Roy Keane and his team sank to a new low as a Grant Holt hat-trick helped Norwich City to a truly humiliating 4-1 battering of 10 man Ipswich Town at Carrow Road.
Facing arguably the biggest match of his tenure to date, Keane ditched the 4-5-1 formation in favour of playing Tamas Priskin and Jason Scotland together up front, while Marton Fulop returned in goal. As expected, new loanee Rory Fallon began on the bench while Gianni Zuiverloon was given his debut at right-back alongside Tommy Smith, Damien Delaney and Darren O’Dea. Carlos Edwards, Grant Leadbitter, David Norris and Jack Colback completed the lineup in midfield. Jake Livermore, Tom Eastman and Brian Murphy were the men to make way from last week’s defeat at Hull, the latter pair lining up on the bench alongside Luciano Civelli, making his first appearance in the first team squad for over 18 months. Paul Lambert’s Norwich side also lined up with a 4-4-2 formation, young midfielder Henri Lansbury making his debut on loan from Arsenal while dangerman Grant Holt led the Canaries attack alongside Chris Martin.
Norwich got the game underway with the atmosphere as intense as one would ever expect from the East Anglian derby in front of the biggest crowd for 26 years at Carrow Road. Despite the roars from the home fans, it was Ipswich who created the first chance of the game within 2 minutes, Scotland rolling back to Leadbitter outside the box who fired a low drive into the arms of John Ruddy in the Norwich goal.
What then followed was a customary derby ding-dong between the two Grants, Leadbitter and Holt, after the latter brought down Colback with an untidy challenge from behind. Tempers flared as players from both sides were quick to square up to each other, referee Keith Hill eventually bringing the scuffle to a close by handing yellow cards to both Holt and Leadbitter with less than 5 minutes played. That particular exchanging of pleasantries held things up for two minutes before Fulop eventually got the game of football back underway.
Town were soon on the attack again with Zuiverloon, who demonstrated an encouraging penchant for getting forward throughout his debut, surged down the right wing from a pass by Norris only to thump an attempted cross straight into the Norwich fans. Within a minute however, the Canaries had made their first statement of intent at the other end. Lansbury’s pass forward ricocheted off Delaney into the path of Chris Martin right in front of the Town goal, but Zuiverloon slid in superbly to deny both the striker and Andrew Surman as they bore down on goal with Fulop grateful to see the ball roll out of play. Amidst the panic, both the Town keeper and Surman took knocks, resulting in another stoppage of play within the first 10 minutes of the match.
Sadly, once things did get going again, it was not long before the hosts made their mark. Town continued to press with David Fox closing down Norris as he ran onto Scotland’s through ball to give the Blues a corner. However, with Edwards’ subsequent delivery hitting the first man, Norwich immediately swung the game to their advantage on the counter attack. A long ball from left-back into the Ipswich half fell to O’Dea who had ample time to thump the ball clear, but instead he dallied terribly to gift possession to Grant Holt (of all people) bearing down on him. The Norwich striker – our ‘Man to Watch’ for the Canaries – might have used his hand to control, but he was able to run clear towards goal to go one-on-one with Fulop before neatly curling the ball around the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the Town net to make it 1-0 to the hosts with 12 minutes played. There had been little wrong with the Blues’ performance up to that point, but suddenly they found themselves behind thanks to one moment of defensive calamity.
With the home fans roaring, Ipswich looked for that crucial quick response, Priskin jinking neatly past Simon Lappin and Elliott Ward into the right of the box before crossing low towards Scotland running into the middle, but Ruddy did well to push the ball out of the striker’s path. At the other end, Holt was able to get inside of Zuiverloon only for Delaney to block the attempted pass, but Lappin was able to cross the ball back in from the right which skimmed off the head of Holt and wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Scotland created another chance for the visitors, his low shot deflecting into the path of Priskin but Ruddy did enough to deny him before clumsily palming the ball away from Colback, Hill deciding to let play continue as Norwich cleared.
