Monday verdict: All the pressure is on Norwich City ahead of East Anglian derby double in the Championship play-offs
Following 46 games of a gruelling Championship campaign, fate has pitted Ipswich Town against East Anglian rivals Norwich City in a two-legged play-off semi-final.
If you’d have offered that to Blues fans last summer they’d have snapped your hand off. If you’d have told Canaries supporters that would be the case they’d have turned their noses up.
Ipswich – playing their 13th successive season in the second tier – started off as top-six dark horses at best following yet another summer of free transfer and loan additions.
Norwich – flush with parachute payments following three years in the Premier League – were among the favourites for automatic promotion.
You rather sense that many associated with the Norfolk club have a sense of superiority heading into these two fixtures – the first leg at Portman Road this Saturday and the return leg at Carrow Road seven days later, both matches kicking off at 12.15pm.
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The match-up came about after Town lost 3-2 at Blackburn on Saturday to claim sixth spot by the skin of their teeth while City swept Fulham aside 4-2 on home turf.
No-one needs reminding that Norwich have won the last four derby matches. The 5-1 and 4-1 thrashings of 2010/11 were painful, while the 1-0 and 2-0 defeats of this campaign, although fine margin affairs, suggest that the extra quality in Alex Neil’s squad will shine through over two matches.
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Many Ipswich fans, if truth be known, would probably rather have faced Middlesbrough (who play Brentford in the other semi). Some Norwich fans, by contrast, are talking as if their side are already at Wembley.
All of that could yet play into Town’s hands though. He who laughs last laughs longest.
Whatever happens, Ipswich Town fans can be proud of their team this season. And there could yet be a fairytale finish.