Championship play-offs: Norwich to pile more play-off misery on Mick
When you know Norwich City have already done a regular season double over your side, and Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy has never won a play-off tie in a 23-year coaching career, then there may not be much cause for optimism.
The Tractor Boys, 4/1 outsiders with Coral to earn Premier League promotion, have done one thing their Norfolk rivals never have, though; win this end of campaign competition, back in 2000.
Alex Neil (pictured below) may be at the opposite end of his managerial career to Suffolk side counterpart McCarthy, but will be wary the Canaries lost in heartbreaking penalty shoot-out circumstances in the 2002 final during their only previous play-offs appearance.
Norwich must cope with the tag of being 7/4 promotion favourites, odds-on at 4/7 to qualify from this tie and 7/5 to repeat their East Anglia derby win at Portman Road. That shouldn’t be much of a problem, especially as Ipswich have stumbled in six other play-off semi-finals.
Such shaky previous form, despite their success under George Burley 15 years ago, means the Tractor Boys are 19/10 for a home victory, and 11/8 to reach Wembley again. A rare draw on derby day between these two, meanwhile, is an outside shout at 23/10.
While there has been an over-reliance on Ipswich and Championship leading marksman Daryl Murphy (pictured below) on McCarthy’s part, punters will be rewarded with better odds if they go with in-form former Colchester and West Ham United attacker Freddie Sears.
Veteran Irish frontman Murphy’s 27 goals throughout the campaign is impressive but, because four of those have come in as many matches at the end of the regular season, he is 6/5 in the anytime market.
Sears’ own form of four in five is no less impressive, and since his winter window signing he has established himself as McCarthy’s best foil for Murphy. Take a more attractive price of 7/4 for Sears to score against the Canaries.
Lewis Grabban has proved to be the Tractor Boys’ nemesis on derby days this term, netting both home and away against them, but everyone connected with Ipswich will be relived to learn he will miss both legs suspended.
There is still brilliant box-to-box midfielder Bradley Johnson (pictured above) to contend with, however. He scored in the Carrow Road clash between these two, one of a fabulous 15 during an all-action campaign.
Johnson has netted five of those in as many matches, so outstanding value in the anytime market at 11/4, and also features in a fabulous 5/1 wincast. He looks a better bet than Norwich top scorer Cameron Jerome, who has seen goals dry up of late.
Gary Hooper is more attractive at the same price as Jerome (5/4 anytime) after three in six on the road. A repeat 1-0 result in favour of the Canaries back in August is a superb 6/1 shot