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|Three Imaginary Points|
at 19:48 8 Dec 2018
“They had more energy than us” seemed the be where Rowett and Stoke fans converged on their phone in after the game. You can only say that of men still in the fight. Contrastingly, they were bored, they wanted a star player who didn’t get a game, they should be higher in the table, the manager isn’t right for a club of their stature. These were the threads that wove around their perspective on a game where they entered the top ten, whilst Town edged to nine points from safety.
Bart dropped, who knows how it was done, or how gently the news and his fall from the side was broken before the game, but he walked off clapping his ungloved hands, his eyes as twitchy and unconvincing as his stopping of late. Chambers broke from animated conversation with Roberts to beat his chest, to beat our badge and salute the few hundred of the thousand left to chant “one fcuking Chambers” as they, like him were the last to walk away from today.
Sometimes you have to start at the end to really understand a story, and if the last half an hour of “Ipswich ‘til I die” doesn’t tell us the moral, then the meaning is clear. Even if this is Ipswich’s time, Ipswich’s turn, if the pitch is a scaffold and the mob in the stands baying and trying to engulf themselves in the theatre are as involved as they want to believe, then this must be what it’s like to watch a loved one executed. Whatever they’ve done or not, whether they were merely hanging around too long in the wrong place or not, there is a sense that without severe intervention a deathly drop is coming.
The Stoke ground is one of those you always think of as new, but it is as weathered and obsolete as any of the 90’s Prem-money megastructures now littering retail parks just off of motorways out of reach between 5pm and 6pm. Whipping wind drove rain in from the sides, as the seats given were not taken by the sensible in many areas near the front. Driven back into the height of a stand stood triple figures of Suffolk support. It was not a day for football, and that probably suited us.
Gerken was behind the same back four. Chalobah deputised for the injured Skuse with Nolan right and Downes left, in a tighter than usual triangle. Sears on the left wing, Lankester on the right and Jackson dropped right out of the squad for Roberts once more. If Lambert was shuffling his deck, or merely picking on merit whose to say? But it was an improved opening.
Stoke were another team just down from the big time, still full of big names, old names and familiar names in slightly different orders and places as to where they might be known to most of us. Huddersfield’ Tom Ince was back at this level, whilst Woods seems to have stood still figuratively and literally thanks to the woes of his former side. They were indicative of a team as unbalanced as ours for all the wrong reasons.
Town barely saw their central midfield get a meaningful touch for fifteen minutes. Only Chalobah in his part of the pass the parcel style approach out of the back really got on the ball long enough to move it to centre back or keeper and receive it again. Both Gerken and Butland slipped in the rain, such was the oddity of trying to do that in conditions so unsuited and in our case a side so unsuitable for precision and poise.
When Afobe tried for an early penalty at the charge down of our dithering keeper he was rightly jeered and wrongly not booked. It was a recurring theme that would soundtrack a game with little entertainment value.
Ipswich worked their concertina passing game with less rhythm and found that the slowness of Shawcross allowed him to receive long balls hesitantly. Diving his hands over Roberts’ shoulders like they were pockets every time, we got little charity from either him or officials who again saw Roberts’ lower league aggression, as lacking class.
There was a much brighter period from the Blues around 20minutes. Chalobah and Downes had benefitted from Nolan coming into the game more. The older, but less experienced head of red and his luminous boots looked to warm up proceedings just a little. Whether his weeks with Lambert have meant he has been reprogrammed in the privacy of the training ground or, were just seeing him emerge from the shell of a team his former boss left who knows. But we clapped appreciatively in the latter part of the half when he drilled a shot at the near post.
It was Chalobah who again showed the light and dark duality of his follicles and his football as he chested a ball down and found a great threaded pass with the outside of his boot to set Town away, but when the defending was done, he stepped over his own trick part-way through and landed in a heap allowing the Potters to skip past him, thanks to Allen’s excellence in doing the simple things.
Lankester forced a great save from Butland with Nolan too getting a distant drive onto the gloves, and out for a corner. There was a feeling that the second balls might have been falling kindly for Stoke but either side would improvise cushioned touches, and contorted limbs to distract and disorientate in blowy conditions.
When the youngster then trotted over to the flag and clipped it in moments later, it glanced off Chambers and was too acute to find the far the corner of the goal as it maybe should have done. This was the period where Town were not only matching Stoke, but making it look like either side could have suffered a recent relegation rather than being fearful of one.
Both he and the diminutive Woods looked a central midfield that at times was either two too small to really combine or when they did, they were like some sort of midfielder-squared when they clicked. But when Lankester bypassed them all and got in behind Williams to fire off target, you sensed he wasted a golden opportunity. With Roberts leading the pile of bodies in a wet and crowded area, a low driven shot could have gone anywhere.
