MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) examines the Championship play-off semi-final second leg between East Anglian rivals Norwich and Ipswich on Saturday.
Norwich City v Ipswich Town | Saturday 12.15 | Sky Sports 1
They’re calling it the biggest Old Farm derby in history. They’re saying it’s the only game that matters. They’re suggesting the losers may never recover from the pain and anguish… Never before has the East Anglian battlefield mattered so much.
I can’t deny, I was a little disappointed with the first leg tie. Both teams left Portman Road relatively pleased with the 1-1 draw but it felt a little bit like an anti-climax for us neutrals. The two sides went hard at it in a decent first-half but the second period was a little tame; I’d be surprised if the return leg followed a similar pattern.
I’m not going to beat around the bush so lets get straight to the point. Ever since we discovered the bitter neighbours would be facing each other I had it in mind to back Norwich, especially at Carrow Road. And I can’t pretend I’m not pretty pleased to be offered 4/5 (William Hill) on a home win.
The Canaries have beaten Town in their last three on home soil and are unbeaten in five against their arch-enemies. Alex Neil’s hosts will arrive on Saturday well aware of their excellent recent record at HQ too – nine wins have been garnered from their most recent 13 at Carrow Road.
It’s a tall order for Ipswich. Visiting boss Mick McCarthy was upbeat following their Portman Road clash but the Tractor Boys have struggled to assert themselves on the road in recent months. It’s seven losses in 10 away days whilst Town held the worst record on their travels in the top-eight.
McCarthy’s men are full of character, spirit, energy and hard work but when the pressure is on and a day out at Wembley on offer, I do expect Norwich’s quality to shine through.
The Canaries have won 13 of their last 19 Championship fixtures and the league’s best scoring home side should clinch their place in the final with a victory inside 90 minutes.
Norwich City v Ipswich Town – Norwich City to win (4/5 William Hill)