This afternoon's derby trip to Suffolk all but proved a repeat of last season's as the Canaries stormed into an early lead only to see Danny Haynes run amok and ride to Ipswich Town's rescue.
In the end – despite having chance after chance – the Portman Road side had to settle for just the two goals, not the three after Ched Evans' fourth minute opener had put the visitors briefly in the driving seat.
But once again it was Haynes for whom they had no answer as he made Ryan Bertrand's life a misery, forced Alex Pearce into conceding a 12th minute own goal and then slipped the winner through David Marshall's legs to keep both Ipswich's play-off hopes alive and those of Norwich and the drop lurking at the back of everyone's minds.
As the two teams ran out for today's derby encounter, the thought must have crossed Jamie Cureton's mind that he has come a long, long way since a certain game 12 long years ago when he not only scored, but had the dyed-green hair to match the Portman Road turf.
Today, with skipper Mark Fotheringham ruled out with a neck injury sustained in training, so it was the 32-year-old Canary favourite who led the Norfolk out into the heat of derby battle. Always one to wear his City heart on his sleeve, it would have been beating a mite faster a couple of minutes before noon.
It was racing ten to the dozen four minutes after the start as Evans drilled the visitors into an early lead.
A cagey, tight opening looked to be just that as Tommy Miller's mis-placed short pass fell to Matty Pattison. He pushed the ball back into Evans' feet and from some 25-yards out, he looked up, took aim for the far bottom corner and – from nowhere – popped a shot inside Stephen Bywater's right-hand upright.
It was a dream start as the travelling Canary faithful pushed the party button.
It was an advantage that would, however, last little more than eight minutes as a luckless Pearce handed Town a play-off lifeline.
Not for the first time in his Ipswich career, it was Haynes proving the thorn in Norwich's side as he slipped his way beyond Bertrand through the inside right channel. His fiercely-driven low cross had Shehki Kuqi as a target as the the on-loan Finn looked to ghost in on the far post.
Instead, the ball drilled into Pearce whose shanked clearance flew beyond a stranded Marshall and inside his left-hand post. It was Haynes who led the celebrations in front of the Churchmans. Not the first time that the young man has done that, to be fair.
From looking all a bit bemused and dishevelled, Town suddenly had the play-off bit between their teeth again. Twice Marshall would have to come to the visitors' rescue as he flung himself full-length to push a Miller free-kick wide before then finding himself one-on-one with Shefki Kuqi after Pearce's attempted back pass had fallen short of the Canary keeper.
In the event, Marshall stood up tall and pushed the ball away with an out-stretched left boot but Norwich were certainly on the wobble. Darren Huckerby, making his 200th appearance in a City shirt had barely touched the ball. Haynes, meantime, was giving Bertrand plenty to think about as Pearce looked to find his footing in the game. From having secured that perfect start, so it was advantage Town come the middle of the first period.
Haynes would smash another rising drive over Marshall's bar on the hour mark after Pearce's clearing header fell at his feet some 20-yards out.
Town would come even closer moments later as skipper Jason de Vos rose first to meet an Alan Quinn corner. His header was big, strong and downward – it need a firm and instinctive palm away to his right to clear the first danger; a timely intervention from Jon Otsemobor to deflect the second over.
Kuqi's reunion with the Canaries lasted no more than 36 minutes before he became the first change of the afternoon. On, to the home faithful's delight, came a fit-again Jon Walters. Out since the start of March with knee trouble, he took just two minutes to make his mark as he fed Haynes sweetly in through that inside-right channel.
What followed had a distinctly inevitable air as Norwich's long-time tormentor – be it at youth, reserve or first team level – calmly waited for Marshall to advance before slipping the ball beneath the Canary keeper and putting the hosts ahead. On the balance of play if not the chances created, 2-1 was probably a fair reflection of the first period.
Not that it made it any easier for the travelling Canary supporters to swallow. They had – much like last season – been given the bonus of an early lead only for their Suffolk rivals to claw their way back into the contest and punish the Norfolk side for some hesitant defending. Only last time Haynes started the game on the bench. And still scored twice in the game's final 15 minutes.
Pattison would lift an all-too hopeful shot way over Bywater's bar after Huckerby – now switched away on the right – finally attacked a full-back. By response, Haynes would dig his way in behind Bertrand and put a cross onto the fore-head of an unmarked Counago stood on the penalty spot. His header sailed no more than a foot over with Marshall rooted to his line.
With the Canaries just starting to camp themselves in the Town half after the restart, the one thing you did not want to do was to give Haynes a sniff. Or a run. Or a chance. Bertrand's ill-timed slip achieved two of the former as the Ipswich winger sprang clear on the half-way line. It needed a big covering Gary Doherty challenge to finally slam the door shut.
Bertrand did it again in the 54th minute. This time Miller's final effort skipped no more than a yard wide of Marshall's far post.
Haynes' best opportunity arrived on the hour-mark as Doherty followed Bertrand's lead and slipped with Counago snapping at his heels. Haynes arrived perfectly on cue as the Spaniard made the most of Doherty's difficulties only for the 20-year-old to slip his final shot wide. In the meantime, tempers were starting to fray – Quinn having first Russell and then Huckerby on his case. The latter being booked for flattening the pugnacious Town winger.
As the hour mark came and went with little shift in the balance of play, Roeder played his first card as Dublin's lunchtime came to an early end and Lee Croft joined the fray. Someone, somewhere needed to find something if the Canaries were ever to dig anything out of the contest.
That and don't let Haynes near the ball. At least he wasn't Bertrand's problem any more as Mo Camara arrived as Roeder's second change with 18 minutes remaining.
It was almost all over in the 77th minute when Miller slipped Walters in behind a flat City back four only for the Town substitute to pull his shot a yard wide. As for the ever-present Haynes threat, Evans took the direct approach with a thumping sliding tackle as he threatened to spring wholly clear again. A yellow card inevitably followed as the Town faithful bayed for a red.
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Bywater; Simpson, Wright, Bruce (Sito, 56 mins), de Vos; Quinn, Miller, Garvan, Haynes; Kuqi (Walters, 36 mins), Counago (Sumulikoski, 89 mins). Subs (not used): Colgan, Rhodes.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor, Bertrand (Camara, 72 mins), Pearce, Doherty; Cureton, Pattison, Russell, Huckerby; Evans, Dublin (Croft, 63 mins (Gibbs, 89 mins)). Subs (not used): Gilks, Shackell.
Man of the Match: Darel Russell.
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