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Watching Tonight's Game With Friends...
at 23:23 17 Jan 2017

I watched tonight's game with MrsHfromB and my Italian (Napoli supporting) mate Vince. I have been obstinately loyal to Mick partly with the Irish connection and also after he built such a great first team which had our play-off run.

I have optimistically tried to see this as a transitional season as Mick builds a second team but getting feedback from people less intensely involved our world is no bad thing. Vince had seen our Bristol City defeat early in Mick's reign and was confident from his Italian perspective that Mick would straighten us out at the time.

Midway through the first half Vince picked up on the lack of intensity from our players. More worrying, he highlighted the futility of playing the ball out on the deck when there was such wide space between the back three and midfield three. This allowed Lincoln to use the gaps to exploit turnovers in possession in our half.

A combination of our lacklustre play and dysfunctional formation allowed Lincoln to control the game. There were two men on every Town player in possession but Vince constantly highlighted our ineffective midfield putting our defence under pressure and leaving the strikers isolated, 'Every Ipswich player is playing on their own while Lincoln are more coordinated.'

As the game wore on, we were the non-league side hoping that Lawrence might come up with something whereas Rhead (in Vince's words, 'My good God, no Italian side would even look at him' - let's just put it down to their different philosophy) ran the show for Lincoln and gave our defence a night to forget.

'They have no personality, mate, he has got to go' were Vince's words as we said our goodbyes. He felt that Mick had taken the team as far as he could and we were out of ideas. The pattern of the game was against us but this was because we had no balance as a side, in complete contrast to Lincoln.

Mrs HfromB puts up with hours of drivel from me rabbiting on about the team but her insights are always brief and often lethal. "It felt like Mick didn't believe in the team he put out. He was like a kind uncle and there was no desire or energy from the Ipswich players. It was as if some of them were going through the motions and didn't want to be there."

You will forgive me desperately wanting Mick to succeed and having stuck with him but tonight hurts. I will spare everyone the tirade but suffice to say that I want footy to be a source of happiness and it just feels nothing like that right now.
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Blackburn Supporters’ Thoughts on Today’s Game….
at 11:31 14 Jan 2017

I have had a look at Rovers’ message boards this morning to assess the mood as they had little to say about us or their game in the build-up during the week…


“This is a big game for us, arguably just as big for Ipswich”, “Ipswich are genuinely one of the most dreadful teams to watch in this division. We are what we are. This match is going to be a mockery of football. A 1-1 draw and nobody wins, especially the fans”, “I can see us getting at least a point.”

“Coyle and the lads are on a roll. An early Rovers' goal will see Ipswich heads drop and the home fans turn”, “Usually I would be happy with a draw but with all the bottom teams playing each other the gap gets wider and with both our and Ipswich’s current form I think a win is essential.”

They don’t run a prediction league, but the vast majority would be happy with a point to keep their unbeaten mini-run going at what is widely seen as a bogey ground. “If we come back with a point I'll be more than happy as Portman Road is a ground that we don't usually do particularly well at.”

“We really need at least a point and a point I would be very pleased with”, “Portman Road is not one of our happier hunting grounds and rarely see us come away with much. However, the last three games have seen us look tighter at the back and I'm hopeful of seeing us pick up a point.”

“I'm just hoping the win over Newcastle last time out isn't followed by the sequence of defeats similar to previous victory over the Geordies. I'd take a point.”

“This is one of our least favourite of least favourite Championship grounds. Wins at Old Trafford and the Emirates come around more often than they do down there.”

“This is very much a bogey ground. I've been down there about five or six times and never seen a win. Some absolute dross witnessed there in recent seasons particularly on a couple of miserable midweek trips.”

Only one Town player has been mentioned, albeit briefly: “Tom Lawrence (a loan signing in Bowyer days) is now on loan there. He blew hot and cold for us but is in form at the moment. You know who's going to get a goal.”


