Championship play-offs: Honours even from fabulous Old Farm derby
Substitute Paul Anderson struck deep into first-half stoppage time to ensure East Anglia rivals Ipswich Town and Norwich City go back to Carrow Road level in their Championship play-off semi-final tie.
Canaries midfielder Jonny Howson put the visitors to Portman Road ahead towards the end of a blood and thunder first 45 minutes, which was punctuated by a lengthy injury delay for Tractor Boys forward Luke Varney.
Alex Neil’s Norfolk outfit were indebted to number one John Ruddy for a sensational double reaction stop early on, first thwarting Freddie Sears from point-blank range and then dealing with Varney’s follow-up header after determined play for Daryl Murphy.
Ipswich had an escape of their own when Norwich anchorman Alexander Tettey bent the ball against the outside of Bartosz Bialkowski’s left-hand post, as the hosts were undone from a simple throw-in.
Howson and former Leeds United colleague Bradley Johnson saw respective headers sail wide either side of this big chance for the Canaries to score.
On 40 minutes, and following a lengthy delay which saw Mick McCarthy forced into a change by replacing the injured Varney with Anderson, the visitors went ahead. Cameron Jerome showed superb strength to shrug off Tommy Smith and split down the left before pulling back for Howson to guide home.
These bitter East Anglian rivals went in at half-time level, however, thanks to Anderson. A long punt upfield was defended poorly by Norwich captain Russell Martin and Sears seized upon his error.
Although Ruddy saved that initial effort and the rebound eluded Murphy, Anderson followed in to fire into the unguarded net, sending home supporters into raptures.
Smith nodded a deep Kevin Bru cross from the right just over, and right on the stroke of half-time Nathan Redmond saw his effort kept out by Suffolk side stopper Bialkowski.
After the break, the high tempo of Old Farm derby day ebbed somewhat with the Canaries failing to capitalise on a couple of openings to restore their lead.
Tractor Boys captain Luke Chambers got a key block on a Johnson piledriver and Bialkowski had to be on hand late on to tip over another Redmond effort, so honours finished even.
Ipswich and their manager McCarthy, who has never won a play-off tie during a 23-year coaching careers, will be relieved to have at least stopped the rot after four derby defeats on the spin. An away draw, despite their goal not counting as extra like it does in European ties, may favour Neil and Norwich, though.