McKenzie knocks the stuffing out of Ipswich
What could make a Norwich fan happier than a derby win at Portman Road? Perhaps a derby win at Portman Road decided by a debut brace that sends the Canaries to the top of the league. As Alan Partridge might say: stick that under the tree.
There will be less cause for Christmas cheer in Suffolk, as an impressive recent record in the league and the East Anglian derby came to an end for the Tractor Boys. A preponderance of possession throughout the match also counted for nought as the visitors scrapped and passed their way to what, in the end, was a comfortable victory.
"First and foremost it's three points", said a phlegmatic Nigel Worthington after the match, pointing to the long way to go and the need for feet to be kept on the ground.
Praise for his team's performance was more forthcoming. "[It] was first class", he said. "We've played a very good team today and we got the result we deserved. The key to victory, as ever, was hard work, but we played some excellent football at times and scored two very good goals."
At 5ft 10in and slight of build, Norwich's goalscorer Leon McKenzie is, like Amy Hardwood in Blackadder, both tiny and wee. His performance yesterday was sizeable though.
After an opening half-hour that had "derby" stamped all over it with accompanying stud marks, it was no surprise that the first goal arrived as the result of an indiscretion.
Deputised to mark McKenzie, Georges Santos had been having a feisty half, flooring the forward quite legally on several occasions. Wriggling past Santos in the 30th minute, however, McKenzie was unlucky to have a penalty appeal turned down but the same trick eight minutes later resulted in a free-kick 25 yards out curled in by Philip Mulryne.
It was dealt with hesistantly by Ipswich and when Malky Mackay headed across at the second time of asking, Kelvin Davis could only parry under close pressure from Paul McVeigh, and McKenzie turned in.
Joe Royle described McVeigh's intervention as a foul, but insisted he didn't want to "make a big issue" out of it. More revealing, perhaps, was Royle's decision to remove Santos from the game at half-time. "Georges wouldn't have seen out 90 minutes the way the game was going," he said.
Norwich scored again in the second half just as Ipswich were threatening, buoyed by the introduction from the bench of their top scorer, Pablo Counago.
In possession wide on the right-hand side, Gary Holt was outnumbered five to three by defenders, but was still afforded enough time and space to lay up a cross into the Ipswich box. With Richard Naylor and John McGreal watching and dawdling, McKenzie stole in between the two and sprung a looping header beyond Davis's weak dive and into the far corner.
McKenzie arrived at Carrow Road from Peterborough 10 days ago for a fee of £300,000. That money doubles if Norwich reach the Premiership and Worthington hopes the incentive of the top flight will get the best from the player too. "He's got a wonderful chance to prove himself at this level and beyond and he's taken it in both hands today", said Worthington, "We're not too clever at poaching around the box, but Leon gives us that".
Darren Huckerby is another striker who continues to be associated with Carrow Road, and Worthington said he was "optimistic" of completing a deal. "We spoke to Darren on Friday", he said, "And it's best to describe the situation as ongoing. The nice thing is that the player would love to come to the club."
There were not too many nice things for Royle to take from the game. His side failed to create chances and resorted to the long ball too often against a well-drilled defence. "Bent's miss at 1-0 proved vital, and Alan Mahon had a free-kick well saved later on", he said. "I thought the score was harsh to say the least, but credit to Norwich, they defended well."
Paul McInnes (The Guardian)