Town might have looked at the change of referee after an unseen injury as a chance for a fresh start, but really, they didn’t want or need one for once. We’d played well enough to be in it, and you have to be in it to win it. But with a new ref and oddly a new flag for the far side linesman came change.
Stoke moved the ball cleanly, Allen and Woods left it to their advanced midfield colleague Clucas. Stood off he picked out the run of Ince who snuck behind a straight blue line. It was a simple finish in injury time, and all Pennington could do was appeal for an offside that wasn’t there. It was harsh on Town but might not be harsh to suggest that once again, he was watching the wrong thing at the wrong time and a goal was conceded.
As the fans all slumped and rounded their shoulders in all too familiar fashion the players trudged off. Town’s response between the restart and the half time whistle, was in keeping with their season. Easily dismissed and ultimately not enough, no matter your perception of luck and entitlement.
The second half started better than the first. Ipswich were out early with their heads up and their march from the tunnel saw them restart with Lankester halted on the intersection of the 18 yard box. Clipped down as he drifted into a crowd of Potters, he was spun and flung for a free kick, again no card came when it was persistently presented to both refs and not by either.
The teenager rifled a shot on goal with the arrogance that is so lovely to see and so needed right now. A defender intercepted it, as many blue shirts raised their arm in sympathetic protest that he had done the same. It was frustrating more that Butland was not tested, than a spot kick not given but the corner was nodded away and so were Town again.
The home fans were not exactly jubilant at their lead and simple moves were broken up by both sides’ obstinate approach to dispossession. When Sears had the temerity to chase down a loose ball in the Stoke box, the ref ran as fast as he could in preparation to give a foul as soon as he made an attempt to win the ball. Such was the inconsistency as Downes twice disarmed his foe with a shoulder barge that clearly a league up would have merited more than a wave of play on.
Pieters had trotted past Lambert and high fived him in the first half with genuine affection when the officials were being changed. No such niceties, when he somehow found Allen with an exchange that saw the Welshman double their lead upon the hour. Either it was a sublime finish, or he just ran into the cross and it shinned its way at high velocity past Gerken, but he like his team mates were left with almost no chance.
Edwards was brought back in from the bench as Lankester’s impressive game was over. The Welshman’s first action was to pick up a cheap booking. The second goal’s provider Pieters got a taste of Blue studs almost instantly.
The Welshman would keep Town’s shape exactly the same but offer a very different off the ball outlet. Roaming inside to an already narrow midfield and try to compress Stoke enough before arcing runs to the corner flag and get a cross off.
It is something that has become a feature of us under Lambert, but both wingers found the corner flag marked the bottom of a cul-de-sac all too often. When Edwards and Sears didn’t have the excellent overlaps from either wingback, their crosses were going to no one as Roberts went to meet the man no his cross too often.
This is the sort of thing that Hurst has to work with too many times in his half a dozen games. He might have a handle on the tools left by Hurst, but we have no cutting edge at all. All we can do is jab and bruise teams with repetitive thwacks and thuds of eager wing play and committed set pieces.
Town’s best chance from open play saw some good passing link Chalobah to Roberts. Once of Crawley but now haring through just off centre, and just off target his low shot completely missed by Butland, and just the wrong side of the post. Comically the referee gave us a corner and the chance to introduce Andre.
The youngster was clearly given instructions to change the shape of the midfield, and Chambers double checked and relied it via a complex set of finger puppetry and shouting. Whether it was foreign to our players too was of little consequence, on we ploughed with perhaps Dozzell as the no.10 withdrawn to being almost on the toes of Downes and Chalobah.
He took a good chance to pull one back when Spence won a free kick. Running forward again like an escaped goat, he humped the gaps ahead of him to bring four opponents upon him and was adjudged to have been neutered outside of the box despite tumbling well inside it. A penalty shout of substance, but it was never going to be given for logical and superstitious reasons you can choose yourself.
Rowett made late changes bringing in the old heads of Fletcher and Crouch just because he could. Lambert has no such luxury or resource afforded to him. Whatever today cost in terms of points and cementing our place at the foot of the table once more, it only crystallised the defiant diamonds stood behind the goal. Rowett suggested that whoever he brought on he’d be criticised, you simply can’t imagine the same for Lambert from us. Stoke fans were left bored and bemused today, Town fans must now be left wondering how many of us believe this is not just another step from the security of a Championship cell each year onto a long road.
[Post edited 8 Dec 19:49]
at 21:29 1 Dec 2018
By a river the colour of lead, Town fans nursed a sense of dread. From County to Forest the walk between stadia of different teams and different levels, had the traveling blues traversing an asphalt tightrope as they chatted over Lambert’s first changes of his reign.
