Hirst: Comebacks Show Our Character
Sunday, 12th Nov 2023 09:26 by Russell Claydon
George Hirst praised the character in the Ipswich Town squad as they came from behind once again to record a 3-2 victory against Swansea at Portman Road that saw them draw level on points with Sky Bet Championship leaders Leicester City.
The former Foxes striker notched his fourth goal of the season with a 53rd minute penalty for what proved to be the decisive goal after Town scored twice inside five first-half minutes, via Jack Taylor (17) and Conor Chaplin (22) to overturn Jay Fulton’s seventh-minute opener.
Town’s two-goal lead was halved in the fifth of 10 minutes of stoppage-time by Jamal Lowe’s fine solo effort but the Blues managed to hold out against the 10 men’s late rally – with Liam Cullen shown a second yellow card in the 69th minute – to return to winning ways.
“Obviously we go 1-0 down in the first five minutes and it’s backs against the wall, but for the next 40 minutes of the first half I thought we were absolutely outstanding,” said Hirst.
“I thought the intensity that we showed, the willingness to get back into the game and show what we’re good at and really assert ourselves on the game, that was ultimately what got us back in it.
“We go in at half-time 2-1 up and then it was just about right, let’s really go on and and kick on in the second half.”
It was a fourth straight Championship game Kieran McKenna’s side had gone behind to an early goal before coming back to win or avoid defeat, with the 24-year-old admitting it is something they need to eradicate, though he praised their mental strength to keep responding.
“Yes, it’s not ideal and it’s something we want to work on and we have been working on,” he said.
“But it’s something we definitely need to get better at because obviously in this division you can’t afford to keep giving yourself a mountain to climb every week or you’re going to end up coming out on the wrong side of things.
“But I think the fact we’ve done that recently and still ended up getting results – we’ve had a couple of draws then the win today – it just shows the character within the squad and I think that’s a credit to everyone.”
Quizzed on how difficult it is to play the lone striker role, he said: “Obviously it probably looks more difficult but that’s my job, that’s all I know. For me it’s my role in the team. Yes, it’s a lot of running and hard work but then it’s the same for everyone on the pitch.
“I don’t look at it as being any harder than anyone else’s job. That’s what I’ve been brought up learning and doing. To me it’s second nature at times and if I can keep going out there putting in performances that help the team then great.”
And Hirst said he is enjoying the physical battles he is having in the Championship, though is still working to improve that side of his game.
“Yes, I think again with the stature of myself that’s part of my game. It’s a part of my game I feel I need to improve on a little bit more and that I can really go and assert myself on centre-halves and on the game itself.
“But I think on the whole it’s just another string to my bow and I’ve got a lot of things I still work on and keep working towards getting better as a whole and that’s definitely one of them.”
Does he get a thrill from assists as much as he does from scoring goals? “Yes, it’s probably the most assists I’ve ever had in a season so far which is nice. I think it’s four now,” he said.
“But that’s part of my game, the ball’s coming into me a lot and I’ve got to be strong and be a focal point for the team. And if that means me bringing others into the game and setting other people up to score then brilliant, that’s me doing my job.
“It’s not just about the goals, I’ve managed to nick one today as well which is nice but for me it’s all part of the all-round performance and if I can keep setting people up as well as scoring myself then we’re in a good place.”
With Town having 17 different goalscorers already this season it certainly shows the threats are all around him.
“Then Tayls’ [Jack Taylor’s] goal today speaks for itself with the treat we have from midfield as well.
“We’ve got a lot of attacking threat from all over the pitch so it’s a good place to be. We’re not relying on any one, two players to get the goals, it’s a team effort.”
Hirst has been waiting patiently all season for a penalty with the second-half spot-kick against Swansea the first they have been awarded.
“I’ve been on pens since the start of the season, to be fair,” he said. “It’s probably why we’ve not had any! I think if Broady [Nathan Broadhead] or Chappers [Conor Chaplin] had been on them we’d probably have had a few more! That’s the way it feels.
“I think I had been due one, I think I had owed a couple. Today I didn’t even see why we got given the pen but I turned around and couldn’t have been happier that we did.
“It was just about me and a free shot from 12 yards out, that’s my job to go and put that in the back of the net.”
On the overall picture of the table heading into the international break – Town sitting level with leaders Leicester behind on goal difference alone after 16 games and eight points ahead of third-placed Leeds – he said he feels it is too early to be focusing on what it shows, which can also be a dangerous game.
“It’s one of those. I don’t think you look at the table, it’s still early on in the season, we’re not even halfway yet,” he said.
“And if we can go out there day in, day out and put the work in on the training pitch that sets us up for Saturday.
“Each opponent in this league is different and each have their own threats. There are a lot of teams with a lot of threats, so it’s not one you can rest on your laurels and think just because we’re on a good run you can go on and win the next one. You can get shot down at any time.
“For us it’s just keeping that going; keep working hard, keep the concentration in the group and see where it takes us.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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