It's all doom and gloom for Keane
Norwich City 4
Ipswich Town 1
Published 29/11/2010 | 05:00
The police demanded an early kick-off to take the sting out of the Championship's 'Old Farm Derby'.
But the lunchtime start turned into a Sunday roasting for Roy Keane's Ipswich, who suffered their heaviest defeat in a league match against Norwich. That one stung, for sure.
The greater part of a crowd of 26,532 -- the highest since Carrow Road became an all-seater stadium -- enjoyed the sort of script that only a Norwich diehard could have written.
There was a hat-trick for their captain, Grant Holt, a bonus goal from former Shelbourne favourite Wes Hoolahan, and a good hour's worth of sadistic chanting at Keane, who was repeatedly told: "You'll be sacked in the morning."
In fact, the chances are that Keane's contract will be allowed to run on until it expires peacefully in April. But this horrible 4-1 defeat will surely extinguish any remaining goodwill among fans, most of whom had already turned against him, and confirm the theory that his management career is on the slide.
At the post-match briefings, Keane was not so much downbeat as fatalistic.
Asked about Ipswich's public shows of support for him, he half-smiled and said: "Yes, but we've heard that from clubs before."
He also took a gloomy position on their immediate prospects, saying: "We're only a few points off the play-offs, but, if anything, that gap is going to get bigger, because we've got a tough run of games coming up."
The suspicion is that this sort of reverse psychology is doing nothing to motivate Keane's team. But then motivation is useless in any case if your back four cannot hold a line. Ipswich's defending was clueless.
Keane is aware of the intense scrutiny he is under after his side slumped to their fourth successive defeat and the former Manchester United skipper added: "I know there is pressure, losing games creates pressure and you've just got to deal with it.
"I analyse my position every single day and I am just going to try to do my best to turn this around. It doesn't get any easier, though, with West Brom at Portman Road in the Carling Cup on Wednesday."
Norwich scored an early opener when left-back Darren O'Dea tried to control a high-bouncing ball and carry it towards his own goalkeeper, only for Holt to dispossess him and slot the ball smoothly home.
Half an hour later, centre-back Damien Delaney made exactly the same mistake. Except that rather than letting Holt run clear, Delaney tugged at his shirt, earning himself a red card for a professional foul.
"I'm not going to question the official over the sending-off," Keane said.
"The ball should have been cleared. It was the same for the first goal. We gave Norwich a helping hand, because we're not good enough to play with 10 men."
In between these errors, Holt had scored his second from a lovely through-ball from debutant Henri Lansbury, a 20-year-old prospect on loan from Arsenal.
The home manager, Paul Lambert, described the pass as "Messi-like." But then Messi rarely gets to play against teams as disorganised as this.
"I thought Grant was unplayable at times today," Lambert said. "It was a superb performance. He was always harassing people and not letting them settle and he stuck his chances away too.
"He is never going to be a striker with, but when he's playing like a typical old-fashioned No 9 he is brilliant.
"You never really know how a player is going to cope when he steps up to a higher level, but Grant deserved his chance and he is taking it.
"I think Chrissie Martin was excellent too. He's a young player with great ability and when both of them are playing well we have always got a chance."
On his side's overall display, Lambert was equally gushing. "We have done fine, the lads have been brilliant today," he added. "It's not rocket science, I have got some really good players here who are desperate to do well for the club.
"I am delighted for everyone at the club, but especially the supporters because, wherever you are, these derby matches are always very important to them."
It was a commanding performance from Holt, although he had been lucky to escape with a yellow card when he took a horrible hack at Ipswich winger Jack Colback in the third minute. Colback's team-mate Grant Leadbitter responded angrily, prompting a short bout of Kabaddi between the two teams.
From that early skirmish, the passion and electricity of the occasion put the average Premier League match to shame.
When Holt completed his hat-trick, half an hour into the second period, it sounded as if a jet-fighter plane was taking off from the Barclay Stand. Delia Smith, Norwich's majority shareholder, can rarely have been so happy to skip Sunday lunch. (© Daily Telegraph, London)