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Alex Neil keeping his cards close to his chest

I suppose it had to be expected given the significance of tomorrows game, so what did we learn from his pre-match press-conference today?

  • Biggest game of his managerial career - but hoping for a bigger one in a week's time, sounds fair enough
  • One of the Murphy twins is in the match day squad tomorrow - but he wouldn't say who

Apart from that nothing much to report which I guess is good news if there are no injuries or suspensions to discuss, I just wonder who is making way for one of the Murphy twins, I guess by this time tomorrow we will know.

Steven Whittaker was the player joining Alex Neil at the press conference today and both seemed very focussed on the game in hand, with the prospect of Wembley offering little or no distraction 

Whether there is the same focus on Tyneside for Middlesborough remains to be seen, going into their second leg tonight they have opted to leave Patrick Bamford on the bench, with the cynic in me suspecting that they have half an eye on the final and making sure their star man is available, whether this is a wise decision remains to be seen, hopefully not as I would rather face Brentford!

Good luck to Luke Varney

This may sound a bit strange for a Norwich site to be wishing an Ipswich player good luck, but no one likes to see a bad injury and it looks like the one he sustained in the first leg of the playoff semi final is a bad one.

Press reports say this week that the operation on his injured achilles has been sucessful, but he is still going to be out for up to six months

So here's to a speedy recovery for him from what can only be described as a bit of a freak injury

Ruddy Rumours - First Transfer Rumour Of The Off Season

And we've not even finished playing yet

This morning the Daily Star were carrying a story that Mourinho may wish to resurrect his interest in John Ruddy as the number 2 keeper at Chelsea, like may other City fans i'm sure I'd be very surprised at this stage of his career if Ruddy fancied getting splinters in his backside for the next season or two as a bench warmer at Chelsea

When quizzed about it AN had this to say this morning:

"That will happen regardless of the situation we are in right now, particularly around good players who have had a good season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what league you are in there is always going to be interest. If Chelsea and Jose want John then they can pick up the phone and get the cheque book out. On a serious note, it is part of the game and it doesn’t concern me in the slightest"

Now, i'm sure Chelsea could offer Ruddy more money than we could, in fact i'm convinced they could, but would they want to for a benchwarmer?  Mourinho seems to have become very canny with the financial side of his transfer dealings since the financial fair play rules came in, and i'm not sure he'd fancy the total package.

Hopefully this will all be null and void anyway as we get promoted through the play offs, and Ruddy will see being first choice for us as a far better career move in the longer term than being second or third choice in West London, I guess we'll have a better idea in a couple of weeks as to what is likely to happen.

Well that fizzled out a bit after a bright start...

Comfortably the highest tempo start to a match from city in a while it unfortunately fizzled out a bit after the Ipswich injury mid way through the first half with the extended stoppage knocking us out of our stride.  That being said we still generallly gave a good account of ourselves.

For the first thirty minutes City were well on top, at one point the possession was 68:32 in our favour and it looked like we were the home team, in fact during the match you would have thought that at times with the noise our supporters made too, but the injury to Luke Varney in the 31st minute where he seemingly fell over unmolested several feet away from anyone knocked us out our stride and gave Ipswich a chance to regroup in the 5 or 6 minutes play was stopped for, it is unlikely that he will feature in the second leg as reports after the match say he has snapped / ruptured his achilles in the freak accident

After play resumed things took a while to settle, however Cameron Jerome with one of his trademark powerful runs down the left split the Ipswich defence open and his well placed pull back / cross split the two Ipswich defenders nicely and allowed Johnny Howson to score with a well placed shot

However not many minutes later City were undone by an Ipswich long ball upfield from the keeper which Martin failed to clear properly and allowed the subsitiute Anderson who had only been on the pitch a few minutes to slot home for the equaiser just before half time

The second half i'm sat here struggling to find much to say about it which is probably reflective of the standard of it - not great, both teams looked for the majority of it afriad of losing and mistakes crept in all over the place with a number of players on both teams guilty of giving the ball away repeatedly or wasting it in good positions, Hoolahan and Tettey being two examples, but there were number of others on both sides too.

So there we are - all square going into the second leg at Carrow Road which we really should win, away goals rule doesn't exist in the play offs so a nil nil draw is no good so that means one thing, and one thing only next Saturday - ATTACK!

Line Ups Confirmed - Let Battle Commence

As promised earlier here's the line us for today's first leg against our noisy neighbours from south of the border

Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson; Tettey, Howson, Dorrans, Redmond, Johnson; Jerome.

