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Ipswich Town v Sheffield Wednesday prediction logged
Sheffield Wednesday Supporters’ Match-Day Thoughts…
at 17:09 22 Nov 2017

I have had a rummage around Owls’ message-boards this afternoon to gather their musings ahead of tonight’s game. They had little to say over the weekend and were more preoccupied with their 0-0 stalemate at home to the Robins in which they failed to land a shot on target.

“If I was putting money on tonight's result, though, I'd say a no-score draw.” The widely-held view is that tonight’s game will be a dull affair in front of the Sky TV cameras. The overwhelmingly popular score forecast is a 0-0 draw and the majority of Owls would see a point tonight as a decent outcome.

“This game has ‘draw’ written all over it”, “We haven’t had a clean sheet in ages before Saturday, things are sometimes like buses. It wouldn’t surprise me if got another”, “You could really throw a coin to decide this one. Ipswich don't concede many at home. Wednesday don't score many away.”

“My mates a season ticket holder at Ipswich. He's as optimistic about their chances as we are of ours”, “As one who has low standards and no ambition I'd be happy with another 0-0, a decent point”, “I’m not expecting a pretty game”, “A bold claim but I reckon we will have a shot on target.”

“Happy for a draw tonight but preferably a score-draw and a bit of excitement”, “Tough game. Like many other teams in the Championship, Ipswich are pretty physical, full of running and direct. We generally struggle in games like this, but hopefully we'll be fired after the bore-fest on Saturday.”

“We are gonna lose or draw and it's gonna be drab”, “Ipswich pack the midfield and have a couple of fast wide players (faster than ours). I can only see a loss tonight. Something has to done when we keep getting overrun in the middle of the park, and that's exactly what's going to happen tonight.”

“We won at Portman Road last season when our form was great and they had nothing to play for. I can't see a repeat tonight. We will go into the game in a defensive and negative manner hoping to hold out for as long as we can. I see Mick's team of sloggers breaking us down after a while."

One Owl put together this tactical summation in a match preview: “Ipswich as a team play like their manager talks. Quite bluntly! They might be considered old fashioned. A far cry from the days of Alf Ramsey instilling push and run football and Bobby Robson's Euro side.

“Mick likes his sides to get the ball forward quickly. Some might call it dinosaur football, but within that he likes to make sure they don't leave the back door open and as a McCarthy side, I'm sure you won't need telling that they will all be putting a shift in to get back and get a foot in.

“Their midfield like to get forward and support Joe Garner up front. The former Preston man has been a shrewd signing for Big Mick. With four in 14 he's not prolific but his ability to work the front line alone and bring others into play has been a real bonus to the Suffolk club.

“The goal scoring statistics show that the attacking midfield triumvirate of Celina, Waghorn and McGoldrick get forward to support Garner knowing that there is a defensive fulcrum of Skuse and Connolly behind them.”

A number of Owls picked up on Mick’s comments about their manager. “All those who knock Carlos Carvalhal could do well to listen to Mr McCarthy because I think they are pretty similar characters when it comes to what they want from the game and how they see the Championship.”

“I quite like Mick, he’s far more amiable than some of the shysters who manage clubs”, “He talks a lot of sense and there is obviously a real respect and friendship between him and Carvalhal. Tough game tonight because it's obvious both managers have done their homework. I'd be happy with a draw.”

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Matt Richards at Bath City
at 17:39 11 Nov 2017

A bit of a blast from the past to report here, namely Matt Richards playing well in Bath City's 4-0 win over East Thurrock today. I wasn't at the game, but have just had a couple of people who were there call into my shop singing his praises and saying how well he played. He arrived a couple of weeks ago by all accounts and this was his league debut, having had a run out against Keynsham in the Somerset Cup.

He was stationed as a solitary holding midfielder today in City's 4-1-4-1 shape. The consensus of those watching was that, while he was not the paciest or brilliant in the air, he was tactically sharp and switched-on and read the game very well, giving the midfield a balance and experience it was lacking. His alertness led to Bath going on to score in the first half from his quickly-taken free-kick.

It is a first Romans' win in two months and needless to say the home brigade were ebullient. I thought it worth mentioning on a quiet Town-related news day and will keep an eye on how he progresses.
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Going Back in Time – Reflections on Last Night’s Game at Cardiff
at 08:51 1 Nov 2017

“It’s far too early to jump to conclusions, wait until the clocks go back.” This is a familiar refrain on opposition forums in the early stages of a season and it carries some merit. I always view the gaining and loss of the hour as two major milestones in the season along with Boxing Day. Night had fallen as I left Bath and trick-or-treaters were giddily running up and down my street with their quarry.

