Thank God that’s over.
I’m of an age where local derbies bring little but angst and stress. While I’d never go as far as to say it’s a no-win because a win is indeed a win, a wise lady recently called it right when she pointed out that the level of pain caused by derby day defeat is undoubtedly greater than the level of ecstasy induced by victory.
So, on that score, I guess a draw – one that at least kept that run going – is a decent return from what was, let’s face it, a rotten game of football.
I wasn’t at Portman Road, neither was I at the beam back, but instead was at the mercy of Sky’s red button with its single camera, staccato coverage. I shouldn’t complain, it at least afforded me the opportunity to watch the game live, but it’s an odd experience when we’ve become so cosily accustomed to 16 different camera angles and even more replays of even the most minor of incidents.
It did the job though and while doing so laid bare just how ordinary both sides are, and how far down the pecking order the ‘Pride of Anglia’ trophy has slipped down the pantheon of English football’s greatest rivalries.
The beautiful game it was not. Neither was it helped by referee Robert Jones’ curious interpretation of the laws of the game that involved, amongst other things, blowing up every few seconds for even the minutest forms of physical contact.
That I perceived City to mostly come out on the wrong side of his erratic decision making may just be clouded by the green and yellow tinted spectacles I was wearing for the 108 minutes of the contest. I’ll allow the neutrals to decide.
Quite how the outcome is perceived rather depends on the emptiness or fullness of your glass.
Those for whom Daniel Farke is most definitely not the answer will point to the fact City were unable to beat the side who began the day bottom of the Championship and who, on paper, are one of the weakest Ipswich sides we’ve ever faced (Paul Hurst’s men may yet go on to prove this theory wrong).
That same group will also cite an apparent lack of passion in the performance and how the ‘up and at ’em’ approach that typifies most derbies was only really evident from those in blue.
The counter-argument, from those for whom patience is the keyword, will be around City’s positive response to going a goal behind and how, if Lady Luck had been a little kinder to City, it was a game that was there to be won.
And, to be fair, there is a case to be made on both sides of that imaginary fence: there’s no escaping that Town are ordinary but that we seldom looked like beating them, yet it was indeed a bold response to adversity that saw City plug away and earn a point when it appeared the footballing gods had conspired against them.
What Farke did though, regardless of your opinion on his suitability for the role (or otherwise), was to play a bold hand. While some accuse his teams of lacking bravery, the decision to throw Max Aarons into the maelstrom of an East Anglian derby for his league debut took just that; so too going with just one natural defensive midfielder, in the form of Alex Tettey, in order to shoehorn the creativity of Emi Buendia into his starting XI.
As it transpired, while Aarons did a ‘Jamal Lewis’ and slotted into the role as if he had 200 Championship games under his belt, the little Argentinian soon discovered that dwelling on the ball and East Anglian derbies are unnatural bedfellows. His time will come.
That City were to lose Timm Klose at the interval and then see Louis Thompson reduced to a heroic walking role for the final ten minutes suggests there is a little something about this group that helps them to dig in when the going gets tough – and credit to Ben Godfrey for proving an able substitute for Klose – but still the Farke methodology requires more quality on the ball.
For a side whose system relies almost solely on being able to retain possession, City don’t half give it away a lot when the pressure gauge is ramped up an eleven. And they’re all guilty of it – even those regarded as the good technicians.
It’s all well and good earning yourselves some impressive possession stats when, much of the time, that possession is in your own half with your centre-backs playing triangles with your deep-lying central midfielders, but crunch time comes when the opposition press and don’t permit you that time and space.
Hurst will consider that part of his side’s job well done. If City are to persist with this style, which they clearly will, the passing simply has to be better and crisper even in the pressurised moments.
But, when they needed to conjure up a goal they found a way and after many failed attempts to find the net in a yellow shirt, Mo Leitner picked the best possible moment to open his Norwich City account. It was a rare moment of quality amidst a sea of guts and attrition but was a moment that City just about earned.
Leitner, who’d had a generally unhappy afternoon in a midfield that was regularly out-muscled by those in blue, will hopefully be buoyed by the goal and start showing us consistently of what he is capable. We know it’s in there; we just need to see it more often.
So, a point apiece and the anxiety levels can, for now, return to just a dull roar. Alas, it’s a result that does little to placate those who demand change and, equally, does little to arm those whose faith remains strong. But, if to keep the unbeaten run going is important to you, it was job done.
For many, a more important stat is that City have now gone 11 games without an away league victory, and one win in six this season suggests there is still much work to be done before we can dream of mid-table mediocrity.
Let’s just hope the grit shown today, particularly by Messrs Hanley and Thompson, is a sign of things to come but we must also accept that what was once a gulf in quality between City and our Suffolk brethren is now a mere sliver.