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|Swansea City v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 23:53:19|
The torrential rains that ran down the Western arm of the country, receded to wind turbines set amongst a symphony of autumnal shades lining our route to the Liberty stadium. There was of course in such beauty, a million individual deaths, as Town travelled to South Wales winless and worried by what lay ahead of them, seeking a change of season.
The playoff places were just out of reach before kick off for the hosts, but the comfortable and modern surroundings of their medium sized bowl, still had the air of recent Premiership success. It turned blue as the teamsheet was read aloud whilst we took our seats and more changes were ringing in our ears.
Gerken had Pennington, Nsiala, Chambers and Donacien ahead of him. Skuse, Chalobah and Dozzell the midfield’s sternum and ribs. Ward and Edwards the limbs that would carry the ball to Sears heading our attack. Some quick debate about whether this might be back to 3-5-2 with wingbacks of Ward and Donacien, were soon quashed as the team kicked off.
Soon too was possession as Swansea charged down the ball and ran straight to our goal in ominous fashion. It didn’t take long before they were firing across it. In the 8 or 9 minutes it took for Town to concede, like much of the Hurst the reign the drama and arc of the game swung in frenetic fast forward.
Ipswich looked every bit ill-equipped to deal with a Swansea team so assured and cerebral that seeing them toy with us, felt unsporting. A sort of strafing and flanking bank four, fullbacks were West London in their design and desire to push on past the sitting Carrol who formed a diamond with Celina just off McBurnie’s frame. The Kosovan was every bit a number 10 today.
Pulling off players of both sides, Swansea feinted right, but knew that Pennington was vulnerable and doubled up on him on the left every time. Like a boxer with only one clever combination, they punched down that flank repeatedly after glancing the other way.
The Evertonian’s natural tendencies as a centre back meant he dropped in, and left Town with at least one less man for every attack. With our best two right backs on the left side of defence, it was no surprise to see the supply come from the left, only to spring unluckily off the heel of Donacien. Closing too late, the young winger Roberts cut inside and took a chance where McBurnie had failed in outstretched Gazza ’96 style. The lead was far from unexpected but fortuitous in execution, after the hacking slashes that came before the final blow.
Swansea received fair warning from a Town side that struggled to find its shape and style. Early on Dozzell was more advanced of the midfield and Ward and Edwards were swapping flanks with regularity. He didn’t need them when he slid Sears in, just beyond the central defence but not a late flag. When he did it a second time, Sears looked to set himself on the edge of the box, but the ball came out of the mould too soon and tumbled off a sliding challenge for a corner.
If that wobble was enough to spur one side on, it was us. The Welsh have a weird habit of appealing for everything, that by the end of the game would border on farcical. Every deflection must have hit a Suffolk hand, every line crossed was by their ball. B0llocks all too often more like.
The purring over Potter’s magic and alchemic brand of football might have been louder than a generator at times, but Town cut through the smoke and smashed them like a mirror after only 20 minutes. Sears mugged Naughton who at right back was wrongly too far back and misjudged the ball. Flying forward and in his swishing delivery looked like it might have gone all the way through as Edwards moved towards it in the distance. However, the celebration soon made it clear that the equaliser was down to shared success and the rub of Brylcreem on Freddie’s ball. The returning Welshman had made clearly himself at home at his first club.
The problem with teams and clubs that are seen to be so clever and intelligent is that sometimes their genius can be complimented by them making themselves look stupid. In four minutes, the Jacks sh*t it and had a complete breakdown. Edwards again seizing on territorially blasé fare from the defence. Whipping the ball back across for Sears to flick in to the net under pressure from the towering Dutch captain.
Neither set of fans knew what to do, as Blue shirts embraced at either end. Emotions ran out and shouts upwards as again Town were celebrating a second first half goal away from home in a week. It felt a little bit wrong, a little bit too familiar, like this was a chance for another dirty weekend away in some foreign bolthole.
Much like last week Gerken would parry and punch, and Nsiala would watch wingers fly past everyone to the touchline. Bounding after James like he was a little frisbee and the Congolese a muddied and sodden Golden retriever. All too often though the ball found its way to McBurnie jumping down our throats, or back to Bersant. Both had chances to score and failed to the hit the target.
The former Town loanee gifted us a reprieve with a drive wide of the mark. But to really instil memories of Birmingham just a week ago. Town fans went down to the innards of the away end chewing over the low, last gasp stop of Gerken at the Scotsman’s feet. All alone, with him and the goal, it was the luminous Deano that fortune favoured, as he bravely prostrated himself and frustrated the striker in splendid fashion.
2-1, and Town fans had spent the last ten or so minutes of the half in pensive silence and smattered willingness to dream. There was no talk of winning it beyond mere possibility once again. Town weren’t meant to be here, it all felt so foreign.
The second half saw a change each as Naughton who had undone so much of his own good work going forward, with goal giving lapses at the back was removed for the attacking Asoro. Knudsen took his place at left back, but surprisingly Donacien who also had the misfortune to give away a clean sheet was hauled right across to the bench, not the natural right back spot where Swansea were enjoying so much errr liberty.
Despite the lead, this second defensive adjustment caused ripples of wonder and suggestions Hurst might have hit upon a design for strife. But Town who had so little of the ball and so much defending to do, again had a chance to go further ahead.
Grant Ward who won so much more than just the free kick on the right today, tumbled under a heavy challenge and up stepped Andre. The left foot bent and bounced the ball off the hoarding, just over the bar on its way out. It was all too similar to when Nolan hit one over at St Andrews right after the break.
If Town fans are racked with almost Catholic levels of guilt and doubt at every sign and suggestion of misfortune being divine retribution for their own past sins, then the intercessory pleas that filled the away end were needed, as every Swansea shot, and shimmy was met with blasphemes and profanity amidst the most minor of decisions going against us.
Pouring forward and piling up on us in possession, the Town goalmouth looked like it had been punched several times as white shirts lined up like teeth, sharp and gnashing at a corner which was headed off the bar and in previous weeks would have hit a centre back just hard enough to tee up Celina or McBurnie. Instead Town held fast. Potter shuffled his cards.
Fer came on the central midfielder once of Norwich, (and once so stupid he brought a horse for a girlfriend who lived in an apartment block) to add gristle to the guts of a team who lacked it.
Whilst their coach might change his formation several times during a game, it also changed Ipswich’s. Skuse and Chalobah both had goes at being the mop in the corridor of unglamorous grunt work between midfield and defence. At times we went to a deep flat three with Dozzell joining both, or either. But the youngster got the ball forward regularly and instead of linking up fruitfully with fellow Under 23’s colleagues, he wrong footed what defenders the Swans had left, and facilitated Ward.
Emerging from the shadows in which he had worked so hard in, he lit up the game with a stinging drive just past the post. He would deserve better late on when a run from the right met the ball with the instep of his left and spooned out in far less threatening fashion. But it was a quietly effective play for MOTM from Ward today, whilst others were grabbing deserved attention ahead of him.
Potter then produced his last ace from the bench in the form of one-time rumoured Town target and superfluous attacking midfielder McKay. Curiously though, they took off towering Dutch captain and centre back. Switching to a back three containing two full backs, Potter clearly miscalculated on the runs and tenacity of former Hammer Sears. He just hadn’t pressed the equals button yet.