I travelled to the game with a supporter who is now retired and has followed the Town longer than many of us and he had an interesting angle on Mick’s post-Burton remarks about the heckling he had received. He rates Mick’s footballing judgement highly but felt that Sir Bobby would have been ashamed if he had known that any successor would use the sort of language which Mick uttered.


When I had parked up at the ground, a fellow-poster texted the team across with the suggestion that this would be an industrial 4-5-1 to grind out the game and focus on a Saturday win. He also added that I always picked the weird games to watch. Little did I know how true this would prove.

It had been a dash from work to get to the Cardiff City Stadium, so I didn’t really have time to look at the shape of the line-up until I was in my seat (we all sat throughout the game – that should tell you something) and the game had started. Including Ward, Smith, Downes and Iorfa suggested that Mick was trying to add some physicality, but there was no Waghorn and it was a raft of changes to make.

Cardiff had unsurprisingly scuppered their three-at-the-back nonsense which was nullified by Millwall and switched to a back four. Craig Bryson was dropped for the more physical Sol Bamba in midfield, but the inclusion of Lee Tomlin was no surprise. Danny Ward struggled against Millwall’s defensive titans so the inclusion of the stronger more athletic Omar Bogle also shouldn’t have been a surprise.


Cardiff started on the front foot and it was quickly apparent that Tomlin and Junior Hoilett had brought their ‘A’ game with them. Tomlin was a handful on the ball, disguising passes and pulling players out of position, while Hoilett quickly gave poor Dominic Iorfa a taste of what was to come when he reacted to the defender’s tepid header to quickly fashion an early chance.

The opening goal came as no surprise, as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who was to be the quieter of the Bluebirds’ attacking quartet, was given ample time and space to fire a cross to Hoilett, who had even more ample time and space to fire home. Such was his freedom that he had shaped himself into the form of a subject of a Greek statue ahead of the cross, seeking extra marks for artistic impression.

Several of our players half-heartedly appealed in vain for offside but this actually said more about how alert they had been. It was a ridiculous amount of space to give such a dangerous player, and Cardiff now had their first goal from open play in four games. Iorfa had a difficult night up against Hoilett, but it was no game for an out-of-form player in an experimental line-up at a difficult ground.

Bart made the first of several superb interventions shortly afterwards, when Hoilett’s cross was met by Bogle only for our keeper to get in the way of the finish. He followed this up with one superb stop in the second half, and it’s no exaggeration to say that tonight could easily have been another 5-1 Reading game if he had not been in such good form.

There would be some bright notes to take away from the game and one was the performance of Flynn Downes. He seemed to be anchored closest to Joe Ralls for most of his time on the pitch and he kept his more experienced opponent quiet, breaking forward on one occasion to win a freekick on the edge of the area. He later had one superb chance to score which Ralls did well to intercept.

The midfield kept the balance of the side intact throughout the first half, and both Cole Skuse and Kevin Bru worked well with Downes linking play. The lack of inventiveness from the centre was highlighted by a friend at half-time. He noted that Skuse was our most dangerous player in the first half at times with his 'marauding' runs committing the City players more than anybody else.

Preston fans this week have been saying that Joey Garner was a brilliant finisher or a brilliant hold-up solo striker but that he struggled to do both at the same time. This was what was being asked of him tonight and at one point later in the game he was on his own with three giant Cardiff defenders as he waited for a cross to come into the box. He was up against ridiculous odds but battled hard.

As we sought to get back into the game, Garner flicked on one corner which fell to Tommy Smith who was the wrong man to receive it and diverted the ball wide. The New Zealander was short of his best form tonight, notable playing one suicidal ball straight to Mendez-Laing and Knudsen did well to divert it out for a corner from the ensuing chaos. It was casual but it typified our wider defending.

The first period ebbed to a close with a series of half-chances for both teams but the difference was already telling between the two sides. Cardiff were more cohesive. They defended more confidently and robustly, they were more imaginative and incisive in their build-up play and they had a greater urgency and alertness about them. We were a goal behind but we weren’t really in the game.


“That was better than Burton.” The half-time inquest was amusing and alarming in similar measure, mixing takes of wind-assisted football in Staffordshire with discussions of just how fat the Brewers’ keeper actually was. The fact that this was an upgrade on Saturday was alarming, along with the comment that our lack of shape and playing style was causing us similar problems in both games.


As we resumed our seats, we just had time to see Mendez-Laing square the ball to Bogle who had about the same amount of space as Hoilett earlier, and he made us pay for it just as equally. This was one of those goals you could see coming seconds before it actually did and these seem to hurt that bit more. We hadn’t a snowballs chance in hell now of getting anything from this game.

