REPORT: Norwich City 2 Ipswich Town 0

Jay Tabb puts his head into the thick of the action at Norwich

Jay Tabb puts his head into the thick of the action at Norwich

Norwich v Ipswich: Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at Norwich City on Sunday, their regional rivals leapfrogging them in the Championship table.

Bradley Johnson hammered a shot into the roof of the net in the 24th minute, with Lewis Grabban getting the final touch on a scrappy second midway through the second period.

Town were typically competitive, but their direct tactics were painfully one-dimensional at times and the Canaries’ added quality in the middle third proved the difference.

Wes Hoolahan provided a clever reverse pass in the build-up to the opener and a pin-point ball up the line ahead of the killer second.

The lively Freddie Sears had a one-on-one chance well-saved at 1-0 and a lobbed effort cleared off the line at 2-0, but it required a one-on-one save from Bartosz Bialkowski to deny Cameron Jerome making it 3-0.

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Town may have dropped from third to sixth in the table this weekend, but the fact that Derby, Middlesbrough and Brentford all lost, and Bournemouth drew, means they remain just three points off the automatic promotion places and two above seventh.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy made two changes to his starting line-up following a 4-2 home victory over Birmingham City five days earlier.

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Wide midfielders Jonathan Parr and Paul Anderson dropped to the bench and they were replaced by Jay Tabb and Richard Chaplow respectively, the latter making his full debut following one impressive cameo display.

Norwich boss Alex Neil made just one change to his team following their 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Blackburn in midweek - defensive midfielder Alex Tettey replacing West Brom loanee Graham Dorrans.

Town lined up with a diamond midfield, Skuse shielding and Chaplow at the tip. McCarthy’s plan, it very quickly became clear, was to stifle the Canaries’ creative players and try to force a mistake at the back with a barrage of direct balls into the corners.

Tyrone Mings did superbly to hold off Lewis Grabban in the box early on.

Then, in the eighth minute, Norwich had big penalty shouts waved away when Tommy Smith produced a sliding challenge on Grabban in the box. The Town defender had been beaten for pace and got the slightest of touches on the ball when making his desperate lunge.

Ipswich again rode their luck in the 14th minute. Jonny Howson dug a cross out close to the by-line, Johnson nodded the ball into the six-yard box and it required a combination of Christophe Berra and Daryl Murphy to scramble the ball away.

Cole Skuse was booked for catching Johnson in the face with a high kick. Moments later, Johnson left Luke Chambers in a heap as the two contested a 50/50 ball. The atmosphere turned up a notch.

Norwich broke the deadlock in the 24th minute. Following a slick reverse pass from Wes Hoolahan, Grabban’s low cut-back caught the heel of Berra and deflected kindly into the path of the late arriving Johnson. He was just the man the hosts wanted there, the midfielder producing a trademark hammer finish into the roof of the net.

Town’s direct tactics had given Norwich one or two nervy moments and came close to producing an equaliser in the 31st minute. Kevin Bru’s ball up the line was well-weighted, Murphy’s swerving cross was accurate, but keeper John Ruddy did superbly to keep out Sears’ one-on-one effort.

Four minutes later, Sears drifted inside from the left and unleashed a shot that was well-held by Ruddy.

McCarthy replaced Chaplow with Blackburn loanee Luke Varney at the break, the latter going up front and Sears operating in a deeper role.

Within the opening seconds of the half the Blues went close, Johnson inches away from scoring an own goal as he stabbed Tabb’s deep free-kick delivery just over his own bar.

While Town continued to look to smash the door down, Norwich carried on in their attempts to unlock it. A neat interchange between Hoolahan and Grabban opened up the away defence, but Berra made an important intervention.

Then, after a scrappy period to the match, Norwich scored a crucial second in the 69th minute thanks to a combination of quality and luck.

Hoolahan’s ball up the line was pin-point, sub Cameron Jerome – only just introduced to the action – held off Berra well and turned to shoot across the keeper, his effort hitting Mings, ricocheting into Grabban and squirming over the line.

A superb piece of midfield vision, this time a well-weighted Jonny Howson through ball, sent Jerome racing clear one-on-one in the 73rd minute. Bartosz Bialkowski was quick off his line to make the block though.

Town continued to huff and puff and, after a goalmouth scramble in which Norwich players got in their blocks, sub Jonathan Parr saw his shot deflected over.

Sebastien Bassong then headed Sears’ angled lob off the line, following a quickly taken free-kick by Tabb, while debutant Chris Wood – introduced off the bench – out a flicked header wide.

In truth, the Blues’ one-dimensional approach was comfortably dealt with by their regional rivals though.

NORWICH CITY (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson; Tettey, Johnson; Redmond (Jerome 61), Howson, Hoolahan (Dorrans 83); Grabban.

Unused subs: Rudd, Turner, Hooper, Andreu, Garrido.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Mings; Chaplow (Varney 46), Skuse, Bru (Parr 69), Tabb; Murphy (Wood 79), Sears.

Unused subs: Gerken, Clarke, Benyu, Anderson.

Booked: Skuse (16), Mings (84)

Attendance: 27,005 (2,000 away)

Referee: Mr P Tierney.

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