|Mullet added 00:55 - Apr 15|
The ghosts of Ipswich past perhaps haunt the moans of Ipswich present, but tonight was a visit to the potential Ipswich future. It’s easy to forget that not all Championship teams are equal and the sheer miniature scale of Burton is genuinely impressive. A tiny ground clearly well-suited to the return to the lower leagues they had left behind and were hoping to avoid. A set of results from this afternoon meant Town’s comfort zone from the drop had the potential to shrink.
Bart had a back four of Spence and Kenlock in full back berths and Berra and Chambers inside. The rest of the side fluctuated between 442 and 4231 all half and all game. Lawrence began on the left and McGoldrick was always central but fleeting between frontman and support act. Sears had much of his best work on the touchline but came to the middle constantly when called upon. Ward operated more like a number 10 as Huws and Skuse were the pistons in the engine room.
Burton seemed to change formation like the wind. Brayford acting as a sweeper then a right back as the first half progressed. Like our own ex-Colchester man Sordell too flitted from striker to winger with Lloyd Dyer up and down the left flank. Loanee and Town target Woodrow was aimed with firing the bullets centrally and had the experienced Kightly just behind him pulling the strings in contrasting method to our own McGoldrick.
Only a footballing hipster might call the tactical machinations of this one fascinating. Disarming might be a better word.
Both sides had their moments in a first half where Town’s first breakthrough saw a McGoldrick shot palmed away as the keeper went low towards the post. It was a smart save and smarter shot as the torrential drizzle that blasted the country all day showed no sign of relenting.
When the ball did touch the skiddy surface for brief moments both teams struggled to keep it down. Bart’s first save was a fairly timid collection. Both sides struggled to fire on target. Sears had a trio of crosses from long direct runs down the white line. The first one long and just about dealt with, the next one short and cleared away, the latest one a shallow cut to McGoldrick who danced inside but on his weaker foot swirled a drive past everyone and whipping over the bar.
There was space in behind the Burton backline and it was Sears’ ceaseless running that often found it. Lawrence too had his moments. Cutting in from the left to dink another goal-like drive just past the post. His next attempt saw a smart backheel go to Myles Kenlock instead and opening the defence.
Whereas a neat interception, Skuse to Huws sent Sears free to wondrous effect, also down our right flank Lloyd Dyer was finding joy against an out of sorts Jordan Spence. The right back seemed to think he was always back at wingback and left Chambers exposed and frustrated more than once.
One moment saw Kenlock charge along the six-yard line to header clear behind both men on the corner of the smaller box. Another meant Bart too, got an earful from the captain after Chambers sliced out under pressure needlessly.
While Kenlock was repeatedly frustrated going forward he made it count when he did, it was a rarer sight to see a man get behind him and not have Berra to contend with. A fussy official sometimes found against Town in dangerous areas, but even an early challenge through the back of the Scot from Woodrow didn’t yield a yellow card. It was an odd atmosphere in the tiny ground, the distant prospect of a relegation fight pacifying the nerves of the terrace to some extent until a close call came careering into view.
Australian Irvine Jackson seemed another player charged with just getting in the way in the middle and onto anything he could. He looked like a carboot Andy Carroll, at half time one fellow, fairer TWTDer suggested he played more like a knock-off Fellaini. The ponytail certainly flicked everywhere when one corner saw him clearly volley the ball with a perfect spike technique then snatch at it with a high boot to negligible effect.
Town meanwhile looked more comfortable when one of the few more industrious sides in the league, gave us time to work a little bit. There were celebrations when the underwhelming Ward was charged down outside the box by three or so defenders.
Kenlock diverted the deflection goalward past everyone. If there were scenes they were more soap opera calibre. The late flag of the lino scrubbed clean what seemed a perfectly good goal. Half time twitter stills did little to shake the belief of the travelling fans, but it was clear the Blues’ on the pitch were more than put out.
With a chunk of the half still left to play Sears had the next most clear-cut opportunity to take a Town lead. His finish from just on the angle at close range, second right. McGoldrick getting free again with the kind of touches that turn a sketchy half into a moment of art. Freddie could only blaze high and wide when at least a save was required.
The second half saw a little change from Town whose approach had been largely good enough to deserve more than their hosts, but still (as was ever a pattern this season) had nothing to show for it.