Cardiff were now hell-bent on working on their goal difference and Hoilett flashed a dangerous cross which Bogle failed to meet. Shortly afterwards the ultra-defensive Lee Peltier was given the freedom of our left side to wander towards our penalty area and curl in a fine cross. It was one for the album. It was then the turn of the ebullient Callum Paterson and Lee Tomlin to seriously threaten our goal.

The game then entered a very weird phase and it started with the substitutions. Downes and Bru were both understandably taken off, but Callum Connolly and Freddie Sears were quixotic players to bring on and it felt like a signal to cease hostilities. Cardiff withdrew Tomlin and Hoilett, their most dangerous threats and brought on the defensive Loic Damour and the less threatening Liam Feeney.

There now came a phase midway through the second half where all tempo disappeared from the tie. Cardiff sat back, waiting for us to try and fashion something and we would amble forward and see what we could come up with, usually getting the ball to Ward or Celina as nobody else had much of an idea up their sleeve. Cardiff didn’t even bother with their mid-second half fake injury conference.

It also hit me just how subdued we were as an away crowd. There was not a peep out of us, barring the odd heroic voice at the back. It wasn’t that anyone thought Mick was Super or that his football was alternatively you-know-what. Nobody was thinking anything. There was a generality of play in front of us with plenty of industry but little pattern, little creativity and not a great deal of quality.

Cardiff had worked out that they could play this game out. We had hardly won an attacking header all night and we couldn’t unlock them on the deck either. Both sets of fans were having to content themselves with indignation over minor refereeing decisions. Watching football games can be an exhausting experience with so much to take in, but there was precious little to deconstruct here.

Maybe our plan was to lull the Bluebirds’ into an error, because out of the blue we scored. We broke forward at pace and managed to get in behind Cardiff’s defence. Sears and Waghorn had efforts blocked and the ball broke to Ward who had a terrific energetic game all night. He kept his head and teed up Celina, who fired home. We fans had been dozing contentedly but were suddenly awake.

It was fitting that Celina scored our consolation because he was the only source of creativity which could consistently hurt Cardiff tonight. He was at the heart of our best moves and technically he was just as comfortable in a central role after the break as he was out wide earlier. His runs were ahead of defenders, he delayed passes long enough to commit his markers and he was selfless in his play.

Town fans were up on our feet and a game of football had broken out again but there was one snag. Cardiff had woken up too. A quick counter attack saw Mendez-Laing haring in on our goal in that same amount of space I mentioned earlier. Bart did well to parry his shot but it broke to Danny Ward and he ended any nonsense of a Town comeback. The full-time whistle followed soon afterwards.


“Some nights you come away from a game feeling that defeat was undeserved, but this was not one of those nights.” There was some gentle gallows humour as a few of us chatted before getting into our cars. In a division which throws up bizarre results like confetti, to be consistently good against weaker teams and consistently falling short against the better ones really takes some doing.


There was no lack of industry tonight, but some of our defending was that bad at times tonight that all you could do was laugh about it. We are going nowhere this season and were comfortably as poor against Cardiff as Sunderland were poor against us. Some of the defending tonight had me thinking that the clocks had gone back five years to the Jewell era, and not just by one hour this weekend.

This was a disjointed display from a line-up which lacked familiarity. The understanding and trust you take for granted in a well-drilled team was missing and this contributed to the lack of a pattern to our play on one level. It also explained our wide-open inept defending on another. The team had the hallmarks of one you would see in a pre-season friendly and the game at times resembled one.

Heading back to Bath, I remembered Hammers saying that Sam Allardyce would take weeks with Tuesday games as a three-game block rather like in a tournament, planning to get most out of the week as a whole. Maybe Preston, knocked sideways by a defensive injury crisis, might provide richer pickings for a stronger XI on Saturday. If this really was our gamble, I hope to God it pays off.
[Post edited 1 Nov 9:48]
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Are You Not Entertained? – Reflections on Last Night’s Sunderland Game
at 03:16 27 Sep 2017

Two Portman Road games in 10 days. My work colleague is free now to cover midweek days for me so this was a road-test – literally – to see if Tuesday night trips to Suffolk were viable. An uneventful drive over and a functional bolt-hole was secured in a hotel by the A12, so I pitched up in Ipswich at 6pm and had time to stroll up to the pub on an autumnal evening.

It was still bright but I caught a glimpse of the floodlights which had been switched on. A small thing, but I’m so glad we have proper ones at each corner of the ground. They are heart-warming beacons, beckoning supporters to come and they have a sense of permanence. It is no coincidence that we have done some of our best work under those lights for undoubtedly there is magic in their glow.


The floodlights were more prominent walking down to the ground from the pub although it wasn’t fully dark. The rose-pink crescent of the moon could be picked out against the fading blue sky. A calm mild evening would be our backdrop and the ground looked magnificent.