English hearts had fluttered at the persistent nature of a team well ahead in possession and firepower, but reluctant to do what virtually every other team had done this season and punch through Town, square in the centre. Looking for an equaliser, that was all it took.
Celina of all people ran and ran, before doing what he never did for Town. Scoring a simple and subtle goal. No blast from the explosive run, just a deadly stab into the net to draw his side level. He had been pulling Town all over the place, but no one was able to spring his trip wire runs all game, either because he was too quick, or we were too timid to slam into him often enough.
Swansea had got behind Town so often, when they slid the ball across goal for a third time, and third McBurnie failure to get the easiest of connections and score you sensed they might never get in front of us.
Downes would replace Dozzell, and Town were at least level with the wonderkid giving a good account of himself to rapturous applause. Function over flashy would rule the day. A silly booking for flicking and blocking the ball at a free kick had been picked up by AD,
Chalobah would earn his with a clattering foul not for the first time this season. If the game had seen him produced a more mature use of the ball and his body, the youngster had one of his finest games yet whilst still producing a darker more streetwise moment when needed.
This would prove itself in the denouement of the game. With time running out, so did Town. Swansea looked short at the back, the corner Chambers won by heading off the defender was unorthodox genius. Ward put it in, and unmarked by anyone over 6ft, Chalobah rose to head the ball back across the keeper and into the net for scenes so Shakespearean in their drama and exuberance, they were beyond review.
Arms, feelings and balance all went up and about the place as players crashed the party being had at the front of the stand.
Edwards was withdrawn late on as Town needed fresh legs to pin down a home side who had no idea how they had found themselves here. Sears milked his exit as the 4th official held up the wrong number initially. It still didn’t explain the 5 minutes of stoppages, that went on for six between Jackson entering the pitch and Town exiting victorious.
It was the breaking points that Town so often reached under pressure that won them such a hard-fought victory. As Hurst marched stoically behind his men at full time. His celebrations were extended to little more than a single hand for any player in grasping distance and a few distant glances at the hundreds too busy embracing each, collecting intimacies from and giving plaudits to the players who just looked sick of being beaten today. He had earned every bit, the right to be in amongst that too.
News reached us just before kick-off a family bereavement via text message. At full time, the phone was full of tweets and messages of celebration and disbelief. It’s a funny old game. But that’s why we play them every week, international breaks and the summer aside.
It’s unclear whether Ian Brown might be elbowed aside by Paul Hurst tonight. I couldn’t imagine Town fans would ever bring themselves to hating the man who has taken so long to shine any kind of light of on what he can do.
Today he played Dozzell, he played the players in form and in positions that most of them suited. Today debates might rage and subside with even greater intensity, and quicker than the tides of emotion so invested in following Ipswich. Today town remain steadfast when they could so easily have been buried, here and around the division forming up into contenders and condemned by the game. Today the victory was not just his, but everyone’s and all should savour it. And not even treacle can be this sweet right now.
|Birmingham City v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:25:21|
An unchanged Town started, and arguably finished the game at St. Andrews. In the changed fluorescence of their orange away kit, teetering above the basement of the division and fragile, Hurst opted to keep things the same.
It was a Birmingham side who made a good measure for us right now as they so often do. Similar home kits, similar stadium, similar attendances, expectations and frailties in recent memory in perhaps very different contexts; all meant the second city’s second club, were this week’s hot tip to be the first victims to an Ipswich win under Paul Hurst.
27 minutes and some scares were all it took for things to look eerily like the fixture that kick started his predecessor’s reign at Ipswich. The hosts had the better of the ball and won niggly free kicks and corners perceptively, as well as using them well, to force Gerken into a floored stop after a flap. In the resulting play a long-distance Gardener chip bounced off the post when everyone stopped to watch it break the deadlock.
Had the man in two shades of green just caught the ball initially then all of that could have been avoided. At the other end, Lee Camp was making yet another appearance at yet another ground against Ipswich, and unable to catch the first thing of note we would throw at him.
Pennington had looked every bit the centre back in the early skirmishes. Pinning Maghoma to the line and whilst Jonas was high up the pitch when off the ball, we had Chalobah dropping between Chambers and Nsiala. It was effectively meant to give us three at the back, but the young Evertonian lingered when he should have pressed, and the misshapen lines only severed much of Town’s rhythm and squeezed out a little of Brum’s.
When he did march forward down the line he bypassed Edwards and dropped a perfect ball over the top. Jackson didn’t just dance through the offside trap, he beat it. Nolan who had looked every bit the invisible man in neon again, mounted a cavalry charge in the right channel and met the layoff to perfection. One step, instep, goal. The away end didn’t know what to do with themselves or each other.
It had taken nine barren games, but the midfielder had shown the right belief and right technique to bring about an opener worth the admission fee but maybe not his just yet. The home fans went back to silence, those of us visiting fizzed a little.
Early in the game the ref had ignored the more desperate attempts to win a foul, such as Che Adams’ pathetic dive in the box, when a card was clear. As Maghoma and the game drew on it was clear he and Pennington would again have to keep a beady eye on the wonky winger. Brum don’t exactly have form or finesse when it comes to the dark arts, but Town don’t have any self-restraint either as the free kicks and fifty-fifties piled up in a frenetic and splintery game.
When a Knudsen long throw saw some far side intricacies bear a corner, the half was nearly done but Town weren’t. Ward swept a foot across the stationary ball and it swept across a stationary diorama of defenders. Only one, Pennington leapt forward to drive the ball in for a dizzying second.
Composure where there was none soon after at the other end of the stadium had reaped rewards. The contrast had seen another scrappy corner hooked off the line when an equaliser seemed certain, may have been Knudsen’s best contribution to the match. Blues of both persuasions seemed to look to see if the referee would raise with watch and make a digital pronouncement, but it never came.
There was a long pause between the 45 minute mark and the half time whistle four minutes of injury time had accumulated thanks to two innocuous looking head injuries for the home side and a lapse from Chambers who hobbled his way to the floor after 20 minutes or so. The skipper assaulted in the thrusts of an unclaimed aerial challenge and limped through 2 minutes of tepid tiptap before succumbing to the physio. Had he gone off then, or worse been ruled out for longer the game could changed there and then.
The injuries told more on Birmingham who at half time subbed the head-bandaged Gardner for “Dutch Mike” Kieftenbeld. The man they said can’t control a ball, has similar issues with his temper judging by a stamp on Chalobah deep into the half that saw both flare up.
But after 15 minutes of tentative hope, belief and tactical dissections beneath the belly of the stand, it was Town who started brighter and gutsier. A dancing Edwards had one or two slaloming runs at any defender who dared oppose him on the left. Firing behind or beyond with his crosses, Town failed to capitalise.
But it was again Pennington who put himself all over the game, his cross a better bet. Ward was unfortunate to find for the second time his run and timing excellent, but his finish weak. Chesting the ball down under pressure but stabbing fluffily into Camp’s arms from close range when a third looked likely.
It was also Pennington who had helped show that Nolan clearly had his pecker up as in the opening attacks. Skipping like a one-man Swan Lake into centre stage only to be felled. But Nolan was whipping the free kick from the right side into the right-side-netting.
