The fixture is all square going into the second leg
East Anglia rivals Ipswich Town and Norwich City drew 1-1 in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Portman Road.
Ipswich substitute Paul Anderson hit a first half injury time equaliser to cancel out the opener from Norwich’s Jonny Howson.
The first half was fast paced, frantic and open as both sides looked to get one over their fierce rivals, but the home side would have the first big chance of the game.
Daryl Murphy ran at the heart of the Norwich defence before pulling the ball back to Freddie Sears, who was denied at point blank range by John Ruddy.
Despite a good start from Ipswich, it would be the team from Norfolk who took the lead in the derby. Cameron Jerome battled with Luke Chambers before winning the ball and finding Howson with a cross from the left; the former Leeds United man side footed it home on the half-volley to make it 1-0.
Luke Varney was stretchered off
Things looked to go from bad to worse for the Tractor Boys as Luke Varney was stretchered off, leading to six minutes stoppage time being added by the officials at the end of the first half. However, it would be Varney’s replacement who would grab the crucial equaliser.
Freddie Sears controlled the ball on the edge of the Canaries’ box before having a shot which was parried by goalkeeper Ruddy. The rebound fell kindly for substitute Paul Anderson, who slammed the ball into the back of the empty net from close range.
The second half was a much more tighter affair, with some potential nerves kicking in as the occasion got to the players. The only real chances were headers from Sears for Ipswich and Redmond for Norwich, which both sailed harmlessly over the bar.
The two sides will go again in a week’s time at Carrow Road, with the fixture hanging in the balance at 1-1 and the thought of a Wembley final edging ever closer.
Norwich are also the first side in this set of Football League play-off fixtures to not record an away victory in the first leg.
By Kieran Makin