First things first, and that wasn’t your average 3-0. Minus the green and yellow tinted spectacles, it was a fairly even game and in the middle third of the pitch, for long spells, Town matched us.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say there were spells when they edged it, and in Trevoh Chalobah and Alan Judge they had two players who gave Messrs Trybull, Vrancic and Tettey as much trouble as they have had for a while.
Those down south were not slow to point this out either. Paul Lambert was first out of the traps with an “untouchable at times” to describe Chalobah’s afternoon and was followed, predictably, by that most limited of centre-backs, Luke Chambers, who went one better and claimed City “couldn’t touch them”. Proud boasts indeed from a team that, when all is said and done, suffered their heaviest defeat of the season.
Lambert, however, will be pleased. His intention from the moment he signed on Marcus Evans’ dotted line was to make his first trip to Carrow Road as Ipswich manager all about him, and he succeeded. Quite whether part of that plan was to be the story via a trip to the stands is doubtful, but such was his thirst for centre stage I’m inclined to think he’d have taken it.
His post-match comments around football being cyclical and Ipswich’s time coming again is true (at least I think that’s what he said), and we’ll be made to pay for this gloat-fest at some point in the future, but his words were mumbled against a backdrop of anger and bitterness unbecoming of one we once adored.
He’s adamant he wouldn’t change a thing. I think he made a bit of an @rse of himself.
And when we look back on February 10, 2019, the record books will read ‘Norwich City 3, Ipswich Town 0’. They won’t read ‘Norwich City 3, Ipswich Town 0 but Town fought hard, battled for every ball, had quite a lot of possession and were a bit unlucky’. Not least because they weren’t.
Despite the best efforts of Mr Fist-pump to convince us all otherwise, a 3-0 win is a 3-0 win however you carve it up and whatever the backstory, our friend seems to be forgetting it was one of Tim Krul’s most cosy afternoons of the season. For all the prompting and graft of Judge and Chalobah, Town were powderpuff if the final third and shaky in the defensive third, and no-one knows better than us how that tends to end.
So, talk it up by all means boys, and those in that “little corner of Norwich that will be forever Ipswich” will no doubt lap up the bravado, but despite you having some success in stifling our free-flowing football and making it a battle, the fancy talk sounds a little hollow.
For City’s part, it was job done, even though it was far from plain sailing, and as Daniel Farke said afterwards this was one of those occasions where Onel Hernandez’ early goal, as exhilarating as it was, then stifled some of the attacking intent that would have been there if it had remained level. Instead of the prompting and probing to which we’ve become accustomed, City were pegged back partly through not having a need to chase the game.
The episode just before halftime needs no further words from me, but it is worth noting that the whole two-part melee wouldn’t have happened at all were it not for Jon Nolan’s late one on Max Aarons.
While the stats suggest that Town edged the second-half, it did feel as if City had more control and they certainly offered more threat in the final third than the visitors, for whom Will Keane continued his impression of a poor man’s Andy Carroll.
Still, it was bitty and a battle – just how Lambert wanted it – but as the minutes ticked away and it stayed at 1-0, Town were always going to have to commit more numbers forward, offering City more space to counter in the process.
Fortunately for us, the Buendia-Pukki combo is in perfect sync right now and two perfectly weighted passes and two unerring finishes – the second which had more than a whiff of Jerome, May 2015 – were enough to seal the deal and send us two points clear at the top.
It wasn’t especially pretty, and credit for Town for turning it into a scrap, but to have played as poorly as we have done since the turn of the year and still emerge with a 3-0 win is not to be sniffed at.
In terms of individuals, Christoph Zimmermann proved yet again he’s a leader of men and his command of those around him was outstanding – especially in those moments when the blue touch paper had been lit – and there are no words left to describe Pukki’s ability to sniff out and convert half-chances, but the most telling contribution of the afternoon, for me, was Emi Buendia’s.
In a matter of months, the little Argentinian has grown into this player that can dictate games, who is as technically adept as anyone in the division, who has the strength of an ox but the subtle touch of a magician, and who can unlock doors. Amongst this band of brothers, someone has emerged as special.
All of which makes two top an ever more pressing need. Screw the lottery of the playoffs – anything can happen. The only way this group can be kept together, with Buendia at its heart, is to stay in the automatic spots and we’ve given ourselves a shot. A bloody good one.
The Lambert sub-plot was only one of his own making. Yesterday wasn’t about him, it wasn’t even about Ipswich Town – it was about getting three points and putting that small sliver of daylight between us and the rest.
There’s an opportunity – now’s the time to seize it.