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“I think McCarthy will be gone shortly. A poor result tomorrow might see him gone. Ipswich fans don't like his boring game-plan and tactics”, “I would love to swap dour, straight talking Mick McCarthy for odious cretin Coyle”,

Rovers briefly discussed Mick’s season here during the week but they have warmed to the theme since then. “Imagine Mick McCarthy with our squad of a few years ago."

“Big Mick over-achieved a bit at first with nothing but shirt buttons and raised the expectation levels. He would probably do that here if he walked in tomorrow and what we wouldn't give for just one decent season.”

“Rightly or wrongly McCarthy has been getting a lot of stick down there this season for results and performances. A poor result tomorrow could see him get even more aggro off the home fans whilst a comfortable win will lift the gloom.

“He has kept them well clear of trouble every season and will do so again despite having no money to spend and presumably one of the lowest wage bills in the league. Notice to some - look what can be achieved at a club with tiny budget and modest crowds but with a proper setup and a good manager that is trusted to get on with doing the job.”

“A section of Ipswich fans have had it in for McCarthy from the off but he's just one of those kind of managers whose style is often hard to take but most tolerate it when it's doing the job. He's just run out of steam now they all have a shelf life especially when there is no money to keep freshening things up.

“They want to be careful what they wish for though if they are still penniless as hard as it might be to watch that pragmatic style is what keeps poor teams out of danger.”

“Once Mick goes, they are most likely @#/?. Their squad is awful. They keep selling their best players and are given barely anything to reinvest (sound familiar?).

“Right now they're basically us, but with a decent manager. Terrible squad, no money, mountains of debt owed to the owner (who is nowhere to be seen), an unpopular manager and fans who are beginning to walk away rather than waste their lives watching turgid, boring football.”

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Loft For Words Preview & QPR Pre-Match Thoughts...
at 11:39 2 Jan 2017

Here's Clive Whittingham's preview piece on this morning's Loft for Words front page. Not a lot to say about us, but he is in characteristically fine form and turns his gaze on Hoops' habit of either deifying or vilifying players in a knee-jerk manner...

http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/44645/losing-run-sn

Looking around more widely, Rangers' forums have been quiet and they have had little to say about the game. One prediction thread has 48% going for a home win and 29% forecasting a draw and these are pretty pessimistic numbers for a home team.

From their optimists: "Ipswich are just as poor as us, a massive game and chance to get back to back wins. I think the win against Wolves would of lifted everyone enormously", "We need to go into this game with a bit of self belief after beating Wolves", "Ipswich was game I thought would be the change in fortunes and sticking with that. Two wins on the trot."

From their pessimists: "If Idrissa Sylla plays, we will score, but either way I think we will lose this one. A draw at best", "Hope I'm wrong but can see the extra days rest benefitting Ipswich. 1-2."

I reckon most would be happy with a point.

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A Glorious FA Cup Third Round Tradition...
at 19:25 5 Dec 2016

From the Lincoln City forum...



And from the Oldham Athletic forum...

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Mick, the Universe and Everything – Reflections on Today’s Game at Bristol
at 01:09 4 Dec 2016

“It’s all a question of expectations, mate, what is it that you want from your season?” My Italian friend Vince has our followed the fortunes closely since accompanying me four years ago to Ashton Gate. It was that game when Lee Martin missed a couple of sitters and Jon Stead’s last-gasp winner left us all frustrated on a gloomy January afternoon. Vince was reassuring that day despite the loss.

Italians see everything with a tactical eye and Vince has always held Mick in high regard. Looking in as an outsider this season, he has been perplexed by the growing antipathy among many fans and his question, asked last Tuesday, hit the nail on the head for me. Before answering any question about Mick or the club’s future, we need to first understand what we are trying to achieve this year.

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Arriving at the Brew House (our pub) before the game, the mood before the game was both strange and convivial. Ian Milne and Liz Edwards came along informally to our pre-match drinks (my non-Ipswich friends are always amazed by Ian’s willingness to do this) and the warm smiles and friendly handshakes were a testimony to the friendships which have been kindled since the South West Supporters Club was set up. It was good to be with friends.