When the line-ups were announced, we had a variation of the second half XI against Bolton. Bersant Celina was central and behind Joe Garner. Mick also sensibly decided to let Martyn Waghorn off the leash from the start. Sunderland’s 4-3-3 was a good upgrade on recent games, with Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman on the flanks and with the solid midfielder Darron Gibson also starting.

I texted MrsHfromB that this game had a feeling of goals about it. We were licking our wounds after the Leeds game and Mick had put out an incredibly attacking line-up. Sunderland were also going for it with as much pace and directness as they could find, but the fact that Jonny Williams was missing was a huge relief. We all remember his superb display under the lights against Derby back in 2014.


And so we kicked off. The fourth minute brought the first foul on Joe Garner and the first reaction. The sideshow was up and running and there were even more knowing grins in the Co-op. He has this knack of rubbing the back of his head throughout the game, checking to see if the imaginary elbow has drawn any blood. We have not had a player in years who will work the referee the way he does.

The first goal scorer was inevitable. We had quickly targeted the Wearsiders’ left flank where Adam Matthews was out of position and Dominic Iorfa was bombing forward almost as a wing-back. The Wolves loanee played the ball back to Garner from high up the pitch, and Joe’s cross was glanced home by Waghorn. It was a high-quality finish and perfectly placed to beat the outstretched keeper.

“Everybody back defending.” Sunderland won a corner soon after which originated from sloppy play after a Town throw-in and they made it count. Billy Jones’s positioning had been compared by Wearsiders unfavourably to an empty Greggs bag during the week, but there was nothing wrong with it as he attacked the near post from the corner and nailed his header into the net.

The next 15 minutes passed with little goalmouth incident, but we took control and established the pattern of play with patient passing and probing. I counted one move which lasted 27 passes and which saw Waghorn’s shot saved comfortably by Wearsiders’ keeper Jason Steele. The visitors were backing off us, allowing us to move the ball around and build a vitally important rhythm and tempo.

Waghorn had a marvellous game. He uses his strength and body shape to screen the ball and signal to team-mates what he is thinking. The rest of the team are starting to anticipate and read his play and they are making clever runs to capitalise on this. He nearly scored a second goal when Jonas Knudsen joined the party and played him in with a clever cross, but his finish went across the goal.

The tempo and energy were building. Bersant Celina was popping up on the left with McGoldrick in behind Garner. Sunderland were starting to drop deeper as they weren’t quite sure where the next blow would come from. We won a corner when Knudsen’s pot-shot deflected wide and took the lead again when Jordan Spence’s header was bulleted home with nobody seeming to pick him up.

Sunderland’s tactic was to try and test our defence with direct play. There was a constant procession of lofted balls on to the D of our penalty area throughout the game. Midway through the first half they also tried Leeds’s trick of striker James Vaughan dropping deep to meet a lofted goal-kick, the aim being to feed the runner bombing in behind. Not this time, we were ready to deal with it.

The final 15 minutes of the first half were characterised by wave after wave of Ipswich attacks, and coming from all quarters. Tom Adeyemi’s header was straight at Sunderland’s keeper and Waghorn’s turn and swivel was narrowly wide after yet more neat interplay. The visitors had one late chance via Lamine Kone from corner, but they were glad to hear the half-time whistle only one goal behind.


The Ipswich players left the field to a warm ovation at the break. I texted to a friend that we could see Sunderland equalise and dig in or that we could cut loose and tear them to shreds. They were looking ragged as the half wore on and were losing their shape and composure. McManaman was the most frustrated, but McGeady also made one nasty unpunished challenge under our noses.


Bart had little to do before the break apart from one smart low save, but a brilliant tip over from Lee Cattermole’s smart header just after the break would prove pivotal. We kept our defensive shape well but we can be a little too open and careless with the ball at the back. This problem was to give us no end of headaches later in the half when Sunderland regrouped and were in full flight.

If we were open at the back, we were irresistible up front and we were getting most joy down the visitors’ left flank. Waghorn and Iorfa seemed to be well on top of Matthews, who was getting little help from McGeady. When Waghorn broke through yet again, a Sunderland challenge saw the ball fall to Garner whose shot flashed across the face of the goal. It was a prelude to a very special goal.

Some swift interplay down the same flank between Garner and Iorfa allowed the right-back to feed Waghorn. The former Rangers man back-heeled the ball to Celina who smashed the ball into the net with the Sunderland back line now cut to ribbons. All four sides of the ground erupted and you could see the psychological damage inflicted on Sunderland’s players as we wheeled away in celebration.