More picante than #peppery, his hot streak cooled as Birmingham turned it up on us. The boss’ main man, had gone from deft and decisive at times to trying to win everything and getting nothing. Whereas Skuse had remained sensible in pass and tackle, and Chalobah had rouladed and rotated around oncomers to cheers and applause in the first half, it was again Town’s middle that would let the opposition exploit our lack of depth.
Jota from a previously lukewarm Birmingham cut through us like a laser, Jutkiewicz had been denied too many times already. When he found what seemed to be far too much space on the edge of the area, it was inevitable he would not only pull one back, but drag Town’s belief through the floor. Gerken spread himself, but like his colleagues it was too thinly and the shot was despatched easily.
Town’s inability to play a simple ball or do simple things had meant the lead was not indicative of the quality either team had deigned to show. Too often the right tackle or right ball had seen an orange shirt isolated, or an orange limb give away possession and territory. A booking for Pennington had come from this as he laid out the intercepting Maghoma once too often after Chambers and Nsiala had run out of options with the whole field ahead of them.
Nsiala would do this too often and once turned his man well before trying to lay off a ten yard ball to Skuse who was 15 yards away. It was an infuriating set of omens as the runes and sense of victory fell upon the afternoon.
Again, Gerken would pull of the spectacular when the simple who do, but the corner that saw Jutkiewicz nearly double his tally was met with a withdrawn arm as the ball hit the bar and remained a Town possession. The temptation to batter it behind or back into play for once was not conferred upon a crowded box of players.
The same could not be said in the 67th minute. The referee gave the softest of free kicks as all Jonas did was clear the ball. He could not possibly know an attacker would stoop his head in, nor should he care. But when Jota’s whip was parried by Gerken dramatically, farce ensued. More scrambles and clearances only resulted in one thing. You can clear the ball off your line once, maybe twice a game and it be heartening, to do that in one attack is an invitation to concede. So…. we did.
It was the inability to deal with a second ball that castrated Ipswich once again. The high-pitched shriek over the tannoy announcing it, only served to pour salt on the wound and the ground from whence our first victory looked to be coming.
Hurst made no changes until he brought on Sears in the 80th minute. It didn’t change much. His pace and Jackson’s had shown to undo Birmingham but we had not seemed to feel the need to pick at their back door often, even after they had got one back. Shunting into a 4-3-3 that pushed Nolan to LCM, and Chalobah and Skuse in the spaces to his right, whilst Edwards and Jackson took up wider positions.
Running straight at the Blues’ defenders seemed to pay dividends and when we did that it worked. Jackson again beat the offside trap from a deep free kick. Again, the home fans and players seemed utterly at a loss as he hit the line and pivoted. This time it was Sears not Nolan onrushing. This time it was behind his man, not in front that Jackson placed the pass. A golden chance to for a third and three points burnished in the setting sun.
At the restart Town found themselves with yet another familiar dispossession and disposition. Pennington who had brought the kind of sweetness only a Toffee can, left fans gagging as he clearly had had enough of Maghoma’s petulance. Upending him in a throw of one-upmanship, it seemed he was booked not for the foul but his refusal to return to the ref. He shrugged his shoulders and soon so did we. Some applauded him off, some just sat crestfallen.
The last few minutes saw Birmingham paw and push for a lead they neither deserved nor should have had much trouble taking. This was the Ipswich way in a new era. Another red in a game with barely a scratch of violence, a little more than unruliness to it. Town stretched their time in the lead by around 20 minutes or so, and showed that when had belief, we at least had hope.
As prayers go unanswered, and what looked like a chance to make St. Andrews a place of pilgrimage for downtrodden Ipswich fans and managers alike goes begging, where do we turn to now? It was a victory we needed and a draw we got with little artistic merit. Even Pollock could inspire a sense of awe from his freneticism and asymmetrical dots and slashes. Town can barely fill their shirts these days, such are the stickmen we put upon the field.
Another game, another performance as half and half as Chalobah’s hair. Equally baffling as it was eye-catching at times. Ultimately it was not enough to sense that any questions are answered, any partnerships or even bonds strengthened. We can look at the side again and say there’s something in there, but like Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en, do we want to open that box and find out?
|Hull City v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 21:14:39|
A change is as good as a rest. Town have had both now in varying quantities and qualities as the trip to Hull marked a sense of carpe diem amongst the 800 or so almost East of England today. Gerken retaining his spot, the back four the same as the pre-international break. Donacien exiled from the squad as Spence, Pennington, Chambers and Knudsen remained. Downes to the left of Skuse, Edwards to the right, Graham left and Nolan stands, stuck in the middle behind Walters.
Hull were a recognised 4-2-3-1 unlike Town, and their line up was largely own brand over household names. The game started with 3 minutes of turgid kick and huff, until Frazier Campbell found a sense of urgency where no one else around him did.
Town’s neat interlocking passes on the left, picked apart as the experienced striker pounced on Downes’ back and lack of vision to dispossess the midfielder, and spring Town’s backline. Chambers came roaring across to the left, where he was playing in theory at least, and stood him up well. But the lack of shape in the middle allowed left-sided right winger Bowen to hit the bullseye from close range.
The air poured out of the away fans, and the team, after only 4 minutes. What had come from nothing in the build-up, was a look at what we should have won all game.
It wasn’t the first time this season that Town failed to really do much of note until the 40 or so minute mark. Those already huddling at kiosks missed perhaps the most incisive moves of the half. Jonas offered an outlet on the overlap, Graham’s instinct and habit of cutting in saw him raid across the Tigers’ midriff but fail to land a body blow.
Walters let him in on the turn to fire wide earlier in the half, but this contrasted nicely with free kick too far out to shoot and an attempted wedge too far wide, and with too much, to trouble anyone but the incredulous Suffolk contingent tearing at air and hair as one. The opposing outlet of Edwards on the right sporadically cut across a decent ball and saw the hope of attack at the back post thwarted too often.
When Nolan lashed a left footed volley first time in a sub-Scholesian moment of hope, it was only after the crash of the ball into the stand you realised an extra touch might have opened up the goal and sent Marshall before the shot was off, instead of him seeing it wide.
Up until those passages it was a set piece that looked most likely to yield a goal, and for once in the right direction away from Town’s net. Skuse did well to find a header from a deep corner and Nolan flicked the second ball wide when another go might have brought about more, but not today.
Once Hull had the early lead, they treated their fans diluted amongst banks of empty seats to a simple display of playing without fear, rather than fearlessness. The hard running and persistent fouling of Campbell on Pennington frustrated blues fans but allowed all their defending to be done from the front.
Each restart of play saw Tigers tightly mark a man as the offending striker sat off the set piece between centrebacks and Town felt their only option was to try and find Walters’ head or a yard behind Elphick and De Wijes. Whilst the defenders never looked comfortable they barely had to shift their feet to be on an even keel.
Playing as unit through the thirds, Town off the ball were string out high and tight like wires never likely to trip the attacking runs of the home side or see our players explode into action. In much the same way as the first goal, Chambers played a slack ball to Knudsen and again Bowen finished a move that should never gained any trajectory. Our best defenders, were having the worst time defending all game, as was our way of making the former Hereford winger look like a Humberside Nedved today.