Spence moved inside as both teams flirted with wingbacks. Lawrence seemed to drift into the gaps Ward had failed to occupy and the strikers looked more forced into a partnership. Still it was Sears chasing down Turner and winning hard yards on the break as Sordell gave way to Varney as soon as both teams emerged. The popular former Blue got his disco-tinged welcome and warm applause. He soon deserved it.
Town’s first memorable second spell assault on goal forced a corner. Lawrence whose delivery had been somewhat erratic whipped a beautiful ball in. It was attacked by all in a 5 yard radius and crashed into the net for Town’s second goal of the game and first that really counted. Chambers celebrated wildly, more than the hundreds throbbing in front of him. It seemed an almost magical header from him to take the leader based on his reaction, and it turns out it was. Reg again scoring when Town needed it most.
“He’ll want to make up for that” an Irish voice said behind me minutes later. Those words were foreboding despite the friendly accent. Bart was soon tested properly for the first time by a Kightly drive as the former McCarthy man looked to give Mick another highlight to consider. He and Varney would prove dangerously clever in attack and combined to beat Berra but not Skuse who again put in a timely defensive stop to restart a Town attack.
The home side sensing the need to level came at Town and pushed and pressed. This not only unsettled us, but upset our shape. The upshot being it did the same to Burton and allowed numerous attacks and counter attacks from either side on either flank.
A good move down the right saw Town flash the ball across goal as they realised the gaps behind the Brewers’ defence were prime real estate for runners to attack driven crosses. When one fell to McGoldrick just outside the six-yard box, so did he under clear physical involvement from two defenders, to add insult to injury Varney handled the clean up by palming the ball out for a corner. Two penalties, not one given. The resultant corner was another of Lawrence’s less notable efforts and despatched.
It fell to Myles Kenlock to catch the eye and evade the gaze of yellow shorts. A computer game like run, with Sears on his shoulder. Finally, he let it go to the striker, who after clattering his first go off the keeper used the space created to produce a mega drive into the net. He looked almost embarrassed to celebrate it in front of the jubilant Suffolk crowd in front of him.
Huws was less shy having won the ball back in our half to start the move. Catching the attention of a few fans and mouthing and fisting his pleasure our way. As gentlemanly handshakes ensued. The captain appeared from stage left to nearly remove Sears’ head in celebration then hug Kenlock in congratulatory style for an uncomfortable length of time. His joy doubled, his joy real for all to see.
Clough Jnr. seemed to rejig his side constantly, it was hard to tell if it was tactical nous or his bum squeaking that called the changes. A double sub saw Kightly and Woodrow withdrawn. The winger Akin and another Fulham player came on. Their target was clearly Kenlock. His youth seemed to be the reason for exploiting the full back who had put in an excellent shift so far.
Town went back to a flat back four at some point probably, but by the time Pitman replaced Didzy it was all about defending the lead. That was soon shortened as Varney came together with Kenlock and skidded to the turf. The referee was unusually quick to point straight to the spot. Akin despatched it viciously and the home fans finally made some noise. We all did our best to suck it up with sharp intakes of breath.
If the young left back stole the MOTM award from Sears, it was the goalscorers’ endless pursuit of balls over the top and down the flank that won him much of the plaudits tonight. However, when Pitman did the same and was sent clean through you could almost feel the away end ready to celebrate. The deadly reputation came with a dry heave as a tame shot clattered of an admittedly quick to cover keeper.
Smith emerged from the bench to shore up during injury time. The less than fully functioning Lawrence finally withdrawn, so seemed the result. Before the game could come to an end Bart tipped over what looked like an exquisite chip. It possibly hit Berra or another body to gain so much upspin as the Pole adjusted to push it onto the bar and out.
It would have been a cruel finish and result as Town thoroughly deserved their win tonight. If at times ironic chants and mockery of the East Midlanders’ inability to draw level or keep Town out was interspersed with renditions of “Ipswich til I die”.
As the players gleefully celebrated at the full-time whistle and the fistpump returned like a long-lost friend. Mick stood at the dugout shaking every hand that passed him by of either colour. No glance to the Blues in the away end, no sign of his name being sung all night.
We rise to our familiar 15th as we put the season and the final meaningful game to bed tonight. What remains now will surely see us lay the ground work for next season. Whatever that might bring.