|Mullet added 20:44 - Jan 26|
There is a scene in High Fidelity where the protagonist goes back to all of his ex girlfriends to piece together why his life is in such disarray. The same mistakes, the same problems and same comic irony is lost upon him. As Lambert returned to the 3rd of his former clubs since joining us, and 2nd in as many weeks, the game played out in much the same way. Despair and defeat.
Bart and Kenlock returned to the side, as Lambert perhaps showed that now we are not able to afford mistakes, having made two serious ones last week it was no surprise to Elder dropped. Having not convinced much at times, likewise Gerken’s omission might be understandable.
Beyond that, Chambers, Collins and Pennington made up the final 3 of the back four. Skuse sat behind the impetuous and impressive Chalobah and Downes in midfield, as Keane was very much a lone striker at the peak of a 4-3-3 that saw Judge on the left, and Sears on the right for 15 -20 minute spells before swapping on command.
Apartheid. Communism. Keith Stroud. Human history is littered with injustice and little men, thrust into the clutches of power and centre stage to play it out for all to see. It is easy to criticise Keith Stroud, because he is sh1t.
I have a dream, that when Keith Stroud takes control of a game, Ipswich players are judged not for the colour of their shirts, but their conduct in the tackle.
Town played some good and highly creditable football. Taylor put in a teasing cross and Chambers nodded it away. Town played a counter-attack and looked at Villa’s defence with hungry eyes. Their line was higher than Del Toro’s hair in the Usual Suspects and equally in parts, questionable and brave.
In a division which is very much a marathon, Town sprinted to their weekly collapse. Every time Villa touched the ball, they got a free kick. After 5 minutes they floated a delicious one following El Ghazi’s felling, and Bart did what his defenders did. Stood stiller than a puddle as who else, but the wrong Chelsea kid got his head to it. Abraham wheeled away and the emancipation of our clean sheet was complete.
In a first half where two teams and a referee vied for control, it was clear that Town were 3rd best all too often. Splitting centre backs to play out from the back with 3 defenders and a goalkeeper who can’t control the ball that well, was a recipe for self-immolation. Even Kenlock the most likely to beat a player had neither the required touch to meet an overlap convincingly, or the belief to cut inside when space and support was there.
Villa simply rolled Town along the wall and out of the door in far too many tussles. Service was not forthcoming. Poor Keane, not because he was bad, but because when he did work some magic down the right thanks to the support of Chalobah and Sears, it mustered the weakest of shots at a keeper who spilled everything.
At the other end, McGinn span away from everyone bar Skuse, and when he realised that Judge, Kenlock and Sears would not commit to shutting down his left foot when Adomah or Hutton could provide an outlet out wide, he shot. This was a problem. He’s really good at shooting, and Bart couldn’t hold a ball if you dropped it in his cupped hand and coughed today.
The first half saw some bizarre moments and some brilliance. Chalobah and Downes were allowed space to play but not enough of the ball. The athletic in manner in which Trev chopped the ball like a Power League Ronaldo and drove towards the box showed the desire we desperately needed. It ended with Pennington copping a tame cross right to Kalinic who even dropped that initially. It painted a picture of a team who again, faced a keeper terrified and in need of targeting, whilst we are a team fighting a war with Nerf guns.
Of all the strange decisions, Town nearly went even further behind only to be saved by a linesman who had closed his eyes and guessed. Adomah who always scores against us, did it again. Bart with the assist via a palmed McGinn effort, and in off the post. He looked a hand’s breadth off from the stands, but the lino definitely didn’t know, which in fairness, was in-keeping with most of his work today.
Town had got to half time with some good intentions to attack, but apart from Judge constantly wanting the ball and Sears being able to run like a video game character and get it to the line before firing into the box, nothing was sticking.
Stroud had had the chance to flash his cards about, El Ghazi was cautioned for diving in on Collins needlessly, but when Town’s defence spent more time playing across the 18 yard line than was healthy, it was a lucky break to see Villa so wasteful and so casual.
Abraham opted for a gymnastic overhead kick early in the half and missed, before realising that doubling up on Chambers and Pennington at the back post, meant that he ran clear but too close and tight to get off a second goal.
If the home side had the advantage it was in no short part to the fact they could be waved on deep inside their own half, lose it near our corner flag, and be given the restart. High balls were nothing to do with how shorts were worn, but where Claret heads were dipped in. Keane, Collins, Chambers and Skuse all had their go at trying to talk sense into Keith without talking their way into his book.
