacement for Daryl Murphy and skipper Luke Chambers almost moving to Nottingham Forest.
Getting dragged into a relegation scrap looked a very real possibility, but ‘Fearsome February’ has gone surprisingly well with an unbeaten run against Reading (2-2 at home), Aston Villa (1-0 win away), Brighton (1-1 away) and Leeds (1-1 at home).
A wing-back system suits the likes of Jonas Knudsen and Grant Ward, January loan recruits Emyr Huws and Toumani Digaouraga have added positive play to the midfield, while striker David McGoldrick is fit and firing again.
Mick McCarthy appears to have taken the shackles off his players. Even with star man Tom Lawrence suspended they will be feeling quietly confident.