Norwich City 3-1 Town (4-2 on Aggregate)
Saturday, 16th May 2015 14:31
Town will play Championship football once again in 2015/16 after they were defeated 3-1 by Norwich City in the second leg of their play-off semi-final second leg, having been reduced to 10 men when Christophe Berra was red-carded just after half-time. With first game having ended 1-1 at Portman Road, the tie was turned in the 48th minute when Berra handled Nathan Redmond’s goalbound shot and was dismissed. Hoolahan scored from the spot, Smith equalised for the Blues soon after but goals from Redmond and Cameron Jerome sealed the place at Wembley for the Canaries.
Paul Anderson replaced the injured Luke Varney in an otherwise unchanged Town side, the on-loan Blackburn man having suffered a ruptured achilles in last week’s match. David McGoldrick is again a sub.
Norwich also made one expected change with Wes Hoolahan replacing Graham Dorrans, who drops to the bench.
While the home crowd did their best to emulate the Portman Road atmosphere from last week, the Blues started brightly and created the game’s first chance in the third minute, 27-goal Championship top scorer Daryl Murphy nodding Kevin Bru’s freekick from the right over when he will feel he might have done better.
Town continued to have most of the early possession and on six Anderson crossed from the left but too close to Canaries keeper John Ruddy.
The home side began to see more of the ball and on 11, after a controversially awarded corner on the right, Steven Whittaker curled a 25-yard strike well wide of Bartosz Bialkowski’s goal.
On 13 Murphy seized on a moment of hesitancy from Canaries centre-half Sebastien Bassong on the right and crossed from the byline but too near to Ruddy, who claimed. A minute later, Bru scraped well wide from 25 yards.
First leg goalscorer Anderson was a Town hero again in the 17th minute when, following a corner on the right, the winger blocked Norwich skipper Russell Martin’s low shot from the edge of the box on the line with Bialkowski beaten.
But the expected early Canary pressure had largely failed to materialise with the Blues continuing to have the better of it.
On 20 Teddy Bishop claimed a penalty when skipping past Nathan Redmond as he brought a half-cleared corner back into the box but referee Roger East wasn’t interested. Video replays suggested the Town midfielder may have had a case.
As the clock turned to 21 the Blues support burst into applause in tribute to fan Chris Reynolds, who died aged 21 last month.
On the half hour, with the Blues still on top, Canaries midfielder Bradley Johnson picked up the game’s first yellow card for clattering Bru from behind.
The now-recovered Bru struck another effort from distance on 37 but this time high and wide, Anderson’s harrying having won the ball back deep in the Norwich half.
As in the first leg Cameron Jerome was proving Norwich’s greatest threat and on 41 the former Cardiff man flicked a header which sent Hoolahan away on the left. The Irishman squared to Jonny Howson breaking on the right, but his shot struck Tyrone Mings. Moments later, Johnson wasted a freekick, shooting well over when trying to catch Bialkowski unawares.
Norwich had a brief spell of pressure as the game moved towards injury time but without creating anything significant and the half ended goalless.
Town boss Mick McCarthy will have been the happier manager at the break, the Blues having started strongly and quietened the home support fairly quickly. Despite having threatened once or twice, Norwich had never really got into their stride.
But, while Murphy might have done better with his early header and Bishop may believe he should have won a penalty, the best chance of the first half was Martin’s strike which Anderson cleared off the line. After 135 minutes of football the tie was still anybody’s.
Norwich threatened within seconds of the restart, Howson cut on from the right and played the ball into Jerome, who had his back to goal and went to ground under pressure from Tommy Smith. The loose ball was played out to Martin Olsson on the left but his shot was blocked and Bru cleared.
Town immediately broke through Sears but the former Colchester United man shot into the side-netting.
Four minutes into the second half, Town were struck by a huge double blow. Mings inadvertently fed Hoolahan down the centre, who found Redmond breaking into the area in space on the left. The former Birmingham man drew Bialkowski before hitting a goalbound effort which Berra, who had taken up a position on the line, stopped with his left arm.
Referee East pointed straight to the spot and showed Berra Town’s first red card of the season. The Scotland international had little complaint as he made his way to the tunnel.
Hoolahan took the spotkick and hit the ball to Bialkowski’s right with the keeper diving in the opposite direction to make it 1-0 on the day and 2-1 on aggregate.
Skipper Chambers moved to centre-half and Anderson to right-back as the 10-man Blues reorganised as they looked to get their Wembley dream back on track.
And on right on the hour, Town levelled. Bishop sent over a freekick from the left, Murphy headed down towards goal and Smith skipped in to take the ball past Ruddy before scuffing into the net right-footed from a matter of inches.
The former academy player was mobbed by his team-mates before running to celebrate with the ecstatic Blues support.
But parity was to last only four minutes. Bialkowski saved Olsson’s shot from the left, the loose ball eventually reaching Howson, who fed Redmond to his right and the England U21 international smashed a low shot under the Blues keeper and into the net to restore the Canaries’ lead.
Given their numerical advantage it was no surprise that the home side were by now dominating possession and on 70 they came close to increasing their lead when Howson crossed from the right and Jerome somehow managed to turn it across the face of goal when it seemed easier to score.
The Blues switched Bishop and Bru for Jay Tabb and David McGoldrick as they sought to get themselves on terms for a second time. Three minutes after coming on McGoldrick cleverly fed Mings on the left but the left-back overran the ball.
But the result was all but sealed in the 77th minute when Jerome was played in on goal by Redmond and touched the ball past the advancing Bialkowski and into the net to make it 3-1 on the day and 4-2 on aggregate. There would be no way back for the 10 men from here.
Redmond should have made it four on 80 when Howson him in on goal but he dallied and Mings got back to stab the ball away from him for a corner.
Anderson was replaced by Noel Hunt for the final seven minutes, while Gary Hooper took over from Jerome for the Canaries.
Town continued to look for a way back into the game, Chambers fed in Sears but Bassong stabbed the ball away from the Blues striker.
In injury time McGoldrick scuffed wide, then Skuse was booked for a foul before the game briefly threatened to boil over following a clash between Smith and Redmond but the referee restored order.
Soon after, referee east blew the final whistle to confirm Norwich’s place in the final against Middlesbrough and Town’s 14th successive Championship season.
The Blues can hold their heads high after a typically resilient performance in very touch circumstances.
Having shaded the first half, the match was turned by the penalty incident with Berra seemingly sticking out an instinctive arm to keep the shot out.
The Blues showed their usual resolve to get back into the match but in the end the additional player made the difference and the Canaries took two of their opportunities.
While the defeat to the Canaries is a hugely disappointing way to end the campaign, overall the season has matched the pre-season target of reaching the play-offs, however, that will come as little consolation so soon after the final whistle consigned the Blues to yet another play-off semi-final defeat.
Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson, Redmond, Howson, Tettey, Johnson (E Bennett 87), Hoolahan (Dorrans 74), Jerome (Hooper 84). Unused: Rudd, Josh Murphy, R Bennett, O'Neil.
Ipswich: Bialkowski, Chambers, Mings, Berra, Smith, Skuse, Bru (Tabb 71), Bishop (McGoldrick 71), Anderson (N Hunt 84), Sears, Murphy. Unused: Gerken, Parr, S Hunt, Clarke. Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire). Att: 26,994.
Photo: Action Images
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