Saturday started with Sharon cooking a fried breakfast for Max and six of his mates (which had to be on the table for 8am, enabling them to then be in town for 9am, when the pubs opened). I went for a run while she was happily beavering away at the cooker! I had intended to go to my normal 8am Christchurch Park session, but at Sharon's request changed my mind and I did my own four miler around Kesgrave which meant that I was back home in time to wash up, with the help of Tracey who had also got an invite to breakfast - although to the second sitting.
We caught the Park & Ride and were in town at around 10am, the pubs were starting to get lively and there was a good buzz about the place. Degeros, was packed and a nightmare getting served so we only stopped there for one drink, before heading to The Thomas Wolsey a little further down St Nicholas Street, it wasn't quite so busy in there and they were serving beer in glass rather than plastic.
Saturday would have been Kev & Tracey's wedding anniversary, so before we went into the ground we visited his brick which is on the wall of The Sir Bobby Robson Stand (aka The North Stand). Kev would have loved these play-offs against the Budgies, he'd have undoubtably been a nightmare as well! Ironically enough Tracey & Sharon's seats were directly behind where he had his season ticket.
It was great to see Portman Road completely sold out and the atmosphere was brilliant as the two teams walked out onto the pitch prior to the 12.15pm kick-off.
A frantic first half was brought to a halt after half an hour when Luke Varney suddenly went down in agony. He was taken away on a stretcher after receiving treatment on the pitch for several minutes, it was later confirmed that he had a ruptured achilles, poor lad.
A Tommy Smith slip on the left touch line led to Norwich taking a forty-first minute lead, Cameron Jerome took full advantage and crossed the ball to the advancing Jonny Howson who passed the ball into the Ipswich net, somewhat against the run of play.
Their lead only lasted until four minutes into first-half injury time, Paul Anderson (on for the unfortunate Varney) slammed a rebound into the back of the net from six yards out, sending Portman Road wild.
The second half was a lot more tense with both sides having chances to take the lead and it became clear that neither team wanted to loose the tie in the first leg. A draw was a fair result and sets up a one off 'all to play' for game next Saturday at Carrow Road. Norwich are without doubt the pundits choice to reach Wembley, having been relegated from The Premier League last season they were the favourites for automatic promotion, they also have home advantage. Let's hope that the pressure gets to them!
Following the match we made our way back to Degeros where there was a very happy atmosphere, which was lifted even higher when John Wark and Alan Brazil turned up and did an impromptu q&a session, which turned into them recounting their derby day memories.
We had intended to catch the last Park & Ride bus back to Kesgrave before 7pm but we were having such a good time that we ended up walking down to the waterfront where we went to the newly opened Grand Central for cocktails and then onto Isaacs - well it's been a decade since we were in the play-offs! Why not make the most of them?
As if by magic the tickets for the second leg were laying on the mat when we got home, I had wondered if it was a foolish idea to go to Norwich, but with everything still in the balance I'm really glad I am. Just think, winning a penalty shoot-out at the Barclay end next week!
'What A Day To Be Alive' - Max Wilding