Ipswich v Norwich: East Anglian derby breakdown
Ipswich Town v Norwich City
- Portman Road
- Thursday, 21 April 2011
- 1945 BST
- Live commentary on BBC Radio Suffolk and BBC Radio Norfolk
Thursday's East Anglian derby will give supporters and pundits alike a firmer idea of whether Norwich City can succeed in their bid to win promotion to the Premier League.
But it will also offer a measure of just how far Ipswich Town have come under Paul Jewell.
Five months ago the Canaries overwhelmed Town 4-1 at Carrow Road in the midst of a mini-disaster for the Suffolk side.
It was Ipswich's fourth straight defeat in a downward spiral that would keep descending until Roy Keane's sacking five weeks later.
Paul Jewell came in and his impact has seen a steady rise in fortunes for the Tractor Boys.
Since Jewell arrived Ipswich have risen from 19th to 12th and have won nine of their 18 league games - Keane managed just eight victories in the previous 24.
But November's humiliation in Norfolk highlighted two Norwich strengths that Ipswich will need to show they have learned to cope with.
Grant Holt's power and persistence proved too much for the Ipswich backline, as it has done for most Championship sides this season.
The 30-year-old striker's ability to make a nuisance of himself saw Damien Delaney dismissed in the first half.
But Town will have Gareth McAuley to call upon this time around and Jewell will be hoping the Northern Irishman can continue his recent good form to quell Holt's attacking threat, assuming the Carrow Road top scorer manages to overcome a hamstring injury.
A trickier prospect for the boys in blue will be how to cope with Norwich's string-puller Wes Hoolahan.
He took delight in dropping off, moving out wide and popping up all around the Ipswich box in the November fixture and Town were left chasing their own tails.
Jewell's problem, as he freely admits, is that he does not have to marshall the Irishman.
Luke Hyam is an option but he has not played since November, other than that Jewell may look at putting veteran left-back Mark Kennedy in the role.
The 34-year-old will need to shake off his latest hamstring setback but looks to be the only genuine route for Ipswich should they decide they must shackle Hoolahan at all costs.
But Town are in a rich vein of form themselves, having won four of their last five outings.
And Norwich will need to be aware of two new threats on the Portman Road scene.
Jimmy Bullard has been in sensational form since arriving on loan from Hull and Andrew Crofts or David Fox should be given the chore of staying close to the former Wigan man.
But add to that the emergence of Josh Carson and Norwich may be given too much to think about in their own half to launch waves of assaults on the Ipswich penalty area.
Carson, 17, has been thrown into the limelight at Portman Road and has taken to the challenge with , scoring three times in his last three games from the wing.
All-in-all it makes the prospect of Thursday not only mouthwatering for the implications it will have on the promotion race, but also because this time around, it may be a more equal contest.