If pre-match had seen fans talking about the “first win” they anticipated, at the half way mark they were making many points about how we might or would take just one today. When the second half kicked off, you’d have been forgiven for thinking such expulsions were taking our chances with them somewhere over the North Sea by now.
Where the midfield had been soft in middle and Hull happily teased Skuse and Nolan forward to reply with countering breaks all game, now the Town players had solidified a little. Nolan who looked like a number 8 asked to play as a 10 all game didn’t disappear so easily. It was this renewal that saw Graham with acres of space at the back post. Again, Edwards pressed down the flank like Paul Anderson with glitter in his boots and laid a chance on a plate for his counterpart. A chest too much when a diving header or instinctive volley might have done it, Graham turned his attention to scoring too slowly and the home side didn’t need to milk the moment as they cleared all too easily.
There was a lack of rhythm or guts to Town’s play, the high hopes were not matched by high presses just high balls too often. When Campbell was finally booked after his fifth or sixth final warning the frustration and sarcasm directed at the officials was a stark reminder that too often, us fans are looking at the deficiencies of others outside the club for signs things are not our fault.
When Hurst eventually shuffled his side, Downes who had never really got going bar a scuffed drive from distance wide, was buried in the dugout and Jackson replaced him. Nolan finally took up a position he looked comfortable in, giving the ball and responsibility to others in a way Grant Leadbitter used to, closer to when Walters was here before.
The former Stanley player cut past the home side’s early sub only to be hauled down on halfway as Town looked to broke. A second booking for them, but no second chances for us as the offence was miles away from threatening anyone when play restarted.
If the system Hurst has implemented isn’t broken, why is he meeting the unfamiliar ground of the second tier, with the unfamiliar retreat to the conventionally prehistoric 4-4-2? When we had spent so long paddling furiously only to remain sunken at the bottom of the table, who else might we throw on but Rowe?
It worked in the sense it forced the more direct aspects of Town to be met with greater thought by Hull, but when Graham was spared and Edwards replaced by the returning from injury and U23’s action winger, the confusion was tangible on the lips and brows buried deep in the KCOM’s corner.
Harrison completed the weekly changes of personnel and not fortunes late on, as Hull spent their time shrinking back only to burst forward. Bowen who looked like he might force save after save from Gerken will feel hard done by not to double his haul for the season and the game. Evandro who had glanced a header over from the front post in the first half glanced up long enough to send Jackson away.
The antipodean answer from Adkins that saw our 4-2-3-1 subdued by their 3-5-2 as Oxford went from centre-back playing right back, to right-sided centre back with little discernible difference merely shrugged off Spence as time and the game drew to a close.
Latching on to the Portuguese inventiveness of a simple long ball over the top, he bore down on the charging Deano and dropped the ball and 3points in the onion bag with Town totally overwhelmed and spluttering off of the field.
Even the introduction of pantomime villain Chris Martin was met with shrugs. He hauled his frame off the bench like a man willing to waive this week’s match fees just to have 5 minutes alone with our defence.
Chaos is merely a pattern we are yet to understand, yet we lack any kind of shape or consistency. In a season you could forgive for being streaky we are now a skidmark on the form table so broad and so rancid it has already seen people contemplating a change on the walk out of the ground. Their distrust skittling between Yorkshiremen full of glee and wonder and reverberating in the ears of everyone.
With 2 points between us and anyone else right now it seems there a two points lost on Hurst. If teams resemble their managers, what is our identity exactly? Why are we so open, lacking in ideas, unable to change and adapt in games and where does yet another selection shuffle leave us?
Town fans might fall back into the binary camps of before, but more worryingly with a multiple POTY missing and seemingly at odds with the new regime, enough players in the squad to make more than two teams, a former captain brought in and a current one brought to task as he plays in a team and position unfamiliar to him, if change was so vital and so badly needed; have we seen too much of a good thing too soon?
|Sheffield Wednesday v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 21:25:20|
Another game, another away ground where Town haven’t lost in years, nor won in the weeks that this season has been alive. Two changes to the team with Skuse missing out through injury, Ward through the judgement of Hurst. Bart had the same back four of Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers and Knudsen who had done so well at Derby but conceded twice. Nolan was partnered by the returning Edun with Edwards on the right, Harrison moved to the left-hand side and Jackson became the focal point in attack of the 4-1-4-1 that sometimes convulsed into 4-2-3-1.
It was a first look at Town without Skuse and with Jackson up front in the league. Iridescent in orange, the away side glowed rather than caught light as the kick off saw us move the ball from left to right in neat passes and back to Donacien who sent a rising swerver of a shot just over the bar.
There was hope in the gentle slope of Leppings Lane amongst the travelling Town fans, that things might run our way today. In good voice and good spirits, the home fans were a multitude of nerves and faltering belief in comparison. You could see it on their faces and their players.
Wednesday played a high line of Nuhui in the middle and Matias down the right, Joao on the left. The wide men changing side and which man marked them out of the game in open play frequently. Town meanwhile were comparatively loose in the middle, the free running of Edun and determination of Nolan to keep possession pushed and pulled us out position more than the deep V that Pelupessy operated from the base of. The usually impressive Reach lacked any, he is now shunted centrally but worked in short bursts well enough, Bannan caught the eye, the ankle and sometimes the ball as he tried to make things happen for 90 minutes.
It was a battle where a little attrition or attractive football would count for a lot. Town were pleasing in parts, but once more not all of them were moving in relation to one another. Harrison was again working hard in his new role, but the striker showed unfamiliarity as his killer instinct in the wrong place meant that he scythed down Palmer. The full back fell theatrically, but the challenge was unfair and a yellow not unexpectedly due.
From the set piece Town were vulnerable as you’d expect, but able to turn the ball away. Harrison atoning for his foul with a saving shut out in mid-air. Pelupessy hit the kind of inswinger towards the near post we excelled at last season but no one could ram it home. From the other side Bannan had a go, and his left footed version was inferior, but so was the marking from Chalobah as Joao headed home in disbelief at the back post.
Heads fell, so did mouths, as did the sense that Town’s youngsters were learning. We’ve seen it too often already for it to be mere coincidence or misfortune.
Town did it again as, all the Owls needed was to swoop down on the set pieces we were giving away. Nuhui fell down softly under the shadow of a defender. The ripples of 17 stones of sh1t hitting the deck clearly moved the lino as his flag went up. Bannan put the free kick in and the home sides young centre back won his most convincing header of the game. Again, lost by his marker and unchallenged he sent it diving the wrong side of the back post.
Had Sheffield doubled their lead and our misery it would have been a harsh lesson. But one we must learn.
Wednesday had their own young stars coming into the side and into the second tier. You could see the pride and hope in them from the supporters with every attack they repelled. However, a scramble ensued from good build up by Town. Knudsen drove forward on the overlap, Dawson the keeper somehow spilled and the scramble away was deserved more from the orange shirts who close, but not close enough to capitalising.
The half came to a dizzying, fizzing end with Town looking up on ideas in the open field, but a lack of cut and thrust at close quarters once again. When the equaliser came it was down to one man. Luke Chambers. A few of our corners had gone long, and one in particular saw Nsiala head way wide. Another low across the ground was lucky to see us re-win a set-piece in the confusion it caused both sides.
