|Mullet added 20:26 - Mar 9|
A slip road beyond the Bescot, in a car park outside a Greggs, a few statues listened to a pub band on a small stage murder Smells Like Teen Spirit. 1200 or stood behind the goal minutes later, following a club already doomed. A simple expectation beyond our imminent exit at this level, here we are now… entertain us.
Bart had Kenlock, Knudsen, Chambers and Bree as a new look back four. Skuse sat and Nolan and Bishop scurried and streaked ahead. Edwards on the right, Judge on the left and Quaner the focal point.
West Brom had a line up where only Townsend had been linked with us in the last decade and Livermore had been on loan. Such is the gulf in squads. It was hard to know exactly how or where Moore fitted a front line of Phillips, Rodriguez, Gayle in the middle and Murphy into any kind of formation. The Baggies were so shapeless, and full of other people’s cast offs it really came as no surprise. But it should be.
Only four minutes were needed for Town to be behind. Kenlock heading backwards and centrally, just about. Wafting down to the turf, Knudsen had little choice to bring his man down. There was more cover, and more yards to cover than the one which saw him see red last time out.
If anything summed up our season today, it began with the first goal. Loanees Gayle and Johansen stood over it. The Cottager driving home via the shankiest of deflections past a stranded Bart. The Pole could not stay erect, nor could he be expected to predict the cause of such jubilation to a team desperate for a win.
From then on in, it seemed to be all Town. The perfidious Albion would merely do their part, and do it badly.
Quaner showed he has good feet, but they are some distance from his head. Close control and the ability of Bishop, Judge and Nolan to support him, meant Ipswich had options. Reliant on the running and spark of Bree and Edwards up against Murphy and Townsend shots came in thick and fast, mostly towards Johnstone.
Ipswich were unlucky when a neat move saw the Welshman Edwards cut inside. Charged down, his dynamite failed to ignite, and the shooting star man’s effort bounced away from goal and behind. Chambers had seen the white, stabbing over from his left foot and the edge of the box, but the best of Town’s moves and efforts at the far end fell to Quaner.
A long pass behind one of the lumpiest and most static backlines we’ve seen all season (including our own) the Terrier took the ball across the box and face of goal. Shooting from just too tight of an angle he forced a block from the keeper, but maybe deserved more. Especially as both he and Judge had tested Johnstone’s grip with shots that masqueraded as backpasses.
The home side had their best moves down the flanks. A free kick from Gayle swung wide and low from a similar position to where they scored. It was this sort of in-game narcissism which cost them and him. A spurious penalty claim at the hands and feet of Nolan was waved away, when a card should have been instead. Such was the wastefulness of the Magpie who could not even get one for sorrow past the imperious Bialkowski.
Murphy forced a great tip past the far post, onrushing Gayle and Rodriguez. His run beyond the missing Gwion and overstretched Bree deserved better. That only came from our keeper determined to keep us in the game.
Despite being down and dumped upon, the Town fans were choking on the abundance of atmosphere. Acrid and burning, blue smoke filled the away end and floating amongst it was the anthem made famous by Blue Action. It was everywhere, it was hectic, it was proper naughty.
This was all in response to Gayle driving low and quickly into the net. Unfortunately for the Baggies boinging up to celebrate a second, it was the wrong side of the post. Meanwhile, the Blues continued to bounce and believe that Paul Lambert is as Blue as we are.
The half ended with another period of Bishop driving past players, dancing like a popstar but not quite hitting his stride or shot to change the game definitively. It was quite the show, and that’s all he, Nolan and Judge did. For the ball, the for the yards forward, for a chance of an equaliser that kept us ticking waiting to go off.
Skuse had his moment on the far side of the box. A corner scrambled out and away, like a cider-breathed Makelele, he stroked and then drove the ball back, but defensive instinct kicked in and a home arm stopped an away foot from doing the same. It was the kind of penalty you hope to get when behind. It was the kind which you are guaranteed to get when you’ve got VAR and those beyond Birmingham behind you.
When Town emerged from the break, Andre and Emmanuel had their shorts out and finished their warm up. Jackson had his out and his drill top off to take Quaner’s place up front. It was a marked difference from his Wigan bow. But before the house would come down in puttering Black Country frustrations, West Brom would try and dominate right after the interval.
Edwards again seemed uncomfortable coming back and caused a foul and took a card. The effort was there from us, but not them. Never bothering the goal, Ipswich showed them how it was done. Rampaging up the other end towards us, we sucked the ball in and with it the players to our hearts.
Judge and Edwards cut angles through the glacial defender, coming back out to the right via a block, Bree swept up the crumbs of misdirected possession. Looping to the back post, up rose Nolan like a beacon. A quick swivel of spine and spirits and the alarm sounded too late for Johnstone. Crashing to the floor as the ball nestled in the bag. The midfielder emerged from the moment beating his head in pleasure as we behind them threw up hands, shouts and pinned one another to the stadia walls in intimate release of relief. Town were back in it, literally and not just morally.
Ipswich’s ascendency was replete with smart passes, and smarter runs. It was unfortunate neither Judge nor Jackson could find each other or Nolan when it mattered. Caught short and slow at the back, Bree, nor Kenlock nor Knudsen were nowhere near as Chambers stood up Gayle once more as his colleagues were equally absent. Once more, both men should have done better and didn’t.
Both Bartley and Dawson looked like old men behind the equally aged and middle of midfield. West Brom’s spine is the football equivalent of a boyband, now an ever diminishing manband, back on tour and the take thanks to tax issues. Stumbling and dithering throughout their core, it was only the bullets of the widemen that threatened to strike us down from any sort of distance.
Meanwhile Johnstone was charged down by the hungry and far more dangerous looking Jackson. The striker was being fed the right sort of opportunities today. Getting in on the shoulder and shadows of stranded defenders and struggling returns to Johnstone it seemed only a matter of time before one miscontrol might swing it back to us and put the visitors ahead.
Kenlock to Kayden down the left flank allowed him to smash a shot at the legs of the keeper with no one else near it or him. Town’s corners seemed to suggest the game would not remain all square for long. Judge lofted and lifted the ball and spirits with his deliveries. Heads in either colour shirt struggled to deal with them definitively.
Both teams changed their midfield with Johansen tiring and well past the point of pulling anything but an orange shirt. Bishop came off for the bulky looking Dawkins. Running out to the left Judge was pushed centrally to reconfigure the lulls and winds of play buffeting both defences.
Jackson was getting all kinds of shots off thanks to the movement outside of the box and inventive passing into his path rather than onto his head. Dawkins chested the ball down from another cross nodded his way. His second touch did not have the electricity of his first, from bosom to back of the stand in one shift of posture.
Ipswich meanwhile were partying from front row to back. More flares, so as you’d have thought our 70’s heyday was back, such was the cacophony and carnival from thermos to flat cap to thunderous claps between songs. We serenaded our leader and Lambert duly raised his hand in austere and loving terms from the dug out before going back to his Ian Curtis moves as he sought to bring back joy to either side of the division within the wider fanbase.
Town have wandered for nearly two decades in this desert of a division. Magpies, Bluebirds, Canaries, Swans, Robins and today throstles; have all flown above and below us during this time. The searing heat of expectation, the mirages of success, the dirt kicked upon as the vultures now circle might see those footsteps all wiped away when they finally drag our corpse down to the third division. However, today felt like one last gasp of life.
Neither team looked like themselves right now, they looked like what they always seemed destined to be. Midtable second tier teams, who sometimes mix it with the biggest and best.
Oh well, whatever nevermind.