When it came to discussion ahead of the actual game, conversations were more hesitant. There was little consensus and it felt that it was a question of which Town side pitched up. This has been a stop-start season and we could have the Hillsborough or Forest version today. Some fans have taken entrenched positions but many are also less certain about what the correct diagnosis might be.

This was a game which could go either way, but heading to the ground I was nervous. The omens were not great. We were up against a team on a losing run but with a good home record and I was less than happy with Mick’s decision to announce the team early. This was less to do with allowing City to plan in detail and more to do with how it might galvanise a side whose confidence was low.

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The Ashton Gate rebuild is now complete and while the new stand looks impressive, the banks of empty seats in their upper tier looked less so. After an impeccably observed minutes’ silence for the Chapecoense tragedy it was time to assess just how much homework City boss Lee Johnson had done as the formations took shape and he had certainly got his prep in on time.

FieldingMatthewsFlintMagnussonGolbourneSmithPackFreemanTomlinWilbrahamAbraham


Johnson’s starting XI (above) matched our 4-4-2 but bringing back black-sheep Adam Matthews in at right-back for the suspect Mark Little and Scott Golbourne in for the suspended Joe Bryan at left-back meant that he had specialist full-backs in to replace wing-backs learning a new role.

This was vital, because his next trick of starting Lee Tomlin on the left wing and Luke Freeman on the right meant that the side instantly added much-needed creativity and width. Both players can be very destructive given time and space which they would get out wide. They could also operate more freely having specialist full-backs alongside them who were confident in their duties.

The central duo of Marlon Pack and Korey Smith was designed to counter Skuse and Douglas while adding the extra energy which the rested Gary O’Neil had lacked in recent defeats while Tammy Abraham was to be supported by the muscle and experience of 37-year-old Aaron Wilbraham.

This is not a peon of praise for Johnson but more a basic analysis of a manager putting a series of fixes in place to arrest a slide. Johnson might have been more circumspect had he been unsure about our formation, but the Robins had a well-worked plan knowing what they were up against.

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And so to the game, and for the first 30 minutes it looked exactly what it was, two evenly match mid-table sides giving as good as they got and by and large cancelling each other out. Wilbraham could have been sent off for a cowardly lunge on Christoph Berra, a cheap hit which made home fans irate over a sense that our defender was somehow contriving to be injured.

While Bristol were trying to isolate Freeman and Tomlin on our respective full-backs, we were trying to do the same for Tom Lawrence up against Matthews on our left with David McGoldrick vigilant to take advantage of any ensuing weakness in the Robins defence. We were growing in confidence as the half progressed when everything came juddering to a halt.

Robins were seething last week after Reading blagged a penalty to open the scoring at the Madejski. They may well feel that referee Stuart Attwell evened things up when pausing before fatally pointing to the spot after Bart brushed against Abraham in our penalty area with the ball out of range and rolling harmlessly away.

I have struggled to stay objective where penalties are concerned this season. It looked soft but Town fans were more evenly split in the half-time inquest. Bart also didn’t need to give the referee the decision to make and most certainly not given our luck with the wretched things in this campaign.

So 1-0 to Bristol, a team like us who had been playing competently and waiting to see if they could catch a break. Having now caught a huge one, their tails were up and they had something to defend. The tide had turned and there was now more risk of a second City goal.

City had not forgotten last year’s success from corner kicks and Berra could well have been penalised when he allowed a tussle with the alpine Aden Flint to escalate into a bad-tempered tango. They had a cantankerous battle in a game which occasionally became fractious and antagonistic.

Although the hosts had the wind in their sales after the penalty, they were happy to play out a half which had been evenly fought but which mirrored so much of our season. Our general play had been quite decent but we were impotent to respond once the vital break went against us.