We were now becoming unstoppable, and Waghorn – again down the right – reacted quickly to a turnover in possession by the equally alert Garner. As he hammered down the line to tee up a cross, McGoldrick reacted three seconds quicker than any of the Sunderland players and raced into the box ahead of them. It looked as if Didzy’s shot was smothered but he tenaciously forced the ball home.

It was a superb counter-attack, and it also struck me that the differing nature of the four finishes had showcased the versatility of out attacking play. One from open play, one from a set-piece, one from a superb one-touch move and one from a counter-attack. Sunderland didn’t know what to prepare for during this phase of play and their fans’ premonitions of a trouncing were starting to come true.

It was fitting that McGeady pulled a goal back for them, cutting inside in front of their fans and rifling a quite superb shot which no keeper would have stopped. It will give their fans hope as he was their one bright spark and he could cause problems with a fit-again Jonny Williams. McManaman was growing more petulant and frustrated in contrast and it was no surprise when he was substituted.

“Every team has a good spell.” McGeady’s goal sparked a very neurotic phase of play for us. We couldn’t control the ball and they came at us, launching the ball aerially or trying to put McGeady or substitutes George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch in on goal. They were trying to capitalise on our anxiety, throwing men forward to unsettle us and buy set-pieces at the very least. It was working.

There was a brief break in play as the referee sought to have words with the Sunderland bench. You could see Cole Skuse and Luke Chambers also having quiet words with the less-experienced players who had a habit of playing slightly over-ambitious passes and turning possession over to Sunderland.

One McGeady freekick narrowly flew over while Cattermole had an effort flash wide of the post. Whereas Bolton had genuine problems finding the net, Sunderland have the more potent attack and should climb out of trouble when injuries abate and, crucially, if they can get themselves organised.

It felt as if the game had one last coup-de-grace and sure enough it started from the maestro. With minutes remaining and Sunderland mentally shattered, McGoldrick played Ward in superbly and the former Spurs man kept his head, calmly rounding the helpless keeper and drilling the ball home. The game was up. This was an emphatic win which completely reflected the balance of play.

There was time to salute McGoldrick with a stoppage time substitution and the ground rose as one to acclaim him. He was scorer, provider, left-winger, left-back, defensive midfielder and deep-lying playmaker all in one. He was also the bringer of deft touches, precise accurate passes and footballing intelligence hard to live with. There was also a small friendly hand-slap with Garner as he departed.

“Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning.” The North Stand serenaded Simon Grayson, who must hate this ground by now. We were close to the dugouts and noted that it gave Mick the chance to call across to the hapless Sunderland boss and say that they had been singing it about him last season. Grayson, to be fair, took it in good spirit and a degree of gallows humour.


“Did you enjoy that?”, “I’m not used to all this excitement.” The players left to a tumultuous ovation and the mother of all fist-pumps from Chambers. The North Stand had been in fine full voice through the game and were revelling in it, but the evening’s events even sent the Co-op brigade sitting by me back to their homes with a spring in their steps. It was an evening that comes around very rarely.

That said, I did receive a text from a jealous fellow-supporter noting that I had been to Millwall as well. It is still only September and I feel spoiled rotten. This time last year we could barely buy a goal and look at us now. Walking away from the stadium I had a quick word with Sir Alf, telling him how much he would have enjoyed that. He didn’t reply but then again, he always was quite taciturn.

We can now confidently put two ghosts to bed. The first is last season’s insipid form returning to haunt us. We can set our sights at the least at a mid-table finish. Last season knocked our confidence but we are moving way beyond the point of looking over our shoulders. It would take a catastrophic sequence of results and losses of form for this campaign to unravel in the way that last seasons did.

The second is the fear that last season’s insipid football will return to haunt us. I would gently say to any fellow-supporter indignant at our style of play to start thinking now about what they might be missing. The only problem with this football is that it leaves you wide away in the middle of the night completely and utterly incapable of sleep. The football I have witnessed us play has been riveting.

We are by no means perfect. Our defending needs refining and tightening and our younger players are still a little uncoordinated in possession. It’s also worth adding that the contingent coming from the West Country on Saturday will ask more probing questions than our previous two guests. As for me, I will head back down in that direction today royally entertained. You would be mad to miss it.

[Post edited 27 Sep 10:41]
I'm not Scared of Ipswich, but I am Scared of Us - Sunderland Match-Day Thoughts
at 12:41 26 Sep 2017

I have had a look around Wearsiders’ message-boards this morning to gauge their mood ahead of this evening. Things were pretty grim last week and it’s safe to say that this has hardly improved. Three out of four of their fans expect a home win and most have predicted a 3-0 result.

“Ipswich have got mid-table boring season written all over them like. They are flying though, we look absolutely dog****. A nailed-on home win”, “Defeat, as with every game going forward. I honestly can't see where a win will come from and I'm a happy clapper”, “A comfortable 2-0 for Ipswich.”

