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14:00 9th May 2015
By  Ben Mouncer


NORWICH City's Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final with Ipswich Town remains tantalisingly poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Portman Road.

Both teams' fate will be decided at Carrow Road next Saturday after a closely-fought East Anglian derby, one of the most hotly-anticipated for many years, ended all square.

The game's goals came at the end of the first period, with Jonny Howson's sublime opener cancelled out by Paul Anderson's effort not long before the break.

Bradley Johnson went closest for the Canaries in a tense second half of few clearcut opportunities at either end, with focus now switching to next weekend's decisive second meeting.

Alex Neil made four changes from last Saturday's victory over Fulham, with Steven Whittaker and Alex Tettey returning to the eleven.

Graham Dorrans and Cameron Jerome also came into the team, with Gary Hooper, Wes Hoolahan, Elliott Bennett and Gary O'Neil dropping to the bench.

Ipswich made two alterations from their final day defeat at Blackburn as Kevin Bru and Luke Varney replaced Jonathan Parr and Jay Tabb.

The first half was an even contest that steadily grew in intensity as it wore on, with both goals coming in the closing stages.

Neil's Canaries held more possession of the ball in a start that wasn't as frenetic as many expected, but it was Ipswich who went closest on eight minutes.

City had John Ruddy to thank after their number one made a superb double-stop, first from Freddie Sears and then Varney.

Johnson dragged a shot wide but it was his midfield partner Tettey who had the away fans momentarily on their feet, curling an effort narrowly wide from 20 yards on 23 minutes.

Johnson glanced a header off target as the visitors began to press Town back, but on the half hour mark there was lenghty stoppage as Varney received treatment and was then stretchered off after landing on his ankle.

Then after a quiet ten-minute spell, a City break gave them the advantage on 41 minutes.

Johnson won his aerial challenge to find Jerome, and the striker bounded down the left before cutting the ball back for Howson, who expertly guided it into the far corner beyond Bartosz Bialkowski.

Ipswich exploited the six minutes of added time, however, to make the Canaries' joy short-lived through substitute Anderson.

Ruddy parried Sears' original effort but could only hack the ball into the winger's path, and he had the time to steady himself before smashing beyond City's retreating defenders.

Both teams could have gone ahead before the whistle, but Tommy Smith's rising header didn't trouble Ruddy and Redmond saw a drive blocked by Bialkowski after a skilful run.

HALF-TIME: Ipswich Town 1-1 Norwich City

Daryl Murphy's wayward header was the only opportunity in a steady opening ten minutes of the second half from both sides.

Johnson tried his luck with his right foot from range on the hour mark yet Bialkowski was equal to it, before Teddy Bishop's strike was blocked on the edge of the box up the other end.

Sears then had a decent opportunity after peeling away at the back post to meet Bru's delivery, but he got underneath his header and saw it rise over the bar.

City's Player of the Season Johnson then almost punished the striker, shooting powerfully from Redmond's pass, but a deflection denied him his 16th goal of the season.

Chambers got in the way of Johnson's next piledriver, just after Neil had made his first switch - introducing Hoolahan for Dorrans.

It was sustained strongest spell of sustained control, but Ipswich soon rallied as the home crowd got behind their team for one final push.

In truth, a third goal never looked likely, however, and both teams will meet in Norfolk next week to decide who faces a Wembley adventure.

FULL-TIME: Ipswich Town 1-1 Norwich City

GOALS: Tractor Boys: Paul Anderson (45) - Canaries: Jonny Howson (41)

IPSWICH TOWN: Bialkowski; Mings, Chambers (c), Smith, Berra, Skuse, Murphy, Varney (Anderson 30), Bru (Tabb 71), Sears, Bishop (Parr 77). Subs not used: Gerken (GK), S Hunt, N Hunt, McGoldrick.

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson; Tettey, Howson, Dorrans (Hoolahan 69), Redmond, Johnson; Jerome (Hooper 86). Subs not used: Rudd (GK), E Bennett, R Bennett, O'Neil, Odjidja-Ofoe.

REFEREE: Anthony Taylor

ATTENDANCE: 29,166 (2,085)

Season Ticket holders are reminded they have until 5pm on Monday, May 11, to secure their seat for the return leg.


    Did you know Norwich City Football Club have appeared in three Wembley cup finals?