the real fa cup

Down And Out In Woodbridge And Ipswich

Not for years has this fixture been greeted with so much anticipation amongst myself and my mates. Having been robbed of their dignity and humiliated by Lambert’s pretenders at Carrow Road, a new look Ipswich under Paul Jewell met with a team which is now a serious promotion contender.

Our season has long been over, guided comfortably to anonymity by Jewell, as fans this derby was all about pulling our little Norfolk cousins back down to our level. Restoring the natural order of things was the aim of today, as fans of Ipswich knew, this should be the game where we take the wheels off their promotion hopes. Whilst we endured our poorest run of form on record under Keane over the last two terms, Norwich had sunk much lower than us to League 1 and bounced straight back, seemingly too high in our opinion and the freakish curve they are on would definitely be coming to and end this Easter in front of a bold and brash Portman Road crowd.

These were the salient points we ruminated on during the train journey from Halesworth to Woodbridge, across three or four pubs in the lovely market town before continuing our journey to Ipswich itself for a few more drinks by the Quayside. There were no real nerves amongst us, we all seemed fairly confident and anticipated avenging the insult and capitulation of the previous fixture.

Ipswich seemed to have other darker ideas. They didn’t take the wheels off Norwich’s promotion campaign, they knelt down, buffed them up and offered to valet park the bandwagon one game closer to the Premier League. Norwich had everything we didn’t on the field. And the embarrassment of riches at our disposal made our ill-equipped efforts and futile game plan all the more agonising.

Never did I think we’d see Norwich sink five past us, let alone on home soil. The day’s drinking couldn’t numb the pain, rarely do I wish I was drunker when watching a game, but this one broke all the rules. Fittingly the word ‘excruciating’ apparently comes from the act of crucifixion and tonight Ipswich received the footballing equivalent.

Town lined up with Scotland up front with a bank of five behind him as opposed to Norwich’s tight midfield diamond and big man little man combo of the bullish Holt and pacey Jackson. The Trinidadian front man has one thing in common with Holt in that a large chunk of Ipswich fans don’t like him and think he’s fat – unfair on Jason methinks. Unfortunately the Budgies talisman has procured goal after goal, including a hat trick against us to his name this term, while many would love Scotland to bag double figures.

Last night showed why even with one goal to go that seems unlikely. Immovable and not in a good way, lacking service and time on the ball Scotland predictably dropped deeper and deeper before coming off at half time with a largely fruitless display from the Old Farm derby. Likewise Holt was “quiet” tonight in the sense that usually everything Norwich do flows through him or ends with him. A tight marking job stopped him getting on the score sheet but leaving massive gaps for his colleagues to profit easily off every lay off and pass he made whilst luring in an extra man.

Norwich didn’t even need the space, cutting Town asunder the 3rd choice-cum-regular keeper of late Arran Lee-Barrett handed the visitors a golden gift of a goal, palming tamely to Surman to smash home gratefully after only 13 minutes. Less than ten minutes later MacAuley who this week supposedly agreed a new deal at Town then put through his own net from a corner making the job seem impossible after only a quarter of the game was gone. Ipswich were broken.

The team as a whole was a group of individuals misfiring and meandering around against a team of workmanlike but efficient and effect units. The defence, the midfield and the front two all did their jobs for Norwich, again and again and ultimately it was this discipline that overcame the lacklustre and chaotic town side. By half term the contenders of Norwich were cantering to victory while Jewell seemed to let Audley Harrison do the half time team talk.

The second half saw Town continue to be frozen like rabbits in headlights as the game imploded into a full blown rout for the Budgies to circle above us like shrill mustardy vultures.

When Simeon Jackson smashed home a well worked third it was game over, but Bullard the magical midfield maestro defiantly produced the goal of the game. A vicious dipping drive that showed up the lack of quality between both sets of posts tonight. Equally matched sides could have produced a cricket score, but the last ten minute of the game saw Norwich produce fresh legs from the bench and bowl over a shattered Ipswich. Martin from full back restored the dominance of the visitors before Norwich’s classy loanee of their own Pacheco finished calmly from some shocking defending and goalkeeping hesitancy.

By this time most fans had left or a small minority found relief as they began fighting amongst themselves. Such things will really help convince police to go back to the soulless early Sunday morning kick-offs when these sides meet again – next season or not. My mates had left early and were back on the station long before I was held up in the crush at the barrier as the authorities again struggled to filter and manage the large crowds.

Topping off the misery of the night I managed to lose a brand new pair of sunglasses, perhaps a blessing in disguise as they would remind us of the pleasant and sociable atmosphere of drinks in the sun salivating over getting our own back. It all turned out to be hubris and misjudged bias – I blame the whiskey.

The train home left much to ruminate over and as we chewed the cud it became clear that this was perhaps the worst game and most crushing moment in over twenty years of following town. Losing is fine, losing heavily happens, to be outclassed by not just your rivals, but your rivals who “belong” and often are way below us in the order of things…..that shows just how rotten something is in the state of Ipswich. Even from the gutter there seems little point even glancing at the stars they certainly aren’t blue right now.


By Matt Townsend, Ipswich Town fan, martial artist and regular TWTDer.

1 Comment
  1. Damon Threadgold

    Cheers Matt. This is definitely the last time I invite any reports on Ipswich games. Chelsea 7 Ipswich 0 and Ipswich 1 Norwich 5 this season alone. Sheesh.

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