“An easy home win, they must be salivating at the prospect. 3-0”, “I cannot see anything other than Ipswich overpowering us. Town to win 3-0”, “I think we’ll get done, Ipswich 2-0 Sunderland, and a straight red for us”, “After Suicidal Si’s [Grayson’s] latest press conference I’m saying a 3-0 defeat.”

“A 2-0 comfortable home win. Grayson to say things are gradually getting there and we just aren't getting rub of the green at the minute. Plenty of positives to take, games come thick and fast in this league and things can change very quickly”, “A 3-0 defeat, I can't see us troubling their keeper.”

“We muster one shot on 89 minutes. People will come on and plead for time. Grayson will argue we deserved something from game despite 21% possession and one shot on target to Ipswich's seven”, “It has been a while since we were properly punted off the park so I will go 4-1 to Ipswich.”

“We are overdue a hammering... 0-5.” Some Wearsiders fear the worst. “5-0 to Ipswich. Big Si says we were on top until Ipswich took the lead in the third minute”, “We'll cruise to a 6-1 slaughtering. Rodwell scores in injury time to give the away fans something to cheer about.”

“It has been a while since our last own goal, comedy display. I went 1-0 Waghorn, but it could end up a classic 3-0 with Vaughan and Cattermole own goals”, “2-0, Waghorn and McGoldrick”, “Waghorn to score and not celebrate out of respect”, “Waghorn is nailed on to score.”

“I'm going to be optimistic and say 1-1”, “I don't think these [Ipswich] are very good though. They have just really beaten the struggling sides so far (yes I know...) and I would firmly expect them to still finish comfortably in the bottom half.”

For many away fans, any hoping of getting a result rests on several key creative players returning from injury and illness. “It depends if our players are fit”, “If Jonny Williams, Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman aren't in the team then the best we can hope for is a draw.”

“I am more confident when we play away. I have got to be honest here and say that I couldn't name a single Ipswich player”, “I’m going an away win, 1-2. Ipswich will be lulled into a false sense of security after taking an early lead and we will score two, courtesy of errrr... just give me a minute.”


Would you have Mick Mac back?

“Yes. I think it will need more than just him to turn us around though”. “He would get far better out of this team”, “He was one of the best managers in our history in terms of win percentage”, “I would have Mick Mac here over Larry [Grayson] without a doubt but can't see it happening.”

“In a heartbeat. He is much maligned on here but what we are going through now could easily have happened in 2003. The fact that not only did we avoid a relegation battle but were competitive in the Championship with a tiny transfer budget was down to Mick Mac.”

“We won the league with the worst football possible”, “I wish he had the money every manager after him had to spend, as I’m not sure what else he could have done”, “I despised the bloke when he was here and some of the football we played was rotten but he’s far better than the clown we have now.”

“Always thought he was a canny bloke and got us promoted on a shoestring. He was given next to f*** all to spend the following season resulting in total disaster. Not the prettiest football under Mick Mac but effective in the Championship on a tight budget”, “He would keep us in this league.”

“No way, he gets off far too lightly in my opinion, he was shocking in the Premier League with us, overseeing one of the darkest periods the clubs seen”, “I think despite the poor Premier League season that followed promotion he would have offered us great stability but we'll never know.”

“Mick seems to be doing OK at Ipswich”, “He will be laughing his tits off at how we are even worse than when he was in charge. 2-0 to Ipswich”, “Mick will have them ready for game and telling them in training all week, ‘It’s a must win’. Let’s face it as our ex manager he is going to want to beat us.”


Some final thoughts on the game to conclude….

“We've got to win sometime, surely. I honestly can't see how”, “Unless we get one of those ridiculous 1-0 wins, when you get pounded but score with one shot on target”, “How grim have things become, being resigned to defeat against Ipswich f***ing Town.”

[Post edited 26 Sep 17:24]
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Leeds United v Ipswich Town prediction logged
A Question of Balance
at 11:06 19 Sep 2017

There have been a number of interesting threads on the forum in recent weeks juxtaposing our decent start this season with, well, everything we had to endure in the last campaign.
Home from Home - Reflections of Yesterday’s Win Over Bolton
at 10:51 17 Sep 2017

Suffolk. Don’t ever take this place for granted. For those of us living miles away from here there is nowhere quite like it on the planet and trips to the Mother Ship are treasured pilgrimages. When MrsHfromB suggested a weekend of football and exploring the coast earlier this summer, the fixture list was on the kitchen table and options being considered quicker than you could say ‘Park Life’.