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The half-time break galvanised us. The game in the early period of the second half became quite scrappy and open. This may have allowed City a few openings but it suited us and it gave us spaces and opportunities to hit them in turn. McGoldrick was so unlucky to see his shot flash across goal, glancing against the post and to safety after a well-worked move down our right.

While our general play was solid, we weren’t testing Fielding in the Bristol goal enough barring that one chance. Douglas and Skuse were regulating midfield well and we weren’t being dominated but our work in the final third was becoming prosaic. We took wrong options or hesitated around whether to pass, shoot or run.

Although Lawrence seemed to have the measure of his full-back, ghosting past him at one point in the first half, he became less of a threat as the game progressed. That said, he was much less ragged than Knudsen who blazed one ball impossibly towards the stand above the corner-flag when put through on goal.

I had been worried about Luke Freeman before the game but Bristol City fans popping into my shop were all saying, “No, he has no end product. He is good at creating space but he can’t assist or score. He’s less of a problem than Tomlin.” Well, Luke ‘never scores or assists’ Freeman gave me something to throw back at the doubting Robins when he smashed an unstoppable shot home out of nowhere.

Minutes earlier, I had remarked to my friend that the new-built ground had a feel of Birmingham’s St. Andrew’s, albeit slightly larger. The home crowd mirrored the Birmingham faithful, largely quiet until they had a goal to cheer. Now Freeman’s goal was reminiscent of last season’s 3-0 defeat at Birmingham, a game in which goals rained in from all angles.

A third Bristol goal by now was more likely than a Town fightback. They were rejuvenated and they smelled blood. We were trying to take the game to them but far too often moves would descend into polite inter-passing with insufficient movement to feed off, or we would hesitate to play the final ball and the move would end with yet another offside flag. It seemed that we were out of ideas.

Two moves summed up our creative play, one involving McGoldrick and Williams - now operating as playmakers - passing slowly with pedestrian movement around them only for the move to end with Knudsen failing to control the ball. The second was a series of crosses being comfortably met by the towering Aden Flint, completely unimpeded when heading the danger away in his own area.

They epitomised our problem. We are an efficient and well-organised side but we lack the extra spark of creativity or ingenuity to wrest the initiative back when we need to re-establish a foothold in a game. Only once in our second-half meanderings was Frank Fielding really tested in the Robins’ goal. We lack the ability to hurt teams, especially when we need to.

The game petered out with a series of valedictory Bristol substitutions and a flaky penalty shout for a challenge of Jonny Williams. One Freeman’s shot crashed home there was only going to be one winner and the amusing refrain of ‘Drink up thee cider’ crackled over the PA system as we filed out of the ground.

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Walking back to the car, I bumped into one of my Bristol City-supporting bookshop customers who was sporting an impish grin. “Did you think it was a penalty? (he did)” His immediate question betrayed the doubt which must have crossed many Robins’ minds when it was given. Diplomatically he praised Skuse - “He ran the midfield in the second half” – but he was felt their win was merited.

And in truth it was. A Town fan asked me at 2-0 down, “so what do you think Harry, Mick in or Mick out?” I hate this question, because it conflates a series of nuanced issues into a binary option and the truth for me is that it is too soon to ask it. A good friend said before the game that he felt that this genie was let out of the bottle after the Huddersfield defeat and it is not likely to go away any time soon.

“It’s all a question of expectations, mate, what is it that you want from your season?” Coming back to Vince’s question it is firstly important to remember that not everything is wrong with the team. However, and with equal weight, we all know the areas which need time and resources from both the owner and management. The damage caused by the late departure of Murphy is a blow from which we are still reeling.

With promotion or relegation unlikely, I would use our time this season to dismantle and rebuild our attack to get back that cutting edge, especially when the breaks fall against us as they did today. It would be the catalyst to propel us up the table again and it would bring some much needed joy to our play. Easier said than done I know but given where we are, if we can make visible strides here between now and May, then that will do for me.

[Post edited 4 Dec 1:26]
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