Subs: Rudd (GK), Hooper, Hoolahan, E Bennett, R Bennett, O'Neil, Odjidja-Ofoe.

FOUR CHANGES | Whittaker, Tettey, Dorrans and Jerome in for Hooper, Hoolahan, Elliott Bennett & O'Neil

Ding ding - round 1 - let battle commence!

Ding ding, round 1 - Play off semi finals

So the first of the Semi Finals is upon us, and Alex Neil said in his press conference yesterday that Whittaker, Tettey & Hooper were all returning to training yesterday, the big question is which if any will get straight back in??

Whittaker?  - Well covered by Elliott Bennett last week, you could argue that he deserves to keep his place, but I'm sceptical, Whittaker has done well for Neil at right back this season and I think if he is fit enough he may slot straight back in as he has a bit more physical presence than EB

Tettey?  Pretty sure he will come straight back in and add a bit of extra muscle in a game we know will be tough and our opposition will be up for from the first second, who he leaves out from our performance against Fulham is another matter, Redmond maybe?

Jerome?  Not sure on this one - yes he has the most presence of any of our strikers, but truth be told they're all very good!  For this division we certainly have an embarrassment of riches up front, think this one will be down to our tactical plan

We seem to have come a long way this year and it's nice to have such a strong squad that we could even contemplate such players not getting back in, I guess we will know for sure when the line ups are announced at 11.15 and i'll be straight back here to share them

OTBC

Bring on the S******s

Season over with a fine win over hoodoo team Fulham, which promoted City to 3rd  in the table and setting up a East Anglian play off semi final. against those down the road.  A hat Trick to Player of the |Season Bradley Johnson, sadly one was at the wrong end, but nobody really cares; his goals have been one of the main reasons we are where we are today.

  That loss to relegated  Wigan along with a point dropped at Huddersfield, now look to have robbed City of joing Bournemouth as already promoted.   Still a fantastic end to the season, there really isn't time to dwell on disappointment, those from 7th league place downwards would give their right arms to be where are.  Ask Derby with the brolly man, who folded in the final straight and miss out for another year..(smirk)

So it is a case of bring on the scum, for a mouth watering play off semi final;  first leg at their hovel next saturday and at home the following week..  It shows what a lottery the play offs are,   we have comfortably beat them twice this season, sitting 8 giants points ahead of them with a goal difference that is double.  

It would be a travesty if we should falter against them when based over the whole season, where we have constantly been streets ahead of them in every area.

Still that is the way it is.. so bring them on and lets beat them twice more and keep our rightful title

 

The Pride of Anglia

 

Frustrated, Disappointed,

The disappoint is still there this morning, the frustration has decreased a lot,  but that feeling the inevitable happened will not go away.   We let ourselves down in the most important game of the season.  Yes we had the majority of the shares but did nothing with it.

Middlesbro came with a game plan to score early, park , frustrate rely on the counter and of course play the ref to perfection, it worked so well.   clearly they knew we struggle to break deep sitting teams down, they knew the Ref was weak  and exploited that perfectly.   Yea time was added but that could not replace the way play was broken up and spoiled by this now called Professionalism  (in English Cheating)

Suppose we would have done the same if the tables had been turned, but Bristish managers are not so expert in this area as some from Europe. 

I have applauded Alex Neil for his reading of the game and making changes to suit, but I feel last night his change was a tad too late, Middlesbro were comfortable in dealing with our crosses and lumps in, that's  when we could beat the first man.   Ayala marshalled his defence expertly (Now who the Hell sold him, he looked the part last night turning into the player I thought he could be) 

Too easy to point fingers as to why and where it was wrong, but these players have done us more than proud over the weeks.  They know only too well, they don't need me harping on about it.

The glaring fact was clear, if anyone needed convincing,  we struggle to break teams down and fail to create good chances,   frustration and anger sets in as was clear.    Tactics Worked

Alex Neil brief was to get us into the play off places, he has surpassed that with incredible results,  the ride has been nothing short of brilliant .   How many teams in the league are secretly jealous of that.   

The big job at hand now is to lift these players to carry on after the disappointment of last night to carry on fighting to cement our position in readiness for the Lottery.  

Of course there is still a chance we could still get in an Automatic place, but it would call for Watford and Bournemouth to slip up like us... somehow I cannot see or believe that will happen.   But would be over the moon if it did.

So before 5pm I could be putting on my jumping boots

 

 

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