Fewer derby matches have had greater significance all season that the ‘Tractor Derby’ involving Ipswich Town and Norwich City. The passion characterising these occasions, besides any other overriding concerns, is always tremendous and a testament to both sides and their legions of passionate supporters. This time, however, the ramifications of failure are bigger than ever for both sides. Ipswich, thrashed 4-1 by their eternal rivals earlier this season in front of the television cameras at a gleeful Carrow Road, will be looking to avoid definitive defeat in the Old Farm Derby, and an embarrassing reversal. For Norwich, meanwhile, nothing less than a place in the Premier League is at stake, and how Town would love to deny them such a tantalising opportunity.
The form book so far this season tells us much about both sides; Norwich are extremely resilient, hard-working and determined, and possess an extraordinary ability to score crucial late goals which has, to all intents and purposes, kept them in the promotion race. Ipswich, by comparison, have conceded far too many goals at home, currently suffering from a negative goal difference at Portman Road which may be telling come tomorrow evening. Yet under Paul Jewell the Tractor Boys have been revitalised, and are currently unbeaten in five games. In addition to this, they have already shown their mettle against another promotion-chasing side, Cardiff City, winning 2-0 in Wales thanks to a brace from the instrumental Jimmy Bullard.
Bullard could well be crucial for Town, with Lee Martin suspended and Grant Leadbitter a possible absentee. For Norwich, meanwhile, talisman and battering ram Grant Holt, who has carved out somewhat of a ‘marmite’ reputation for himself so far this season, could be absent after playing through the pain barrier against Nottingham Forest on Friday. His absence would leave the door open for Simeon Jackson, but given that it was his hat-trick which demolished the Tractor Boys back in November, the Canaries could be blunted up front in their pursuit of leap-frogging their Welsh promotion rivals prior to Saturday’s title showdown. Despite this, one would bank on City continuing their excellent form against Ipswich, either securing another vital point in pursuit of the Premier League, or snatching yet another late winner to climb above Cardiff City and lay down a gauntlet to Dave Jones’ side.