However, the one that counted went to the back of the box, dropped nearly out before the captain was fantastic in keeping it in. Reversed out to Edwards on the left (where he was telling more effective) the cross deflected and redirected back to Nsiala off the heads of Edun and maybe Chambers himself. His partner was the one who finished with a cushioned header and the adoration of every Suffolk heart in the county.
Yorkshiremen are notoriously blunt. Their protests of offside cut no ice with compatriot Hurt or the ref. Both teams had their moments and intention to counter attack with pace, and when Wednesday had a go at it, they were shut out masterfully in the bottom right hand corner of the pitch. Incensed at losing his ball, Bannan lost his head and he now scythed in from behind. Bizarrely his reaction was what earned him a yellow card, not a challenge that may well come to be seen as a certain red. As the little man did his best impression of someone too drunk to know he was on little else but the pavement and the bouncers’ nerves, his friends should have ushered him away from the scene to save his face.
Town had various shouts at taking the lead, and maybe deserved to by the narrowest of margins in the balance of play. A double block off the line from another harum-scarum move that saw the home side deny Town was probably our best chance, beyond forcing Dawson into numerous scrambled saves and blocks, they also lost a man to injury when his header off the line saw him collide with the post. At one point this left the Owls with nine men on the field due to their own injuries.
At half time common sense and consensus suggested Town could be content to be in contention. Some sloppiness and some stiffness might have cost either side the lead, and the referee was having nothing to do but run the game he saw, not the one tens of thousands were watching. Communications via enemy texts suggested Wednesday were booing him for our goal, as they felt Nsiala was offside, this was physically impossible, but regardless maybe they meant Harrison who was in the area at the time, and we’ll say no more about why that might have been.
The second half started with early Town pressure similar to the first half. It was enough to move Wednesday but not leave breathless. Harrison had time in the area to drift centrally and lay down an overhead kick that looked far better than the easy save it forced. But the showmanship was appreciated by the away end.
It was clear he was neither the left winger, or answer to the left wing spot, but when Jackson sped across the 18 yard line from flank to flank, it allowed space for the attackers to be flexible and force errors in and behind defenders not sure who to pick up or put on their bums.
In roughly the same place as Town’s effort cleared off the line, the lively Bannan picked up the ball and drove a shot in through the crowd. Jonas, ever the dependable Dane punted it off the line and away. But you never really felt threats were going to come without Town’s invitation. Bart threw low and short to Edun as everyone else parted for the expected kick wide. It caused palpitations in the shape of both sides momentarily and few Town fans to clutch their anatomy in relief. The youngster who had moved far better all game with the ball than his counterpart Chalobah, didn’t quite have the range of passing or stamina to manage 90 minutes at his optimal levels.
Chambers however, did show us how it was done, when he picked out Knudsen with a deft low ball that cut out everyone else and prompted a good Town clear out into the hosts’ box. Town again went forward quickly and spread themselves and the play a bit too thinly. There was a deja view of not enough men awaiting crosses, and too many weighing down the crosser as we broke our own moments to punish the opposition again.
Jonas was booked for stopping a breakaway Joao on halfway in a way that Derby had showed us how to do in midweek, but there seemed to be little else we had learned from recent tussles with them and other playoff contenders Villa. The game would soon turn in a manner that took a little from both and a lot from Town.
In the middle of our half fresh substitute Forestieri lay writhing and screaming foul play in a heap, clutching so much of himself his very soul must have ached and trembled.
Nsiala was dancing a fit of rage and disbelief. Luke Chambers beating his chest and glances down on a referee just putting away his red card. The Congolese defender had headed for the tunnel as early as he had won the ball, cutting out a pass to the Italian who was nowhere near it, but at the centre of everything. A second later, the striker went over the top our fortitudinous defender like the man you’d most want in medieval siege.
So clear was the delay between Toto winning the ball and Town losing their man, there was as much disbelief in the stands as there was from the players. If you put our men through the attitude test, you can tell their sense of aggrievement was as genuine as the challenge itself.
Hurst shuffled and sent Chalobah to centre back and spread us into a more compact 4-3-2. It mattered little as again Wednesday had all they needed to hurt us. A set piece, and a Town defence who would give them two attempts to restore their lead. Who else but Joao would nod against the post and then put the rebound in unchallenged?
With Downes soon on for the tired and tested Edun, what more fitting name could Hurst choose from his bench? The youngster played well, so did Town all things considered, but the arterial leaks that let play flow just often and thickly enough beyond us meant the game was all but lost with 20 minutes to go.
A bigger concern than another 2 goals conceded, another 2 set pieces undefended, is a second game where Harrison has been clean through. Less than ten yards out his run and movement was as sensational as the ball over the top to him, but he wanted more touches than a teenager and showed the fumbling shot shyness as had all the goal to shoot at, and all the time in the world before being shooed away with a dismissive hiss.
The striker was unlucky to take a heavy knock as the game wore down and so did Wednesday upon us. Bannan was luck not to see red again, having missed man and ball and assaulting fresh air, several metric tons of it was expelled from the Ipswich fans incensed to see no card at all when one of either colour would have restored the balance of personnel, if not the injustice of the competition and its officiating.
Sears came on with little time and little chance of changing what was a race long run.
Our own attempts to throw Chambers forward won us territory and few aerial duels but left us woefully short on numbers elsewhere. Nolan turned and twisted but could not lay off a simple killer ball when it counted. Jackson, found again that all his speed was useless once a team sat back on their heels and bolted the door with a deep line and nowhere to run in behind.
When the whistle came so did the boos and abuse for a referee who had made his mind up without clear thought. The sense that surely that card will be overturned was a recurring theme for Town fans. Those on Radio Sheffield from the other side of the ground ranged from unsure to the certainty of bias and little else. You’d hope that a panel will be honest enough to see the mistake was not ours.
This is a young side in nature and years, and you can talk about potential and the energy that they bring but often in cold scientific terms, potential energy is in relation to a drop and how fast and hard that which is falling smashes into the floor.
With eight days ahead of us, two more potentially missing and six winless games behind us the derby looks to be of even greater significance. If two long term records of being unbeaten in a fixture can fall in quick succession under Hurst, why not a third?
|Derby County v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 01:02:48|
Only a club like Derby could play at place still known to most of us as Pride Park. Yet for all of their expensive falls just short of promotion “two midtable teams” and “two lucky goals” was the verdict of one home fan as we left the place. Leaving his hands unsnapped and intact at the offering of that midtable finish aside, there were 700 or so Ipswich fans pledging their allegiance until “[they] die” at full time. Defeat hung in the air, a humidity atop of the defiance yet again.
There was little change from Hurst. Bart and the same back four of Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers and Knudsen. Skuse and Chalobah sometimes the point and centre of diamond with Edwards and Ward at the edges, Nolan ahead in the shadow of Harrison. What looked in passages of play flat and 4-4-1-1 was also a 4-1-3-1-1 that defies convention in the written and visual sense.
Derby were all Frank Lampard. Evident experience and the questionable or untested ran through their lineup, and after 3 minutes or so, ours as well. A first shot from the creativity of Lawrence, off balance and off target, warned and reminded us of past times.