Bart, Spence, Chambers, Pennington and Knudsen understandably familiar. Skuse was the link between the defensive bank of four and middle bank of Ward, Bishop, Lankester and Sears as Jackson spearheaded what was a 4-1-4-1 in practice against Forest’s 4-2-3-1.
Town started well, and both goalmouths were stalked, as either side felt out the other.
Jackson was sent forward to see what 35 year old Dawson and his partner Hefele had in their locker. But it was Ward coming in from the left after a set piece who was felled cheaply for an early penalty shout. We’ve all seen them given, but the referee only rolled his eyes as the ball did the same off Colback’s clatter.
Any stench of unjustness from struggling Town fans could be masked by the accompanying desperation that such moments might be pivotal when you’re this rotten. The game turned a slow tide against the Blues as our defenders split, and Bart pushed the ball between them around the back looking for a gap in the Tricky Trees to exploit.
When facing Bart our back line cut diagonal passes in, when facing up the pitch the pushed them out to Ward or Sears via the full backs. This concertina possession did little to squeeze the life out of the home side, wary of making a mistake, waiting for us to inevitably do so.
It didn’t long, and it didn’t need much. Whilst the full backs had come under much scrutiny in recent weeks, every man had their equivalent for Town as the throw came in. Chambers nodded up and out, but Lankester clearly forgetting his position and the fact there was a lot of turf and Forest’s right back between him and the touch line, left the only man near the ball to collect it.
Unchallenged he drilled it at Bart, it seemed reasonable from behind the Pole for it to ricochet, but all the venom dripped from his gloves as Grabban took just nine minutes to be the Canary in the goalmouth and leave the home fans singing.
There was silence among the 1500.
It was back to more of the same from Town, careful play and static intent in our own backyard meant the lengthier pass and movements off the ball were needed. When Jackson unlocked the defence in what has become a hallmark of his ability, he brought down Lankester’s through ball with his standing foot. The one swinging for a shot arced through fresh air as the rest of the City ground filled with laughter and a rendition of “that’s why you’re going down”.
The game had little drama as the division between the strugglers and top six side only told in the subtlest of motions. Skuse ripped through challenges in uncharacteristic fashion. Leaving Lolley gagging and spluttering his shin in hand as he writhed, Cole merely trotted away as the game continued. Clearly many felt he deserved a card, but he’ll be off many lists in this shire despite winning the ball fairly.
Town grew into their role as underdog and slipped away from the team in the lead with a scintillating Ward cross. The build up and deeper play making Bishop via Spence fed the man in from the cold. His ball in from the right landed on the head of Jackson who should have been in the right place at the right time. But he could only glance it askew when a leveller looked easy.
There was a sense that everything the Blues tried was not going to come off. Corners and free kicks looked a good route back into the game. But all were blocked without too much manoeuvre from the home side.
It was Darikwa who would overlap again and find a deep cross with more whip than
Ward’s. The Forest playmaker danced into space but could only crash his effort against the post as all watched on holding their breath. It was not just as easy as Jackson’s, but similar, and despite the same result, like a lot of what other teams do in games; better.
It would not be long before Town would have their deficit smashed into the ground.
Again, all danger was designed and directed by the Reds’ right hand side, Darikwa allowed to get away from Sears when all others were marked. As he drilled it into the box, Grabban was now afforded time and space to despatch from point blank. If Town fans had felt like hostages in this 17 years of 2nd tier football, the Gods of football had clearly heard their pleas and were storming the building.
There were seven more minutes before the half came to an end.
Bart made his second decent save, as he tipped over again from arguably the man of match Darikwa, and then the corner was intricate enough that former loanee Colback slammed a drive over the bar. It was a game where it felt like nothing really happened, but either side had claim to more than one goal, perhaps two. Only the hosts had actually made theirs though.
The suffering and silence did not diverge until the whistle. It signalled to a fraction of the massive away support, who booed their side off. The frisson that can only come from verbal dissection echoing in the concourse, or the reflected warmth of a busy urinal, merely spiriting the rest of us away to our rituals and refreshments.
“What can he say at half time?” Said someone behind us. Hopefully it involved simple instructions and a reminder of pride and duty.
Ipswich came back out refreshed and undeterred. The game seemed lost to many, and to a few so did our chances of survival. Not just on what they had seen today, but against Bristol, West Brom and a lineage stretching back to August. Beyond that, the last time we were here, McCarthy had gone and Forest were heading down, all until a makeshift Town delivered 2 late goals and a sense of restoration.
Short months, become light years in fortunes, as no such ground was given by Forest.