You know the feeling heading here. Driving up the A12 and you catch a first glimpse of Ipswich on a road sign after several hours behind the wheel. Then you see the signs for Bentley, Capel St Mary, and Copdock, and the deep red-brick houses and black slatted timbers start to appear. It isn’t home, but it sure as hell feels like it.

So here we are in a superb self-catering house in Wickham Market (and not the West Wickham I have been telling everyone and which is near Croydon) enjoying probably more Ghost Ship than I should be drinking and looking back on what was a great day at the football. This county – or maybe it’s just the beer – knocks the sharp edges off you.


There was a definite sharp edge of Autumn in the air heading down the hill to the pre-match pub and on to the ground. I always aim for decent seats in the Co-op but must confess that I didn’t feel old sitting among the regulars. It is not to judge in any way, but there would have been no shortage of Robson and Cobbold stories had I asked around.

The team was predictable once we knew that Knudsen was injured. Chambers flanked by Iorfa and Spence with a midfield of Skuse and Adeyemi behind Ward. Connolly and Kenlock wide and Joey and McGoldrick up front. Bolton started with three giants at the back in Mark Beevers, David Wheater and Reece Burke. Gary Madine was leading their line and linking with Filipe Morais and Craig Noone.


The early exchanges revealed little. Bolton were playing a high defensive line on the basis that we lacked pace. They aimed for Madine most of the time with Noone in particular being industrious in trying to feed off his knock-downs. The first notable moment came from a Trotters’ freekick after Morais was hurt in the ‘North Stand’ area. It’s funny how people always smirk when this happens.

Myles Kenlock was our most noticeable attacking threat in the first half. He announced himself with a thunderous early tackle which drew wide applause and made several threatening runs directly into the Bolton penalty area. There were a couple of ponderous ball-watching moments later on but we saw the composed high-energy Myles today and he was not afraid to take the game to the Trotters.

As the half emerged, Craig Noone’s clever movement and running were proving more problematic than Gary Madine’s efforts leading the line. Noone only arrived two weeks ago and he represents Bolton’s best chance of engineering a recovery this season. He elevated their play and brought their midfielders and wide players more into the game, forcing us on to the back foot throughout the half.

Skuse was my man-of-the-match yesterday and not just for his goal. He was directing operations in the middle, having a sharp word with young Connolly early on for not reacting more quickly to one pass, but his ability to read the danger sooner than anyone was visible when he gave himself a two-second start on Madine to fillet the ball away from the striker after Wheater had put him through on goal.

Bolton were very adept at finding players in small pockets of dangerous space, not least when Madine found himself free to have a crack on goal which Bart clawed away. The next notable moment was when Dominic Iorfa had a late header just before the interval from a corner kick which could barely be classified as a chance. It was a fleeting excitement in what was a prosaic first half.


The muted response to the half-time whistle summed up a lacklustre reaction to a lacklustre display. Bolton had marginally more of the play but lack the incisiveness of fluidity to capitalise on this. We were being dragged down to their level. It felt like we had another gear in us, but the game could go the way of Rotherham away last season if we didn’t find it. Something needed to be changed.

One obvious alteration was the removal of Callum Connolly. Bolton were a physical side and were starting to target him as the half wore on, including one sly challenge from Antonee Robinson by the touchline just before the interval. Connolly played well and by all means gave as good as he got. He is a technically composed player but he is not quite yet on the same wavelength as his colleagues.

It was also obvious that our attacking balance was flat and the game was crying out for Celina to step on to the stage. His introduction made obvious sense, as did switching away from a back three which was mirroring Bolton’s shape too closely. Skuse and Adeyemi were handling Bolton’s midfield, and Ward would find more space to drive at Bolton on the right with Celina asking questions on the left.


Shortly after the interval the miracle happened. Celina worked the ball well out on the left and fed McGoldrick, who with little else on, laid the ball back to Skuse. The Bristolian had spurned a chance to have a crack on goal in the first half. Not this time. He let fly, it took a deflection and thundered past Ben Alnwick and into the goal. Skuse wheeled away to embrace the North Stand’s adulation.

There’s something amusing about defensive midfielders scoring goals. They are always memorable. Centre-halves generally nod the ball home from corners but the 30-yard piledriver is the speciality of the midfield incontrista. Every time Toumani Diagouraga would bear down on goal at Griffin Park, Brentford fans would become hysterical as a moment of destiny suddenly beckoned out of nowhere.

Bolton were stung by this and came straight back at us, with the otherwise ineffective Jem Karacan forcing a save from Bart. They then took advantage of careless passes by Celina and Iorfa to keep us pinned back. One small thing I would ask Mick about is his habit of not stationing an out-man on half-way when defending set-pieces as it allows opponents to maintain momentum and pressure.