When Grant Ward finally tested Carson’s hands with a drop inside and shot at goal 39 minutes had passed slower than our midfield had been. Derby had seen defensive midfielder George Evans substituted, and his replacement Joe Ledley come into the game. At the start of the half it had looked like Nolan might not finish it, limping from a heavy knock before running it off. Those differences changed and dictated how the midfield was won or lost all night.
Ipswich had the better of the opening exchanges after roughly 10 minutes. Harrison ran down the youthful right back Bogle and put him on his ass. His head went right after his balance, and for a long time the potential was there for Ward or Knudsen to get past him. Sometimes they did, sometimes they found Nolan or Skuse to break forward. Rarely did any of them find a way to breakthrough.
Both teams liked to play out from the back, but the Ipswich old boy Keogh had space and cover to move the ball easily, as the impressive Chelsea defender Tomori did all the hard work. Often, he and Harrison tried to swap shirts but gave each other little.
Edwards was a spectator behind the rolling roadblock of Craigs. Forsyth and Bryson and pushing him out or inside of where the ball needed to go to really hurt the home side.
When our wingers did swap it was Ward who earnt a free kick and yellow out of the left back. However, both were soon back where they started as was the ball placed down where the foul occurred around the halfway line.
The Ipswich/Chelsea connections that traversed the lineups and fixture combined nicely when Trevoh slowly turned his L plates to his team mates, and was so busy looking at Bart, he slipped in his London colleague Mason Mount for an easy run and poor shot at goal in a dangerous area. It seemed at times neither side could finish, with Nugent of all people watching shots that might have been crosses fizz ahead of him like the game seemed to be doing as he is reaching his dotage.
Whilst Town struggled to get out of their half too often, or the ball to the feet of runners like Edwards. Some neat switch passes and interplay did set us away. When Derby were caught high, it was the slowest man on the field Keogh who was quick to haul Harrison down; before he could cross the Rubicon of halfway again and launch an assault on an isolated Carson. The booking was obvious, but so was the sense that our best chance to counter a pillow-punching Derby had gone too.
The ref had had an excellent 45 minutes, even if neither side had. Derby looked much worse than in previous encounters, but in no real danger. Town’s corners and cross field balls had improved tonight, but when the second ball did, we didn’t seem to believe in second chances. Chalobah’s first floater from outside the box was a very different proposition to one we’d see after the break.
You sensed that the phenomenal record Ipswich had in this fixture stretched back so far, and passed so many managers for either side, that in the crease of the annals where Arturo Lupoli sat, little stirred in the way of omens tonight. Those superstitious amongst us could find nothing in half time tealeaves to suggest how and why things might really change, stale was the game Mate.
It’s hard to know what Hurst read into the opening 45 minutes. But the teams weren’t out long when the yellow card was too. Skuse late to Ledley. The Welshman turned his back expertly to win the foul and shield the ball. The caution was all in the Town midfielder’s challenge and the awarding of the card an afterthought.
The number 8 who had been up and down a lot tonight in a good way, was soon replaced by Flynn Downes. Whether this was protection from a second-second yellow in sequential games, the effects of playing with ten men on Saturday or whether Hurst just reads the data from those little sports bras all game and lets the lingerie decide, who’s to say? But that was Cole’s final word and deed pretty much.
Possession seemed to be mostly with Derby, but Town’s backline seemed more than resilient tonight. It was still hard to pinpoint a shot or pass from the Rams, that really cracked too many chinks of light on where the break would come. That was until again a ball to the back post proved our undoing.
A player from each side jumped, the ball went behind, the linesman flagged for a goalkick. The referee with an inferior view, but superior position gave a corner. Town’s travelling hundreds sounded like thousands in their disapproval. Toto headed the set piece away bravely, but it was the second ball that slapped us in the face and left us with a sense of shame, injustice and regret. Ledley’s thunderous finishing shot towards goal, might have been deflected, but it was not to be stopped. 1-0. Sh1t.
Town’s second substitution would have a similar effect. Predictably Harrison who had ran and jumped all game across the defence and goal he was attacking whilst never getting near enough to testing either, was off. Jackson was on.
Nolan who had sat back a little by now, moved up with the wingers and let Derby know that there was pace and potential in the attack if nothing else. At the other end, one of the many former Blues in the opposition squad would decide the game. Many times did we see Tom Lawrence press the equivalent of the real life sprint button on Fifa, and then win a free kick or the right to shoot. He did all of those here. A soft free kick on the angle from 20 yards.
Bart knew as we all did what might be coming. The quiff bounced, the ball did too, off the wall, off Bart’s hand into the corner for 2-0. Sh1t and fiddlesticks. The air rushed out of us quicker than the wall could, and Town were deflated. You could feel (and in the case of someone nearby, smell) it.
It was again hard to see where a Town goal might come from. Was it Edwards on the right, Ward on the left, Chalobah from deep or Jackson in the middle, maybe Nolan getting on the end of it from a run into the box? None of those things happened in synchronicity. Town screwed crosses low and high in front of crowds but never picked out the decisive runner or rider of challenges to finish.
Swapping Edwards for Roberts a few minutes from time merely swapped Ward’s wing to run down again. The sub on the left, and the right side of fans wanting to see Blue shirts run at defenders with the ball.
Before that former Bee Jozefzoon flew onto the field and offered a real contrast in spending, depth and expectations. He gave Knudsen and company a torrid time, but never found later sub Marriott or anyone else to add a third.
Neither side really found a shot or favourable touch to put the keepers in trouble. And as the final whistle came so did the sense that another win here, or a first for Hurst would have to wait. It was the anniversary of Peterborough 7-1 Ipswich the other day. It sits right in the middle of the unbeaten run that was just halted. Such is the scope of such meaningless records over progress. However, the immediate showings from the new Boss leave a darkness on the edge of winless Town. Still yet to overshadow the positivity that poured at full time.
The subs remain the same, the approach, the lack of finishing, the gameplan overall does too. But the defence looks stronger, the challenge of the movement off the ball and clinical nature of the opposition greater, and yet we dealt with it. Somewhere amongst those variables and individual improvements of players like Ward and Donacien you sense that three points will come at once, but not on nights like this.
Odin gave his eye in Norse mythology to have greater insight, greater power and greater knowledge of the chaos that lay ahead in his story. It’s hard to believe being one-eyed in the real world helps us right now. Better Derby teams have lost to all kinds of Ipswich teams before, what matters is remembering how we refined that winning way.
|Rotherham United v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:15:05|
Down at the New York stadium they want to be a part of it, and Rotherham’s return to the Championship has been somewhat contrary to Paul Hurst’s return to Rotherham. The Blues boss a legend in his own right in these parts, came to the sun-drenched Costa del Yorkshire whilst it had the dark clouds of grief hanging over it. Syd Moore a former chairman, and Barry Elliott a former Chuckle brother and beloved Miller had their passing marked to minutes of applause from both sets of fans. It didn’t set the tone for the afternoon.
Ipswich having made changes all summer, and all week made more to the line-up which began at Portman Rd last Saturday. Bart had new boy Nsiala, with not so new Donacien to his right, Chambers and Knudsen the left side of defence. Midfield was singular Chalobah and a flat four of Edwards out wide, Skuse, Nolan and Ward on the left. Harrison was again the lone striker.
