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Marcelino Nunez free kick sees Norwich City dent Ipswich Town’s automatic promotion hopes at Carrow Road





A Marcelino Nunez first-half free kick saw Norwich City to a 1-0 victory over Ipswich Town in the East Anglian derby at Carrow Road to dent their arch rivals’ automatic promotion hopes.

It was an uncharacteristically lacklustre display from Kieran McKenna’s side, who led the Sky Bet Championship table going into the lunchtime Sky-televised kick-off. They ended the day second, sandwiched a point from both new leaders Leicester City – whose late goal sealed a 2-1 win against Birmingham City – and Leeds United – who lost by the same scoreline at play-off chasing Coventry City.

In Norfolk it was a first half of few chances it was the Canaries who seized their moment from a 30-yard swerving free kick from Nunez which deceived Vaclav Haldky as it bounced through with the Czech stopped unable to keep it out as it bounced in off the post.

It was not to be Town’s day in the day in the derby as they fell to defeat at Carrow Road, having drawn 2-2 at Portman Road back in December Picture: Barry Goodwin
It was not to be Town’s day in the day in the derby as they fell to defeat at Carrow Road, having drawn 2-2 at Portman Road back in December Picture: Barry Goodwin

The Blues, who had not managed to register a shot on target in the first period, saw more of the ball in the second half but continued to look nervous at the back and Hladky had to stop Josh Sargent doubling their lead.

There were half chances up the other end with Conor Chaplin firing over from a Leif Davis cut-back as the Norwich defence stood up well to some late pressure to record an eighth straight win at Carrow Road and strengthen their grip on sixth place.

It also saw Town’s long wait for a win in the ‘Old Farm Derby’ set to reach 15 years (from 14 games), having last tasted success as Portman Road in April 19, 2009. And the last win at Carrow Road goes back to February 5, 2006.

The big news from the team-sheet was Kieffer Moore starting for the visitors having been said to have not been able to train during the week following leaving the pitch with a ‘severe back spasm’ against Southampton on Monday.

There was only one change for Kieran McKenna’s side from that 3-2 home victory with joint top scorer Nathan Broadhead coming in for Kayden Jackson while versatile Dom Ball replaced George Edmundson on the bench.

David Wagner made one enforced change from their 3-1 defeat at Leicester City on Monday with the injured Jacob Sorensen replaced by Shane Duffy.

Norwich earned a corner inside the first 30 seconds and after Hladky fisted away the delivery before Borja Sainz lifted his shot from a bouncing ball well off target.

Town were soon on the attack themselves with some tentative calls for handball after Omari Hutchinson’s cross was blocked at the near post by Sam McCallum.

With the wind swirling around the ground amid the spring sunshine, visiting keeper Vaclav Hladky had to be alert to catch a long-range effort from Jack Stacey under his bar while the right-back soon drilled well wide of the far post from a promising counter-attack.

Both sides seem to be struggling with their passes amid the gusty conditions in what had been an open start to the game without either side being able to find the right ball in the final third.

A Leif Davis corner in the 22nd minute did find the peeling run of Cameron Burgess but, from Town’s first effort at goal, he got too far under his header which looped over.

Norwich had the chance to have a go from a 30-yard central free kick which saw Gabriel Sara’s effort fly comfortably over the far corner.

Just before the half-hour mark Sargent was put through from a deep pass with what seemed a heavy but good challenge from Axel Tuanzebe on the edge of the area seeing him shown the first yellow card, with the home fans having called for red.

Nunez saw his low free kick deflected out for a corner off the defensive wall before his effort from Sara’s delivery was blocked amid a sea of bodies.

A good spell for the Canaries continued with Massimo Luongo heading away a Sara free kick and Moore soon blocking Kenny McClean’s near-post cross while he was also soon Sainz’s effort on the other side after Hladky palmed out the corner.

And the pressure told with the opener in the 39th minute when Nunez’s central free kick from around 30 yards out, after Morsy adjudged to have tugged back Sargent, bounced on its way through with Hladky only able to push it in off the right-hand post.

As the half entered additional time Hutchinson burst into the box before going down under a nudge in the back from Sainz but the referee was not interested in the appeals emanating from the adjacent away fans.

