As a relatively new member of the MFW community I felt a piece to introduce myself was in order at some point. I could bore you with the details of my life leading up to my first piece for the site, but that’s not what we’re here for.
I decided the best way to introduce myself was to tell you about the matches that have made my career as a Norwich City supporter to date, starting with the double promotions of 2010 and 2011, leading all the way up to now. With such a great task at hand I enlisted the help of six fans to tell the stories with me. This time I discussed City’s 2018 clash against Ipswich Town at Carrow Road with Town fan and EFL expert Benjamin Bloom.
You may be wondering why I’ve chosen this game as one of the Canaries’ greatest of modern times, given it was just as entertaining as you’d expect a 1-1 draw with a Mick McCarthy side to be. There are two main reasons.
In my piece with Connor Southwell on the 3-2 victory over Manchester City, I claimed that great moments are why people love football so much. It doesn’t get much better than a 95th minute equaliser against your fierce derby rivals. The other reason is that I’ve spoken to two Ipswich fans about this game, and they both told me this was their side’s real chance at beating Norwich, perhaps the only chance they’ve had since 2010’s comprehensive 4-1 defeat. Thankfully, Daniel Farke’s men denied them.
“Mick (McCarthy) pretty much got it spot on” Benjamin told me. “The plan was for it to be dull and the game was boring. We matched up 3-5-2 to close the space and go one-to-one and the key position was on the wing. Our right wing-back was Dominic Iorfa and Norwich’s left wing-back was Jamal Lewis. The idea was to sit in and play diagonal balls to Iorfa, who would obviously beat Lewis in the air”.
The lack of physicality and potential naivety in Lewis’s play was symptomatic of a Norwich squad that was 15 months away from sensational promotion but needed to mature and grow to fulfil their potential. The side possessed quality such as Angus Gunn, Harrison Reed and James Maddison, the latter of whom was heavily relied upon in Farke’s team.
“Norwich tactically were really bad” recalls Benjamin. “It was just give Maddison the ball. I remember him getting more and more of the ball in the second half and Ipswich dropping further and further back”.
Talent in our team, the likes of Maddison, filled Norwich fans with pride, pride that was voiced loudly by the famously rowdy end of Carrow Road, as Benjamin remembers. “I remember the Barclay End chanting ‘he’s just too good for you’ and me thinking ‘yeah, no sh!t, he’s too good for the division’”.
It is true that Maddison was also certainly too good for the midtable Championship side City were at the time, as he proved with two almost identical free-kicks that required unbelievable stops from Ipswich ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski. They were the highlights of an otherwise difficult game for Norwich, the Canaries’ number 23 providing a spark that otherwise barely existed. Me and Benjamin laughed at how even the old-style punt up-field for the equaliser was provided by Maddison.
Benjamin’s recollection of the tactical pattern of the match was correct. Up until the dying embers of injury time, it was exactly the game McCarthy had planned. Ipswich weathered the second half City storm (after looking dangerous in the opening exchanges) and started to create opportunities from set-pieces and counterattacks. Benjamin told me Martyn Waghorn’s usually reliable delivery was slightly off on the day, but he got it right at the perfect time.
With 89 minutes on the clock, the Town number 9 provided a powerful whip of a corner, guided perfectly on to the head of club captain Luke Chambers. The disappointment around 90 per cent of Carrow Road was palpable, the joy on the far east side of the South Stand unprecedented. Benjamin told me about the bedlam among the away fans.
“When you actually realise it went in, the next fifteen seconds you’re just trying to stand up and hopefully avoid having your teeth knocked out. Everything happened so quickly that you’re not actually figuring that you could be about to win at Norwich”. This presumption was one made by all inside the ground, even the most optimistic of us. We felt it was the end of a decade of dominance, of having the bragging rights in East Anglia.
That’s what it should’ve been.
“There’s one absolutely key moment when Ipswich should go 2-0 up” says Benjamin. “We get a counterattack and Jonas Knudsen basically has a pretty straight forward square ball for a tap-in. At that moment your brain goes ‘we are going to pay’”.
As we now thankfully know, they did pay.
Maddison’s long ball found Grant Hanley’s head, who chased his flick-on and kept the ball narrowly on the pitch following questionable decision making from Bialkowski. His cross was met firmly by Timm Klose, who headed into the corner for perhaps the most memorable moment of his four-and-a-half-year City career.
“It was sad because (Bialkowski) has been player of the year for us and it was his error. He does the worst possible thing he could do and runs out of goal and does nothing”.
The disappointment among Ipswich fans at this point is hard to overestimate, as I’m sure many of us take childish pleasure in. “When it goes in, I remember this guy turning to walk out of the ground and just laughing” recalls Benjamin, “Ipswich had let you down in every way possible and we couldn’t dream up a new way. I was there the next season when Norwich win 3-0, honestly, far less sickening than that 1-1”.
What was, on the surface, a boring and forgettable game once again highlighted the importance of big moments in football and the memories it creates, as well as the fragility of a team’s success. There’s no telling where a first derby loss in nine years to a bog-standard Ipswich team (just imagine) would’ve left Daniel Farke and his eventually impeccable relationship with the Norwich fans.
Had Hanley been a fraction of a second slower, his cross been a fraction of a meter away from where it was, had Klose’s jump been fractions less powerful than it was, City would’ve lost to Ipswich.
As it was, well… you remember how it was.