The most surprising element to the handbags stand-off on an Ipswich bridge following this game’s conclusion, was the fact that any Town fan was still within the vicinity of the ground – and indeed the town – so excruciatingly embarrassing this must have been for them. Not only did Ipswich have a full half hour to make their excuses – so inevitable the outcome pretty early in the second half (and that’s being kind) – but the Norwich fans were kept behind for a further 30 minutes, which means that a sizable chunk of the Blues’ following could think of nothing better to do than to hang around and rubber-neck the chalked outline of this murder. Odd.
The Old Farm Derby is special for the sole reason most fans’ deride it: 38.39 miles. Many dispute that there can be any sense of hostility between these two settlements. Yet for us, we’re bemused by inter-city spats. How on earth can you loathe a team whose supporters you mix with on a daily basis? Celtic and Rangers fans work and drink with each other every minute of every single day. A Celtic fan can exit Ibrox and probably hail a cab driven by a Gers fan within seconds. An Arsenal fan possibly knows more Spurs supporters than Gunners. Yet these are heralded as the ‘greatest rivalries’. Liverpudlian families are said to be divided by their allegiances. But both sets of fans are Scousers. Their respected clubs aside, what insults can you hurl at yourself?
Norwich V Ipswich they say, can’t possibly be a local rivalry because we exist so far apart. But for us, the Pride Of Anglia is much more about differences than similarities. Norwich and Ipswich are separate communities in separate counties. To the trained ear, we have different accents. When we see Them on derby day, it’s likely we will never see them again for another six months. They are alien. And ET aside, aliens are to be treated with extreme caution.
Make no bones about it, this was a mauling. The pre-match tension for the Yellows, borne from an acute fear that Ipswich would simply turn on the magic simply to upset our automatic promotion apple cart, was palpable. We’ve seen some disasters at Portman Road over the years, including two own goals in the dying moments on two occasions to gift them wins, and two years ago they virtually relegated us. I believe there was even a 5:0 score line. Lose this, we thought, and our season would be hanging by a gnat’s leg.
We wore Town like a flesh tuxedo.
There were no such fears on the pitch though. Ipswich – Bullard aside – were bossed all night long. We wore Town like a flesh tuxedo. The dolly in blue was shaken and shaken by Rex until the neck went limp. Town fans looked as mortified as Christians desperately clinging to the hope that the lions would eventually tire. But these lions had a taste for human blood that just couldn’t be quenched.
Two nil up at the half with an Andrew Surman slot home and an own goal from McAuley, we couldn’t start counting our Easter eggs just yet, although our confidence was palpable. Even a draw wouldn’t be a bad result all things considered. They’re sure to come out all guns blazing. We might have to weather a storm. However, it wasn’t so much a howitzer that greeted us in the second 45, as a spud gun. Simeon Jackson brilliantly took the third and with two more from Martin and Pacheco either side of a Bullard notch, Norwich fans were left beautifully confused. 5:1? Away from home? Nah. The woodwork was struck and Holt and Hoolahan were magnificent, as the Suffolk punch was opened up like a treat-filled piñata.
The points were actually more important last night – and that’s no denigration to Town – but they were. The rivalry was viewed as a potential hazard before the game and not a motivation in and of itself. We expected that a derby win would mean much more to them than us after our 4:1 win at our place earlier in the season. But if it did mean anything to them they certainly didn’t show it in a display as toothless as a grab-a-granny disco.
So, three more points, a play-off place secured, a derby double thrashing, a massive confidence boost, plus a vital goal difference injection, this was a special one in the year that will be forever remembered as the ‘9:2 season’. If there is an apathy surrounding this victory from the Norwich faithful, it’s only because we don’t know which element to celebrate first. Automatic promotion is going to be hard and Cardiff and Reading are looking good, yes, but still… Five! F.I.V.E. Which in Mandarin looks like this 五. A leg kicking a football?
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