North Stander: Norwich will be back in Championship - can we join them?

Ipswich celebrate their second goal scored by Bersant Celina

Ipswich Town players - and a jubilant fan - celebrate Bersant Celina's late winner against Fleetwood Town - Credit: Ray Lawrence

Journalist and Ipswich Town fan Terry Hunt gives his thoughts on the Blues after the dramatic late win over Fleetwood Town.

Moments like that are why we love football so much. There’s nothing to beat an injury-time winner in a game which looks set to end in frustration.

First and foremost, let’s celebrate the sheer quality of our winning goal against Fleetwood. A pinpoint diagonal pass from Lee Evans, a beautiful cushioned cross on the volley from Janoi Donacien, and a sharp finish from Bersant Celina.

Cue pandemonium at Portman Road. The trademark shirt removal by Celina, mass celebrations in the stands, and unbridled joy from joint owner Brett Johnson in the directors’ box, enjoying a fairytale finish to his first live game.

We thoroughly deserved the three points – we were the better side throughout – but it looked like our inability to kill off sides was going to bite us on the backside again.

But the players showed their character, kept their heads, and got what they deserved. Amazing to think it was Celina’s first goal in 85 games!

Bersant Celina celebrates his late winner

Bersant Celina celebrates his late winner - Credit: Ray Lawrence

Paul Cook being able to bring on the likes of Celina and Wes Burns from the bench demonstrates, once again, the sheer strength in depth we have in this squad, and that is beginning to translate into results on the pitch.

For the first time since March we have back-to-back league wins, we’re now only four points outside the play-off places and, glory be, we’re in the top half of the table. Glory be!

The core of our improvement since those worrying early weeks of the season is the midfield. 

Sam Morsy’s arrival has brought a reassuring presence in the engine room, and his partnership with Evans is now giving us a strong platform.

Just in front of them, Conor Chaplin has made the number 10 role his own. He is absolutely buzzing and scoring goals into the bargain. His goal against Fleetwood was sheer quality. He and Morsy both look Championship quality players, which they undoubtedly are.

Seeing Janoi Donacien and Toto Nsiala playing alongside each other in the Town back four emphasised that football is, indeed a funny old game, as the great Jimmy Greaves was so fond of saying.

Both arrived during the ill-fated and very short-lived Paul Hurst era, and both have often been viewed as surplus to requirements. Now, they look certain starters in Cook’s defence. Greavsie was right!

Quite why Fleetwood are in the relegation zone, I’m not quite sure. They were very decent, and certainly looked dangerous going forward. They’re light years ahead of the likes of Doncaster.

So now we’ve got some momentum, we can look ahead with confidence to the next two, very tough games. Personally, I’d take two draws at Plymouth and Wycombe. Grabbing a win on one of the trips would be even better, obviously. Those games will be a big test of how far we’ve come.

It was, as I’ve mentioned, a fairytale finish to Brett Johnson’s first game at Portman Road. His presence in the directors’ box summed up the very welcome differences which the new regime have brought with them.

For his own reasons, Marcus Evans didn’t sit in the directors’ box. Instead, he chose to watch games from his own executive box. He left the likes of Simon Clegg and Ian Milne to meet and greet dignitaries from visiting clubs.

I always wondered what John and Patrick Cobbold – so famous for their hospitality – would have made of that?

Thumbs up from the new owners at Portman Road

Thumbs up from Brett Johnson - Credit: Ray Lawrence

What a contrast now. Johnson’s arrival in the directors’ box was greeted by applause around the ground, and the photos of him rapturously celebrating our late, late winner are so very heartwarming.

Fans want to feel a close connection with the club bosses. That never happened with Evans, and it was a massive problem. I’m delighted to see it’s all changed now.

Two divisions above us, our local rivals are having a tough time. Norwich look way out of their depth in the Premier League and humiliation at Chelsea was the latest stark evidence of that.

I must admit to a brief smile when I saw the 7-0 scoreline but, in all honesty, my only interest in Norwich will come when we’re back in the same division, and can look forward to proper derby games again. Pretending Cambridge is a derby isn’t really a proper replacement.

There’s little doubt Norwich will be back in the Championship next season, but will we be able to join them?

The next two games will help to answer that all-important question.

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