For their positive forward play however, Town looked dreadfully jittery at the back. With 20 minutes played, Fulop, Delaney and Smith somehow played each other into all sorts of bother, only for Lappin to fire way over with his long-range effort. Scotland responded by lining up a low shot which Leon Barnett did enough to close down to see it roll safely into Ruddy’s hands. Despite Scotland’s efforts however, the Canaries were looking more likely to extend their lead, Lansbury shooting over from 20 yards from a layoff by Surman before Chris Martin was only just denied by Smith as he thundered forward to meet Holt’s cross from the left. From the resulting corner by Fox, Town again found themselves panicking at the back as pinball in the box eventually saw Andrew Crofts loop the ball into the air for Fulop to snatch off the goal line.
It was of much relief to Keane and his team though that they were soon able to find a lifeline. With Priskin heading over from Leadbitter’s free kick after 27 minutes, the Hungarian played a crucial part in the next Town set-piece a minute later. Leadbitter sent another free kick from the left into the box which this time Priskin nodded back across goal towards Damien Delaney, who found himself an unlikely scorer as he raced ahead of Ward and stooped to head in at the far post for 1-1. Despite their defensive problems, the Blues had deserved something from their forward play, Priskin once again proving his worth in the Town attack with the assist.
The equaliser boosted the Blues who were by now getting on top in the game after half an hour, Scotland just running offside from a lovely cross-field ball by Colback which would have sent him one-on-one with Ruddy. What followed five minutes later therefore was a massive blow. Lansbury received the ball midway inside the Town half and threaded a defence-splitting through ball for Grant Holt to simply slip behind the backline and roll past Fulop into the net for his second of the match. The pass and finish was a piece of real quality from Norwich, but the manner in which Lansbury had been able to simply bypass the entire back four with one ball raised further questions over the Blues’ defending.
As if going behind again wasn’t bad enough, things got immeasurably worse for Ipswich just two minutes later. With Holt approaching him, Delaney received the ball near the halfway line and for some inexplicable reason decided to turn back towards his own goal. Holt seized upon the defender’s hesitancy to steal possession, and in a moment of panic, Delaney then compounded his error by hauling the Norwich striker to the ground. Holt would have been virtually clear through on goal, albeit with some room for debate over how much ground he still had to cover with two Town defenders not too far from the action, but there was little reason to criticise referee Hill for showing goalscorer Delaney a straight red card. 2-1 down and down to ten men, the contest now looked all but over for an Ipswich team that hasn’t scored three goals in a league match since the first game of the season.
As the clock ticked towards 45 minutes, Norwich looked to finish the Blues off before half time. After Russell Martin’s cross from the right was diverted narrowly off-target for a corner, Holt again threatened from the set-piece on the volley but was charged down by Smith. Lansbury then put Martin in once more and this time Zuiverloon was only just able to get to the ball ahead of Holt at the near post with the goal gaping.
With the Blues under pressure and desperate to get in for half time, Keane responded with an early substitution, taking off Scotland with Colin Healy coming on for a surprise appearance. The hosts however continued to dominate, Surman denied by a fantastic save by Fulop after Holt had missed Lansbury’s cross from the right, the Arsenal loanee then having a shot himself which deflected off O’Dea for a corner as the half rolled into 4 minutes of additional time. Ward struck well over from the edge of the box as the whistle blew to send Ipswich in at the break facing a 2-1 deficit and yet another second half mountain to climb – with only ten men to climb it.
It had been a very tough first half for Town, who had at times looked capable of making a real game of it. However, the defending on display had been some of the worst this season with O’Dea very much at fault for the first goal while the whole back line were asleep for the second. Delaney’s red card could only make the task facing Keane and his players even harder as they came out for the second half needing to get back into the match as quickly as possible.