The second half was met by the opening of the heavens. As rain fell harder, there were no signs of redemption or freedom for the Blues. It was a question of when Villa’s deserved second would come. Not if.
Freddie and El Ghazi both had a game of ‘who could look most like scoring after a mazy run before smashing the ball at an unsuspecting fan in the upper rows’. Collins also showed Tammy why having a girl’s name can make hairy arsed old defenders treat you like a little bitch. Clobbering him in the air and clearing his best chance in the opening minutes as the ball fell loose in the area.
There was death all over this game, no real spark or sense that either side would come away unscathed in some way. As Town looked to make a change, the giant Quaner was limbering and shaking the rain off his forehead as Villa forced a corner. Town again marked zonally, a tight line of Blue across the six yard line.
I’ve seen a man hit by a tram. He fell with less force, distance and ceremony than McGinn did. He was also hospitalised for several days. Pick a defender, any of them and you may as well blame them for the decision to award a penalty, even though Alan Judge was probably closest to him. I thought last week’s was soft, but this was footballing fudge, the kind with second hand sweetcorn in it. Abraham sent Bart the wrong way and got the brace that would see Villa limp past us.
Collin lumbered on for Keane, which seemed bizarre. For Town had barely managed to make the ball stick up top but when they did it was either Keane who did it, or found Judge deeper to keep play ticking over.
Town would finally break behind Villa’s line after Abraham went looking for his hat trick. Turning Pennington and Chambers he ran free at the near post and forced Bart to tip over. With confidence overflowing like half time urinals, Villa looked like they were going to punish us. Instead it was the lens through which Keith Stroud sees football.
Downes had been tenacious all game and showed a restrained sense of poise to chip over for Quaner to run on to. Shrugging off all doubts and attention the big man fired at goal. Villa had Elphick and Chesters back, Stroud had theirs’. You could not only see the ball hit the trailing arm of Elphick but hear it. Such was the noise in Villa Park. Soon it was replaced by a guttural roar of expletives and disbelief. If last week’s blatant penalty denial had been and understandable misreading of a ricochet, this was a human rights violation.
Town looked incensed and inspired. With Adomah withdrawn, the candidates for a jammy goal had decreased, so Ipswich took their moment. A decent move down the right saw Judge miscontrol and the ball run behind the attack, it came back to Freddie who took a touch and hit an absolute screamer. If their keeper was suspect, this was made it irrelevant. Buffoon wasn’t getting that rocket. It marked Town’s second goal in 112 days for me, that was the last time I saw us win. 1100 of us celebrated like we were going to again. Football is irrational.
Soon after Smith took off the already carded El Ghazi and brought on Kodjia. Moving to a 4-4-2 then pushing Kodjia out wide when Jedinak came on late to match our 4-3-3 it was testament to the threat level we posed to a team waiting for their first home win in months.
Between then, Town made a good fist of sh1thousing a drawer. Judge made a meal of going down, when stepped on he contorted like a murder victim and won a hard-fought foul. Whipping the set piece in at the near post, Trevoh nearly capped a fantastic display off only to see his glance at goal crash off of the post.
We were also denied by a corner being succeeded by a drop ball in a half where not even set pieces were going with us. Glenn Whelan is a midfielder so slow in every conceivable way, he seems to have it as super powers. He fell over trying to win the ball from a corner, but is unclear if the contact took place whilst he was still playing for Stoke, baffled and then aflame, Town watched as Villa smashed the drop ball uncontested back to Bart when we had been waiting to cross it back in for a header on goal.
Nothing was going right for us all game, and as Bart made his first goal-stopping save late in from the onrushing Abraham who had this time ghosted past Kenlock at the back post, you sensed that settling for a gallant, yet narrow defeat might be the best result possible today.
Quaner had reinvigorated our front line, and made us look like we had the power to compete with a one man team. However, it begs the question why he didn’t start, and would he have been more use attacking the kind of full backs that let the ball go out for a corner rather than control it as Taylor did twice in the second half?
Lambert is saying all the right things, and no doubt will have to be careful after the game not to be up in front of the FA. But for all the cruelty, malice and unfairness of the day, of our plight and our position, we did little to help ourselves and little more than stand still when it really mattered. One less week now with which to make the Great Escape, but away from fantasies and Hollywood, it is best to remember they sometimes used to shoot people who even looked at the fence too longingly.