Derby day disaster for Blues

AS results go, they don't get much worse than this.Going down by two goals at home to your biggest rivals is bad enough.To see Norwich City go top of Division One for the first time in five years and extend their points lead over Ipswich to seven points is pretty hard to take.

AS results go, they don't get much worse than this, writes Derek Davis.

Going down by two goals at home to your biggest rivals is bad enough.

To see Norwich City go top of Division One for the first time in five years and extend their points lead over Ipswich to seven points is pretty hard to take.

Just to rub things in, the statistics confirm as clearly as we could see with our own eyes that the Blues dominated possession, and had far more chances to score, yet it was the Canaries who managed to net twice from their only two clear attempts on goal.

The first of those two goals had an element of controversy, with many feeling Paul McVeigh had impeded Kelvin Davis before he dropped the ball for Leon McKenzie to hook in left-footed on his debut.

But it would be churlish to blame the referee and he certainly could not be faulted when McKenzie found space between two defenders to head in a Gary Holt cross unmarked.

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When things do go wrong, as they did yesterday in front of the biggest crowd the club has seen since the new stands were completed, then fingers get pointed and people look for someone to blame.

As large as the crowd was, the atmosphere never reached any great heights and was quite flat for the most part, even in the early stages when Town looked on top.

That is no excuse for so many players not performing as well as they are capable of, or for the occasional slack play and uninventive approach work.

In hindsight perhaps Joe Royle would have introduced Pablo Counago and Alan Mahon from the beginning. But the Blues boss engenders loyalty by the way he sticks with his players and the faith he shows in them is often repaid by their performances.

But there have been signs of late that Shefki Kuqi and Ian Westlake were slipping below the standards they have set.

Kuqi in particular showed a lack of quality up front. While no one can question his work rate, the striker has been found wanting at the business end. Indeed the Finnish forward just doesn't finish enough and his touch has been letting him down recently.

Westlake is another whose endeavour cannot be faulted and he has put in enough man of the match performances to show what a prospect he is.

But he has looked jaded and the only surprise when he came off yesterday was that it was Counago who went on as Town went to three up front, and not Mahon.

The Irishman, who is not at full match fitness, showed glimpses of his sublime ability in the last 16 minutes when he eventually replaced Kuqi.

A rasping left-footed free kick looked goalward bound before Robert Green pulled off a terrific one-handed save at full stretch.

Green has been tipped for the Premiership and Norwich may have to think seriously about bids for him in the January transfer window to pay for the arrival of McKenzie and Matt Svensson, the Swedish striker who looked off the pace compared to the Peterborough pugilist.

City looked well-organised and composed but had Green and his defence to thank for the victory.

Town started in a sprightly enough manner but the lack of natural width restricted their openings.

Fabian Wilnis crossed early on but Kuqi's attempted scissor-kick was awkward and was cleared for a series of corners Norwich gave away in the first half. Many were needless and Jim Magilton's flag kicks caused some consternation, one having to be punched away double-fisted by Green.

Malky Mackay headed away an on-target Jermaine Wright shot, while his central defensive partner Craig Fleming got in Darren Bent's way.

Wright got on the ball to good effect early on but once again worryingly faded as the game wore on, although he did go close with an early second-half shot.

Norwich took hold of the midfield with the hard-working and effective Gary Holt closing things down, while Phil Mulryne got the passing going for the front-men with little interference.

McVeigh twice fired shots across goal and wide as he found space to operate on the City left.

Georges Santos found himself treading a dangerous line after being booked for obstruction and was replaced at half time by Richard Naylor with the very real threat of him seeing red had he stayed on the pitch.

Naylor showed good pace to twice deal with McKenzie breaking but felt the full force of a hefty Svensson challenge which angered Magilton and earned a yellow card.

The arrival of Counago appeared to give City more problems and he went close with a 22-yard shot, but most other efforts were blocked around the edge of the area.

The young partnership of Matt Richards and Bent nearly produced a goal, with Richards dispossessing McVeigh before crossing for the striker whose header landed on the roof of the net.

City's opener, nine minutes before the break, was a sickener for Town. Mulryne's free kick was headed towards goal by Mackay but cleared initially by Santos. The return header was straight to Davis but as McVeigh challenged him the keeper spilled the ball for McKenzie.

The second was rank bad defending. Holt got the better of Bart-Williams again and his cross was met by an untroubled McKenzie whose header looped over Davis, who almost managed to get a paw on it.

As hard as this defeat is to take, it is not the end of the world.

The Blues are still in the play-off places and are still a good side.

They certainly have enough quality to stay in the top six but will continue to target an automatic promotion spot.

The game at Carrow Road in March will paint a completely different picture and the outcome there will be far more significant.

Until then Town have two matches in quick succession to get their game back on track.

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