In truth, the second half started pretty slowly for both sides. Leadbitter had a shot blocked after 50 minutes before Fox twice tried his luck from 25 yards, his first effort flying over before Fulop got down to his right to stop the second. At the other end, Zuiverloon was determined to help his new team-mates get back on the attack, coming furthest forward to get onto the end of Priskin’s knock-on with just Barnett between him and the box, but he could only thump a shot straight into the Norwich defender when he might have done better to try and beat him. As the game reached the hour mark, Holt brought Fulop into making another save before Norris got his name in the referee’s book for a poor challenge on Lansbury.
Neither team had really impressed since the break, but with Ipswich still unable to make any mark on the game, Norwich were finding it easy to keep the pressure on and took the opportunity to make their first change, Wes Hoolahan coming on for Surman. Straight after the substitution, Holt got his head to yet another corner from the left but this time nodded wide of the near post. Two minutes later, Russell Martin crossed from the right to his namesake Chris Martin on the left of the six-yard area. Zuiverloon was unable to intercept as he slid in, but Fulop made himself big to deny the striker. By comparison, Town had very little to offer, Leadbitter having another long range effort deflected wide before Keane decided to make another substitution. Zuiverloon, whose debut had been one of the few positives for the Blues, was taken off for fellow loanee Fallon to make his first Ipswich appearance. Crucially however, the removal of Zuiverloon left Town with just two recognised defenders on the field, Edwards consequently having to fill in as a makeshift right-back alongside Smith and O’Dea.
Suffice to say, the switch did not help the Blues. Norwich kept up the forward momentum as the game drew into the final 20 minutes, Lappin striking wide of the left post from outside the box before Lansbury blasted well over from similar range. It was not long though before Ipswich’s ramshackle three man backline was unsurprisingly caught out, substitute Hoolahan touching down for Martin who touched the ball cleverly past Edwards and Leadbitter before passing to Grant Holt under absolutely no pressure on the edge of the Town box. The Canaries’ top scorer needed no invitation to smash the ball firmly into the bottom-right corner of the Blues net to claim a well-earned hat-trick and cap off an utterly devastating performance on his own part for the hosts to make it 3-1.
That had already put the win beyond doubt for Lambert’s team, but they didn’t stop there. Within two minutes of scoring their third, Norwich then applied the gloss to the scoreline on the counter attack. Chris Martin received the ball from Holt on the edge of the Town box, and with Zuiverloon’s departure leaving a gaping hole on the right of the Blues defence, Martin could simply lay it into the path of the onrushing Wes Hoolahan to tee the ball delicately across goal and into the net for 4-1, sending the home crowd into delirium and sending Ipswich looking for a hole into which they could crawl. Cries of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” rang out towards Keane as the Canaries marched towards what would be their most impressive league victory over Ipswich since World War II.
With the Blues long dead and buried, Keane chose this rather belated opportunity to take off striker Priskin and bring on Troy Brown to shore up the defence. For the hosts, Korey Smith joined the action in place of the excellent Lansbury before hat-trick hero Holt was treated to massive cheers from the home fans as he was brought off to be replaced by Simeon Jackson for the final 5 minutes. As the match edged towards its conclusion, Town tried in vain to get something out of the game, Leadbitter striking a 30 yard free kick straight at Ruddy before the Canaries keeper was involved again to prevent Fallon getting onto Healy’s pass after the Irishman had sneaked into the Norwich box from the right. Colback then took exception to not being awarded a throw-in and foolishly got himself booked for chucking the ball away in disgust, adding plenty of angry shouting into the mix. It was a sign of the overwhelming frustration that everyone in blue was feeling by this point with the game passing the 90 minute mark.
In the four minutes of time added on, Norwich could still have added to their tally, Jackson receiving a booking after going down rather readily under pressure from Edwards before Martin headed a weak effort at Fulop from Holt’s cross. The final chance of the game fell to Norris but he couldn’t do anything to lift the visitors’ misery, heading Edwards’ cross wide of the left-hand post as Hill blew the final whistle to hand the local bragging rights back to Norwich in emphatic fashion – and leave Keane on the brink.