Bolton had two serious chances to level around the hour mark, one of which was blocked heroically by Jordan Spence with two Trotters free with the ball and the goal gaping. Spence was involved in a terrific battle all game with Madine and never let the former Owl get the better of him. Madine grew increasingly frustrated and peripheral as the game progressed and ended up being taken off.

Shortly after Spence’s block, Madine was put through on goal but his poor lob over both Bart and the Town goal summed up his contribution and said volumes about Bolton’s attacking threat. Their impotence in front of goal could end up condemning them, but it could equally be argued that there are many teams in this division who would have buried the chances we gifted to them in this spell.

Bolton by now were committing more men forward, but having Celina on the field meant that we had a counter-threat. He was direct, running and slaloming straight at the Bolton back-line and he was taken out on two occasions. He was also a terrific foil for Garner and McGoldrick, giving them space to try out their ideas. He can be casual on the ball but he can also get more from our strikers.

At one point in the second half, Celina cut inside after a corner had been played back out to him and he let fly one rasping shot which Alnwick did well to parry away. With more space to exploit, Tom Adeyemi also played more of an attacking role after the break and his characteristic lung-bursting runs through traffic are something with which we will become accustomed as the season progresses.

Grant Ward’s alertness before the break was eye-catching and he was all around central midfield both breaking up dangerous Bolton combinations while also spying for opportunities to release McGoldrick in particular. I felt that he and Iorfa were a solid attacking platform on the right flank after the break and they kept Antonee Robinson quiet despite Iorfa’s occasional momentary lapse.

“The ref has no idea what he is doing.” Mentioning refereeing in Bolton games at Portman Road is dangerous territory but Andrew Madley had an odd game. He generally got the big calls right – and there weren’t too many of these – but 50/50’s and typical Championship challenges would often see us penalised. MrsHfromB picked up on it after the break and she is much more objective than me.

One person who kept the referee busy was Joe Garner. I enjoyed his sideshow immensely and he was in his element in the later stages of the game, being the arch-disruptor and worming his way inside Bolton players’ heads. He is fearless and won his fair share of headers against the three titans in the visitors’ back-line. Few chances fell to him yesterday but he is such an effective operator.

The contrast between Garner and McGoldrick's playing style is obvious but there is a bond of trust developing between the pair, something which could be seen by their exchange when McGoldrick was substituted. Mrs HfromB wondered if Garner is a more natural partner for McGoldrick as Didzy was more in Murphy’s shadow. Garner actively tries to complement his strike-partner’s strengths.

On which note, McGoldrick’s strengths were evident all afternoon. With more space to exploit after the break, he was like a safe-cracker with a set of keys and the Bolton defence were never quite sure which one he would use next. Clever flicks, deft back-heels and lay-offs and intelligent passes helped keep moves flowing and his tenacious side was also evident as he burst through robust challenges.

It was his tenacity which earned him his late and game-killing goal. Garner’s disruptive work drew the Bolton cover and the former Preston man clipped the ball to McGoldrick who engineered the space to arrow the ball past Alnwick and into the top corner. It was fitting that these two combined for the second goal as they are on the same wavelength and this relationship will surely blossom.

As the game petered out, Bolton were in the market for a consolation goal to break their three-game drought. When Mr Madley gave yet another Trotters’ freekick for another 50/50 tackle, Craig Noone spooned the set-piece high into the Sir Alf. He was their best player but this effort summed up their problem. The final whistle was warmly greeted, with the result reflecting the balance of play.

The sun came out as the players shook-hands and departed, but there was still time for Chambers to arrow in towards the North Stand and treat everyone to his fist-pump. All good fun, but it was great watching him then scampering back to the tunnel like an eight-year-old who had just been given his perfect Christmas present. Chambers is a winner and his influence at the back yesterday was pivotal.


Heading back up to the car, an autumnal edge crept into the evening and we finally had one of the showers which had threatened all afternoon. It had been a workaday three points in a game which was often mundane, but seeing Burton beat Fulham and Millwall turn Leeds over brought home that there truly are no easy games at this level. Bolton will click and hurt teams as the season progresses.

In this context, with teams in this division knocking lumps out of each other, we are in the world of accumulating points and keeping in touch. Like many on here I just want to see us safe, but have opened a little play-off bank account in my head. Fifteen points in September is a terrific foundation and yesterday’s points are worth the same as any we might or might not get at Leeds next week.

Right then, off to Aldeburgh, Orford and a walk along the beach today. Bath is a beautiful City but you have no idea how much I envy people living here. The running joke at home involves me playing Benjamin Britten’s ‘Four Sea Interludes’ from Peter Grimes and the inevitable voice from the room adjacent saying ‘We’re not moving to Suffolk!’ We can dream, and maybe start to dream a little about this season too.

[Post edited 18 Sep 8:33]
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