Ipswich needed to do something within the hour, and neatly moved and played the ball around. Skuse and Bishop looked like the four years since their last regular dance together might help step up our fortunes. But it was only really half chances that had Suffolk eyes half racing to scoreboards, clocks and other results around the division all afternoon.
When Spence put a delightful Knudsen effort just wide, you sensed the chance for two players vilified in midweek to redeem themselves had gone begging. Sears too had not seemed to find a directness to his play that had yielded so many goals and so few points under Lambert.
Ipswich were going to have to dig deep if they were to fell Forest. Their lack of cutting edge again was becoming apparent. Sears looped a lovely dinked volley from distance over the giant Pantillimon, but a glove kissed it over. The bloke looks like a fluorescent crane, but even a decent corner was enough to have him punching it straight up like he was playing street fighter and it took a dirty block from Hefele to allow him to gather it unconvincingly.
Forest had their chances to add a third, and Skuse and the defence did well to ensure they didn’t with some industrious blocks and ball and chain defending when Forest had the upper hand. Lambert opted to put in Chalobah and Roberts, who had played in all of his matches so far and the rest seemed to do them good.
Chasing and careering through space and any one in their way, it added a verve to Town when they needed it most. But it also exposed how thin and weathered the squad is. Brittle like dried paper and stained by the events that brought them here, this is a side that can not take too much inspection from the rest of the league.
The 4-1-4-1 had not really worked, even if its parts had. Bart was lucky to see the woodwork save him once more when Grabban went hunting for a third, he probably deserved less than the man of the match award he was lazily given. It summed up his performance though.
Bishop was finding that like Spence and Ward, when he had the ball anywhere near 30 yards from goal he was shepherded by 3 to 4 players. As he bore down on the box, he was again fouled in a game where Town seemed dirtier and nigglier than they have more many years. I guess that’s inevitable when you’re up to your neck’s in sh1t.
Several players were leaving a foot in, a word in the ear of the ref and their opponent after the afters. It emanated a sense that if the draw was not to be today or ever from such positions, their leadless pencils might take an eye out of the odd team that looked on for too long, at least before the race is run.
Nolan joined the game and like Ward, raised little more than eyebrows with his announcement but soon had the odd sign of something. His bow for the Bish saw him almost like-for-like in more than just follicles and footwork. When he placed a cute pass behind Chalobah, it was the Chelsea man who had moved due to poor anticipation not the substitute. The home side broke through, and the neat and tidy aspects of our play were again swept aside by simple counter attack.
Karanka cycled through his bench, and there was little to delineate if they really made a difference, or just collected appearance fees and a chance to start more often in the busy festive period. The striker that replaced Grabban really should have scored when he laced a shot wide from what looked a reasonable distance.
There were seven long minutes of injury time. All it did was confirm and compound what had come in normal time. Whilst making us all late home as the traffic piled up with all the other woes and misgivings which we find ourselves in.
The one bright spot in all of this is the little bit of Blue Action we got at the back of the stand. When the player showed us something, they were given it back for 20 minutes or more. That anthem has become the soundtrack to our defiance “up or down”.
When you are cut adrift, you cannot control the waves that hit you. You can hold your breath, you can pray, you can kick and gasp and fight. Some of them will sweep clean the deck, some will engulf, some will break you and some will drown you. Every hole Lambert plugs in the line up seems to send the pressure elsewhere and splits open a new leak. Today the full backs were solidified, it was those beyond them that ultimately left us spitting and waving at the shore.
Perhaps in the distance a Yorkshireman sits upon a deckchair, watching on.
|If Donacien is a CB|
at 23:17 28 Nov 2018
Does that mean we go back to Chambers at RB next? Toto can't come back in to this surely? The poor bloke looked shellshocked.
|7 pts to make up|
at 22:03 28 Nov 2018
4 teams above us all on 17.
3 relegation spots.
The chances of dragging one down is fairly high. But two or more? We're gonna have to start really playing now.
at 20:59 28 Nov 2018
No idea how he managed that. Just instincts and not knowing where you are I guess.
|Delightful from Freddie|
at 20:20 28 Nov 2018
Running like Forrest Gump on an angle and a low drive into the corner. We bloody deserved it.
at 08:33 24 Nov 2018
Club's giving you some praise with that. Nice one.
|That was a superb goal|
at 20:13 23 Nov 2018
But not for us.
We'd played so well too. Pennington switched off unfortunately.
|Johnson's cannon loss|
at 18:15 19 Nov 2018
That's a disgusting testament to his vanity and incompetence. Imagine putting him in charge of anything meaningful. Yet will he be held accountable?
What sort of damage could these traitors do with an extended run in charge eh? There really should be greater and greater accountability and scrutiny of all of these lot. I won't hold my breath though.
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