Ipswich fans will be left crushed by this afternoon’s events. What could have been an ideal opportunity to return to form with a morale-boosting win over the old enemy instead turned out to be a humiliating defeat of the worst possible kind. While Town had arguably made a good contest out of it for the first half hour, the defence had been abysmal at dealing with the obvious threat of Holt and hadn’t done any better with Chris Martin or Henri Lansbury. The occasion seemed to get the better of the backline who made the kind of errors that no manager could possibly legislate for.
However, Keane should be under no illusions that this game may well swing the tide against him. Whilst some of the players had undoubtedly let him down very badly with silly mistakes in the first half, the manner in which the Town boss attempted to impact upon the game from Delaney’s red card onwards was wholly and utterly inadequate. The introduction of Healy, who has never sparkled in a Town shirt, made little difference to the game as much of the attacking threat was lost with the replacement of Scotland. The biggest error however came with the manager’s second subsitution. Zuiverloon had played a respectable debut and made some key interventions at the back as well as providing some surprising forward momentum at times. However, even though Keane has been criticised for negative, defensive substitutions in past matches, the introduction of Fallon in place of Zuiverloon was at the opposite extreme. The presence of just two natural defenders on the pitch and the bizarre decision to move Edwards to full-back proved utterly suicidal, with Norwich clearly exploiting that black hole on the right to go from 2-1 up to 4-1 up within the next ten minutes. To then take off Priskin – one of the only men in blue worth his salt on the day – and replace him with Brown smacked severely of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted, and removed any remaining threat Town might have had to get anything more out of the game.
Marcus Evans and Simon Clegg have never looked likely to show Keane the door, but they will be under greater pressure from fans to do so now than ever before. It is not merely the fact that Town have now lost 8 of the last 11 and four on the bounce for the first time since February 2007, this being their heaviest defeat in over a year to boot. It is not only the fact that after a promising start to the season, they now lie precariously in 16th with a points tally that puts them closer to the drop zone than the playoffs. It is not just that for the second year in a row, they embarrasssed themselves on live television around the globe. But of all the teams to come up so disastrously short against, to do it against Norwich is just criminal.
One might say that this could be the kick up the backside that the team has needed in recent weeks. After all, their last humiliation of this magnitude – the 4-0 thrashing by Newcastle last October – served as the low point of a campaign from which they then went on to rise. Worryingly however, it feels as though it has been the opposite way round this season, and the happy summer days of August now seem a distant memory.
As if to heap on the misery, things don’t get any easier for Ipswich. The loss of Delaney in addition to the absence of the injured Gareth McAuley now leaves Town threadbare at the back. With the Carling Cup Quarter Final against West Bromwich Albion and next Saturday’s home tie against 3rd placed Swansea to follow, the Blues are in real danger of getting themselves into a rut which could, unbelievably, put them back into the sort of relegation scrap which they found themselves in last year. If that happens, for all their words, Clegg and Evans may find themselves having to acknowledge that the big gamble of April 2009 is just not going to pay off.
Norwich: Ruddy, R Martin, Barnett, Ward, Crofts, Surman (Hoolahan 64), Lansbury (K Smith 80), Fox, Lappin, Holt (Jackson 85), C Martin – Not used: Rudd, Nelson, McNamee, Johnson
Ipswich: Fulop, Delaney (s/o 37), T Smith, Zuiverloon (Fallon 69), O’Dea, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Colback, Scotland (Healy 42), Priskin (Brown 81) – Not used: Murphy, O’Connor, Livermore, Civelli
Did you go to Carrow Road on Sunday, or did you watch the game on TV? What did you think of the new signings? Did Keane get his tactics all wrong, or was he let down by some nightmare mistakes by his players? Is this the final nail in the coffin for the manager, or would we do well to keep some perspective given that it is only November? Have your say by joining Vital Ipswich:
Norwich 4-1 Ipswich – Holt Hat-Trick Hell For Town
Roy Keane and his team sank to a new low as a Grant Holt hat-trick helped Norwich City to a truly humiliating 4-1 battering of 10 man Ipswich Town at Carrow Road.