Holt humbles Ipswich as Canaries take flight
A sending-off often skews the reporting of a game. “Ten-Man City Lose To United”, one headline might scream. But the red card may well have come towards the end of proceedings, with the game already as good as lost. The reference to a dismissal is purely information rather than an attempt to explain a defeat.
Sometimes, though, even an early red card is incidental to the end result. In the first East Anglian derby of the season, televised live from Carrow Road, Ipswich Town centre-back Damien Delaney followed up a rare goal by receiving his marching orders for a foul on Norwich City’s hat-trick hero Grant Holt. But this didn’t change the game.
Norwich began confidently, buoyed by an expectant home crowd and eager to ensure they struck the first goal after falling behind in each of their previous two outings in Norfolk. Ipswich, on the other hand, offered an impression of eleven rabbits in headlights and seemed unable to deal with the threat of Holt in particular.
While not known for lightning pace or formidable aerial ability, Holt is a nuisance and his performance against City’s rivals was reminiscent of a vaguely similar striker that ruined Norwich’s return to the second tier on the opening evening of the season. That night, Watford striker Danny Graham ran the channels brilliantly, pulling defenders out of position and profiting with a brace. Holt went one better at the best possible time.
When Watford visited, Holt watched on from the bench as Graham netted his first and, following a late entrance as a substitute, from the other side of the halfway line when he scored a fine second. He didn’t need to take notes. They were just the kind of goals Holt plundered on a regular basis in League One last season.
There was little mention on the BBC coverage of the handball integral to Norwich’s opener or the possibility that their star striker should have been sent off in the third minute for a brainless two-footed tackle, but the visitors were so lacklustre that neither decision appeared to contribute hugely to the outcome. Not much comfort in defeat.
Ipswich didn’t help themselves in the way Roy Keane set them up. The home side possess arguably the narrowest midfield in the division, instead relying on full-backs and the tireless running of their strikers for width. Yet Keane opted to play 4-4-2.
The off-the-ball workrate of Holt and his strike partner Chris Martin was in stark contrast to the meagre efforts of their Ipswich counterparts Tamas Priskin and Jason Scotland. The latter was hauled off after Delaney’s dismissal and little was lost through his departure.
Perhaps Keane thought his side, on a poor run of form, would be fired up for this derby. And some of them were, but too few. Even the dented pride of adapting formation to match a local rival is nothing in comparison with what the Ipswich fans gathered in one corner of Carrow Road must have felt as Wes Hoolahan collected the ball on the left side and chipped it into the far corner of Marton Fulop’s net for Norwich’s fourth goal.
Ipswich needed more in the middle of the park from an early stage, but all too often Grant Leadbitter, in particular, was left to chase shadows as Norwich’s incisive passing took hold. The substitutions made by either manager exposed the greater options available to Paul Lambert. Keane brought on Rory Fallon, whereas the Canaries were able to call upon Simeon Jackson – exactly the kind of livewire attacker that Ipswich appear to sorely lack on this evidence.
It seems unlikely that Keane did not sufficiently motivate his charges for such an important fixture, both in the context of Ipswich’s season and given the opponents, so his players must shoulder a large part of the blame for such a weak display.
For Norwich, the result should provide a huge boost following four draws in a row. Of all five games, this is the one their fans would obviously have picked to win given a chance. That they did so with ease was an added bonus. The positives do not end there, however, neither with the performance of Holt.
Arsenal midfielder Henri Lansbury, whose debut had a clear highlight with a glorious threaded through-ball for Holt’s second goal, is a perfect temporary fit for Norwich. Schooled in the same give-and-go football that Lambert encourages his side to perform, particularly halfway inside the opposition half, Lansbury should thrive for the Canaries.
Ipswich surely need similarly inventive new blood to be sought in January if they are to return to the lofty position occupied earlier in the campaign. If a wake-up call was needed, then this was certainly it.