Skuse began proceedings and Town moved the ball forward well, a long splitting pass from Chalobah launched an open flurry which soon saw the hosts countering. Nsiala having to chase down the ball with the massive lone striker, (and a player the Oystons allowed to leave Blackpool) Vassell breathing on him. It was a passage of play which summed up the whole game but not the first half.
To say Town looked like the home side, takes nothing away from Rotherham. Our 4-1-4-1 was matched up by their 4-4-1-1, off of Vassell stood #24 Smith between Chambers, Chalobah and Knudsen as rare play forward from the Reds, was reduced to long throws all too often, or hail Mary crosses to put us on the backfoot and unsettle the aerial aspect of Town’s defence.
Ipswich had a lot of the ball but not a lot of chances to strike at goal. While there was the odd slip by each defender before half time, at the other end Edwards, Nolan and Ward just couldn’t slip in the right ball at the right moment to find Harrison or someone making the run behind him.
Town poured down the flanks and switched play wonderfully thanks to Chalobah’s Hoddle like swagger on the raking passes, but all too often there was a blue vacuum in the middle, and a red brick wall.
Edwards was the real magician again and found himself again able to run at and past Mattock, Vaulks and sometimes in at Wood frequently. But the shots were not forthcoming and the set pieces we had saw Ward float questioning balls above everybody’s heads apart from Ajayi.
Town were much better in the middle with Nolan next to Skuse and the no.8 able to support and supply Hurst’s new arrival thanks to the much calmer demeanour of the holding loanee behind them. Something had been said between the Chelsea lad’s 1st and 2nd professional debut, because the mistakes were less frequent and the confidence hugely improved.
We had fun a long way from the goal we were attacking, and not just the sporadic chanting of well over a thousand fans in the stands. Ward overlapped initially, but once he found the confidence to cut in, he was more incisive. Earning a free kick inside their half towards the end of the first 45, with a run that promised more, eventually.
A lot of the good play Town made, came from the persistence to keep possession and work the channels. Nolan is our midfield Ginja, conspicuous in appearance but he would frequently disappear from view only to spring out on the opposition from their shadows’, demanding the ball and a runner to play it to. He will be a fan favourite, as much as one of Hurst’s if he can bring that element to his game every week.
Where Rotherham kicked for touch rather than taking one, Knudsen benefitted from a young full back and lower league winger facing him when Ward cut inside. Only once did he and Skuse miscalculate who was claiming a bouncing ball and Chambers darted back into the box to see off Taylor and his colleagues.
The skipper was assured for most of the game, while the man next to him looks like the defender we’ve been after. Nsiala is built like a fridge, or at least a man who clears them out regularly. But he is more than just a lump, he can play a bit. If Rotherham stuck Vassell on him rather than Chambers, to exploit his greenness or opening day nerves at this level, it didn’t work very well.
Only once did Bart fail to call a loose ball and the Congolese-Scouse get himself in a muddle, his broad shoulders shrugging off the danger with a turn that put him back in the game. However, generally speaking he found Chalobah, Donacien and Chambers as outlets as Town notably built from the back in triangles which were neat enough without fitting together perfectly.
The quality of our forward moves, and length of passes depended on who could overload the full backs or the empty channels between a dense defensive shape. Edwards, again flicked over his man from deep and ran on to the ball in the second half. Habitually opting to use geometry rather than artillery to find Harrison and later Jackson.
When he did slip in low passes, they were not always to feet and met Rodak’s hands all too easily. Town did however, try and draw in the home side and pop the ball in behind the defence. Nolan seems to weight his passes fantastically with backspin, but when he let Ward and Knudsen go late in the game, their left feet either found a defensive head or foot.
With so much different about Town, the lack of clear-cut chances and ultimately goals meant a week of fans totting up balance sheets, came to nothing. Corners went unmet by attacking headers or fell foul of a referee always going to punish a melee by pointing back towards the centre spot.
What did tell after half time was the first long ball forward, saw Donacien stand his ground and give away a free kick. He couldn’t believe it, and neither could Rotherham as they grew into the game. It’s been 2 games, 2 positions and 2 divisions to jump for the right-back and that decision seemed to knock him back down the pyramid a little too much again.
Bart had his hand stung with a low shot which seemed to be their first real test of him. But that took them 15 or 20 minutes of forcing errors from across the backline.
Chambers was let off when he misjudged the flight of clearance and it bounced over him, Donacien who had looked unsure of his options when there was no space to run at, or he had given too much for Newell and later Williams to run at, meant the game was always in the balance of first goal wins.
When it came in the death, from an innocuous free kick on the byline, it was not a surprise. Smith, like Danny Graham last week, rifled home past Bart, as our defenders let a free kick sail to the back post without customary checks. Neither runners or jumpers were needed as the lead was taken decisively.
Up until then Town had looked great, but not likely to score. Edwards takes a decent free kick and forced a good but not outstanding save. Edun meanwhile swung one in from a similar place to his equaliser last week, that went nowhere near goal or potential goal scorer.
Hurst opted to use all three substitutions to try and change the game. Roberts for Edwards, saw us condense our shape and play. His role as winger seemed to push him up top, and squeeze ourselves into a rough diamond in midfield. Edun drifted in as he sent away runners who often had 3 or 4 opponents closing them out on either flank.
We first saw Jackson first after Harrison again ran himself up, down and across the defence all game, but rarely beyond them. The former Gas’ second best moment came when he floated a header back across goal to Skuse who saw it rising above him and he couldn’t steer it past the keeper. In the first half he plucked a ball out of the ether and ran in on goal, but didn’t get a shot off, walking the ball into waiting cupped hands as Town fans spluttered.
Jackson’s speed was evident, but with deep back line and little space he rarely got a chance to fire anything off. His best effort was a lay off to Nolan, as Rotherham held on.
Before their winner, substitute Roberts was played in perfectly from the now advancing Chalobah. Mattock’s handprints were all over the winger as he pulled him to ground from behind, the referee looked to the linesman, the linesman bottled it. To add insult to injury Roberts was fouled in the next tussle by the sideline and the linesman froze again. Rarely have fouls been so obvious, and the reaction from Roberts made it clear how easy the decisions were.
Town probably didn’t deserve to win, to point to a decision not given isn’t good enough and neither were we. However, Rotherham showed we were far from untouchable with simple football, and simple ideas. They are a team so ill-equipped for this division, they bring a footballing knife to gunfight that is second tier football. To be stabbed in the heart as late on as we were was a cruel lesson amongst many we will have to learn after this week.
We’ve taken 1 point from 6 against two team looking to prove they are Championship quality. It’s clear the improvements need to be quick and Hurst has to mould a team out of the 9 he has brought in to do the same. We have time, we have potential, we have games coming thick and fast in which to make what looked a side more stable, but lacking physical strength and unity.
What’s in a game where we lack goals and set piece delivery? That is a £5m question and rising.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 23:01:37|
There is no greater sight than Portman Rd in the sun. Above the whole North Stand a great man’s words asking “What is a club?” In the 9 years and a few days since his passing, covering the majority of Marcus Evans’ time here, what better rhetoric could there be? I thought the whole ground, but the North especially were magnificent as Paul Hurst’s team, (and then the man himself) were roared onto the pitch in a moment better captured by our own Constable than the likes of Lowry, such was its beauty and quintessential Suffolkness, whilst the first whistle was yet to be blown and the canvas remained blank.
