MFW regulars are probably expecting me to talk this one down. It was, after all, only 23rd-in-the-table Sheffield Wednesday and despite scoring three, there was still something a bit jarring about parts of the performance and, in particular, the way they opted to hang on for dear life for the final 20 minutes.
I could go on, and focus on lowly Wednesday’s 52 per cent of possession and the fact they had 21 shots in the game compared to City’s 12 but I’m not minded to do any of that. You know why.
It was, obviously, Alex Ferguson who coined the phrase noisy neighbours in a footballing sense when describing the reborn, dirham-laden Man City and the ensuing noise that accompanied their early successes, but never has it been more appropriate in these parts.
Buoyed by their upturn in fortunes, Ipswich Town, right now, are the epitome of noisy, annoying, and gobby neighbours, and cannot wait for a piece of us. There will be Ipswich supporters who will not sleep this week as they anticipate the explosion of ecstasy at 14:30 on Saturday.
Some in blue are predicting the roar will be heard in outer space.
And so, for all of those reasons, today is not the day to waste 800 words on reasons why our fine run of derby days successes lasting 14 years – seven wins and five draws – is about to reach its sad, inevitable conclusion.
It might – and we would have to take it on the chin (and in the earholes) – but alongside some of the uber-confidence and bravado displayed by most of our Suffolk brethren, a few of the more considered and thoughtful among them have noted that, for all our paucity, we have taken 13 points from the last 18 on offer.
So while the Mouths of the Orwell are top of the Championship form table (15 points from their last 18), City – almost unbelievably so – are up there in fourth. So strip away the emotion, the local rivalry, and all of the ‘you’re shit, we’re awesome’ bravado, and this game, on paper at least, is no given.
Amid all the mediocrity, there were enough good things to emerge last night to have engaged the Ipswich Town scouts and analysts who will pore all over the minutiae of City’s performance.
What has become increasingly clear is that the double-pivot of Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez has merit but mainly when we have the ball. If we are to go to Ipswich and cede possession from the word go, they may not, as a pair, be the answer, but if we intend to go there and compete then there is a case to be made for persisting with them.
The flip side to that is it likely means Kenny McLean stays at left centre-back, and, as I wrote on Sunday, the big test for him comes when he faces a stern examination of his defensive qualities. If he stays in defence, that comes on Saturday.
But what those Ipswich analysts will also note is that on the fairly rare occasions that City move the ball with pace and oomph, they do offer a potent attacking threat. Especially if the beneficiaries of said oomph are Borja Sainz and Jonathan Rowe – the former of whom lit up Carrow Road last night until his calves gave up on him midway through the second half.
The decision to limit his game time to the odd cameo was made to look ridiculous the second he curled that right-foot peach beyond the reach of Cameron Dawson, and was made to look doubly daft when, in the opening minutes of the second half, he slid one into the path of Ashley Barnes for number two.
A goal and an assist for Sainz in the space of 48 minutes when Onel Hernandez – Wagner’s left-winger of choice – has provided neither for a long time, should be food for thought for the head coach. While his reticence may have been borne of Sainz’s lack of physicality, in a team that sorely lacks a creative spark, he offers one.
Put it this way, Portman Road is baying for Onel Hernandez, who has spent the last 18 months goading them on TikTok. To leave him on the bench and instead play Sainz would immediately take the wind out of a few blue and white sails.
Having said that – rightly or wrongly – don’t be surprised if the Cuban starts on Saturday ahead of the Spaniard. Such is life in NR1 at the moment.
But, returning to last night, that we were able to beat Wednesday, who arrived at Carrow Road as supposedly ‘rejuvenated’, was worth something. A little disappointing the Owls may have been on the night but their form has markedly improved since the appointment of Danny Rohl as manager.
And besides, as we proved on Saturday against Preston, we are quite capable of being terrible against terrible teams. So let’s not get too sniffy about a 3-1 regardless of its backdrop, and given what lies ahead it was vital the players’ fragile confidence was afforded a boost.
To be more precise, what lies ahead will also entail some pre-planned hostility from the Mouth from the South. They intend to give their team coach a street-lined, heroic guard of honour as it approaches Portman Road and, in turn, offer the City bus the ‘Welcome to Hell’ treatment made famous by those adorable Scousers in their Champions League semifinal against Man City.
I did warn you they are very excited indeed 🙂
So a bit of mental fortitude is going to be needed on Saturday and perhaps this is where those older codgers who we have so derided over the last weeks will come into their own.
I’m not expecting Ashley Barnes’ feelings to get too hurt if they call him cruel names or for Shane Duffy to be overly cowed by a blue smoke bomb going off in the vicinity of the team coach. I’d like to think that rather than rattle them, it will inspire them. And probably amuse them.
One thing City have proved of late is that when we least expect it, they somehow find a way, and that extends our beleaguered head coach, who always seems to muster a win when he appears to be toast. The cosh under which they have all been will be multiplied tenfold on Saturday, but if they can respond in the same way, then who knows?
After watching Town beat Watford on Tuesday night I feared the worst and had all but thrown in the towel until I was reminded to not be a big Jessie 🙂 and that nothing is ever certain in a local derby. Even when you start as 5/1 outsiders.
McKenna’s men will, almost without question, be the best side we have faced in our last nine games but let’s not buy into the notion they are akin to Barcelona of 2010-11. This is Ipswich bloody Town, who until recently were playing in the third tier.
And if we are to persist with the parallels with Lambert’s Class of 2011 and Farke’s Class of 2019, let’s not forget that both of those brilliant teams had days when things didn’t go to plan.
We’re ready for a fall, of course. Many are braced for it, but there was just enough in that win over Wednesday to suggest that Saturday may not be the mauling some are predicting.
And even if it does come, we’ve had a really good run.
Never Mind the Danger.