It was the last notable action of a largely scrappy half where the hosts had made the only decent spell of sustained pressure from either side count.

There was a nervy moment for Town fans early in the second half when Morsy’s testing backpass saw Hladky slice straight to Sargent but the USA international was unable to get a clean hit on it before it was cleared.

The Blues were beginning to dominate the ball but were troubled again in the 58th minute when Sara managed to find the run down the left of Sainz beyond Tuanzebe, and after the ball bounced off his shoulder, his stabbed volley went wide.

There was controversy a few minutes later as Morsy’s poor pass saw Norwich break dangerously with Ashley Barnes finding Sargant who appeared to be clipped by Morsy’s desperate recovery run just outside the box. But referee Matthew Donohue saw nothing in it with Luke Woolfenden having also been a covering defender.

As play continued, Stacey’s subsequent follow up shot was never troubling Hladky.

McKenna then turned to his bench with Monday’s last-gasp goal hero Jeremy Sarmiento and home-grown Harry Clarke replacing Broadhead and Tuanzebe.

Sarmineto was immediately in the thick of the action, finding Moore in the box but the Wales international’s header was straight at Angus Gunn who was also comfortably behind Hutchinson’s low effort.

Up the other end Sargant took a long ball on well to get in behind the defence but Burgess managed to get across to execute a sliding challenge before Hladky got to the loose ball.

Norwich continued to look the more dangerous on the break with Sargent put through by Sainz in the 70th minute before Hladky made a low save with Sainz lifting over the far post after the American broke away again a few minutes later.

A Davis corner found Conor Chaplin’s near-post run but he could not make a clean connection as it led to a Norwich breakaway that Morsy did well to stop.

A Town raid down the left saw Davis find Chaplin again with a low cross but the number 10 fired his shot from inside the area over the bar.

It was the 13-goal player’s last action as a triple substitution on 75 saw Marcus Harness, Ali Al-Hamadi and Jack Taylor enter the fray with Moore and Luongo also departing.

Former Town academy player Liam Gibbs, who was raised in Bury St Edmunds, also came on for Barnes in the hosts’ first change.

Sarmiento turned well from Hutchinson’s pass inside on the edge of the box but blazed over as the Blues continued to look for a breakthrough.

Away hopes were raised five minutes from time when Al-Hamadi burst on to Clarke’s excellent chipped throughball but Gunn was out well to block with the reverberating ball coming off covering defender Duffy.

Town broke through Al-Hamadi and Morsy in the 87th minute but after Sarmiento’s low cross found Harness in the area the substitute failed to sort his feet out in time to get a shot away.

As five minutes of stoppage time were signalled a patient passage of play saw Hutchinson threaded into the area but the Chelsea loanee fond Ben Gibson in front of his shot.

The lively Sainz received a standing ovation as he was replaced by Danny Batth.

In the 93rd minute Al-Hamadi went down as he chested down a throughball under Gibson’s challenge just outside the area but the referee waved play on.

It was the last notable action of a difficult day for the visiting fans as their long wait for joy in the derby goes on.

Could it be that they will return in just over a month’s time in the play-offs? They will certainly be hoping that is not the case.

Town begin their final five matches on Wednesday when 14th-placed Watford are the visitors to Portman Road (7.45pm) ahead of eighth-placed Middlesbrough rock up next Saturday (3pm).

Norwich: Gunn, Stacey, Gibson, Sainz (Batth), Sargent, Barnes (Gibbs 75’), McCallum Sara, McLean (cpt), Duffy, Nunez.

Unused subs: Long (gk), Van Hooijdonk, Fassnacht, Fisher, Welch, Aboh, Montoia.

Booked: None.

Ipswich: Hladky, Davis, Morsy (cpt), Woolfenden, Chaplin (Harness 75’), Burgess, Hutchinson, Moore (Al-Hamadi 75’), Luongo (Taylor 75’), Broadhead (Sarmiento 62’), Tuanzebe (Clarke 62’).

Unused subs: Walton (gk), Ball, Jackson, Travis.

Booked: Tuanzebe (30’).

Attendance: 27,001 (2,001 away fans).

SuffolkNews Man of the Match: Hard to pick out a Town player in a poor performance but Cameron Burgess put in some good defensive work to ensure the game did not run away.