Championship play-offs: 10-man Ipswich pay penalty for Berra handball
Norwich City (odds-on 8/11 favourites for promotion with Coral) won a tense and thrilling East Anglian derby against bitter rivals and 10-man Ipswich Town 3-1 at Carrow Road. This resulted in a 4-2 aggregate victory that set up a Championship play-off final fixture with Middlesbrough at Wembley.
Following a cat and mouse first-half, which saw Paul Anderson have to clear off the line from Canaries captain Russell Martin when a deep corner came over to him, this semi second leg burst into life.
Nathan Redmond had a huge influence on proceedings, being involved in all three Norwich strikes. His goal-bound shot was blocked on the line by the hand of Christophe Berra, giving referee Roger East no option but to brandish red at the Tractor Boys centre back.
Wes Hoolahan duly stepped up and sent Bartosz Bialkowski the wrong way from the spot. The Canaries’ lead lasted just 10 minutes, however, as Mick McCarthy’s men hit back on the hour mark, despite being a man down, through Tommy Smith.
Daryl Murphy flicked on a long free-kick and the New Zealand defender gambled with a superbly-timed run to get in behind the home defence, and round keeper John Ruddy to restore parity.
Redmond then got on the scoresheet to put Alex Neil’s side ahead again four minutes later, with the England Under-21 winger benefiting from unselfish play from Norwich’s first leg goal-grabber Jonny Howson.
Martin Olsson’s excellent work up from left back saw him force Bialkowski into a parrying stop. The loose ball then broke to Howson, who teed up Redmond for a strike that went through Tyrone Mings leaving the Ipswich goalie unsighted.
Hoolahan then stung the palms of Bialkowski, and the Tractor Boys were let off big time moments later when Cameron Jerome screwed wide from Howson’s cross at the end of a patient Canaries move.
Jerome would atone for missing this gilt-edged chance, however, when Redmond’s through-ball found him in the clear 13 minutes from time to tap home past the onrushing and exposed Bialkowski and seal victory.
A magnificent derby day delight for Norwich brings them to the cusp of bouncing back immediately into the Premier League, but Boro (11/10) under Aitor Karanka will run them close for promotion on Bank Holiday Monday (May 25th) and to end their top-flight exile.