What looked on paper and turf, like our biggest goal threat not in the squad, seven defensive players and Sears out wide, with a lone striker and a single central midfielder was received as you’d expect in #ANewEra. That opening four minutes before the goal was one long crescendo. Jonas second guessed the overlap as Sears cut inside on the left and unleashed a cross we’ve rarely seen from him to punish Rovers. Mogga will be furious with the fact that it was Edwards of all people, popping up at the back post to nod home a looping header as easily and unexpected and avoidable as that.
Blackburn are every bit Mowbray in form and function. I mean no offence when I say they are gritty, hardworking, and brimming with quiet determination that we know all too well will bring them success. Happy to take a yellow when necessary, I thought there was a telling difference between them as a settled team of league 1 players who had already proved their right to be in the Championship compared to many of our team. We can point to the Blades and Millwall as teams “used to winning” and having fabled momentum, but with things so often unsettled this early on, they continued that trend.
It was Chalobah who drew two of those yellows and he was the Ipswich player that was in the middle of everything. You don’t dye half your hair gold if you don’t want to get noticed and he spent 90 minutes wanting the ball, or wanting to do something with it. He’s a Rolls Royce of a player, but he’s still got the L plates on and sometimes had the hazards flashing too as he stalled and cruised through play.
Frustrated with his colleagues movement and vision, too often his passes missed their mark and his priority of keeping the ball meant he was turning back to Bart as the game went on. It was hard to know what Hurst will make of/from this.
Having Skuse next to him and Chambers behind him should talk Trev through games enough to harness that potential, but around them were a lot of raw players. Hardly surprising that as we sizzled in BBQ weather our team looked undercooked throughout when Blackburn made any great attempts to consume us.
The informal 4-2-3-1 was fragile when they countered our pressing. Teams will note how Town were too easily reduced to playing as 2’s, 3’s and sometimes individuals all game. Harrison started really brightly but there was no way he could bear down on their back five all afternoon like he was. And with Edwards marked out as a goal threat it was disappointing how easily we folded in the middle and let our biggest threats stay isolated. Blackburn were wily enough to recognise these soft spots and exploit them for both goals.
I don’t think it was a foul when the livewire Harrison went down in the box, it looked like the defender got the ball first. But the counter that led to a soft free kick sparked off another round of questions. Chalobah seemed to let his man drift at the back post. Two glances headers saw a double claw away from goal by Bart, but the highly rated and now highly paid keeper had no chance as Donacien looked out of place to deflect the ball down for Graham to smack home gratefully.
Spence took several lumps, and while it might be easy to pick up on the continuation of his suspect positioning I did wonder how he felt playing RB, with the man Hurst had openly called a RB in the press just a couple of days ago. If Jordan was looking over his shoulder all game, he might have been seeing double by the time Blackburn doubled the lead.
Honesty and openness off the pitch, might have been evident in filtering down on it. Overloading us and then a brilliant overlap down our right by the visitors meant Donacien was stranded, Chambers looked slow to close the massive gap and Chalobah too far away as Dack slipped an easy tap in and Rovers in front.
It was a galling and gutting moment. Downes seemed too often to be a single central midfielder, too far away from Harrison, too close to Skuse to really make the most of the space he was clearly told to press. He did so quickly and aggressively, but there was a large swathe of the game where Town were second best on and off the ball.
The forced change of Woolfenden meant perhaps we were closer to the team many expected and again reduced the already thin level of experience we had on and around the pitch at this level. But one of the biggest positives was how keen we seemed to learn.
Graham gave young Luke an education from the first tussle and although he ended the game limping and crumpled in the centre circle as others covered for him, he and the team as a whole grew into the occasion. He and we will learn from that.
Hurst might have got it wrong with his selection, he might simply have been outdone by an older, wiser adversary too, but his use of subs were clear and you got the feeling his instructions were too. Fulham fans were raving about Tayo Edun and immediately he came on and once Freddie got in the middle and he took up the left wing slot the drive forward and intent was revitalising. It might be negative to see the most potential in other higher-placed teams’ youth based on today, but it’s also logical.
Edwards who opened the scoring, spent the last 15 minutes or so getting free and opening up Blackburn. Mogga could have thought they had done enough as he swapped out former loanee Samuel, Dack and Graham. The best of their attacking threat and looked to shore up a lead and team fairly in control all game. It wasn’t an undeserved lead celebrated by a loud away end whose extra consonants and elongated vowels seemed to be distorted in their chanting of what sounded like “yellas” and they were correct to bring a bit of Northern soul with their renditions of being “onto something good” until our Welsh winger got going again.
Morris did really well to skip down the line and cut in with a fine effort, thanks to Gwion taking a halving from a strong tackle and watching from the turf as the youngster carried on to goal. Edwards also put in a great run, flick and a Ronaldo-lite chop to turn his man, where all game there had been two or three before firing a shot at the keeper. The best game with the injury time equaliser.
I don’t think Edwards expected Jonas to slam the ball the at him rather than to him. It’d been a feature of Town’s passing deficiencies all game, but with most of both sides expecting a floater, the Dane drilled one the other way. It came back to Edun from the good work of Edwards and what was surely a cross, nailed on the point as Mogga met disappointment for a second time surely. Bouncing and skipping into the goal as Town fans did the same out of all four stands moments later.
There were moments where Town could have got more, and probably didn’t deserve too. A cross overhit, or stifled as Skuse looked to head home. Shots fired at either keeper forced fairly comfortable saves, whilst Harrison got free rarely, he was played by the defence but advantage wasn’t on a couple of occasions. Blackburn were also denied by a comedic scramble on the line and they too went clean through when Chambers made an even cleaner challenge. It was the linesman who made a bad call, and the captain overheated in his reaction. Another day and Town might have been reduced to ten, not just from that moment, nor Chalobah‘s naive tackling or Woolfenden’s injury.
The Lancastrians that supplemented 18 thousand Blues with maybe a thousand of their own might well feel gutted to be denied at the end by such a freak goal. However, Town for once epitomised making their own luck in a good way. It was a bullet to the gut from little, but as any victory bled out the afternoon the vast majority inside Portman Rd who started the afternoon happy must end it that way too.
With a potential new defence and recognised central threat behind Harrison likely to join before Rotherham, it’s going to be a fun game next weekend at least of spot the difference(s). It might have been a dream start that was quickly cut short for Hurst and Doig, but there was enough to be happy about in amongst the concerns and quandaries that August will be long enough to get us moving and able to plot the course of this new team, so we can see just how much has changed within and not just cosmetically.
It was fun.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 20:46:26|
A game borne by the river, and a little intent. Town came to Nottingham once again with nothing to play for, but the sheer thrill of being alive. Clouds and gloom of the week had lifted as spring had finally sprung in the sunny environs of Forest.
Klug and his team named a largely unchanged side to Mick’s final game against Barnsley where possible and obvious, but some clear tweaks were necessary and welcomed by those who saw them. Ahead of Bart the official tweet suggested Grant Ward was at wingback, and he sort of was, in a move that head he Klug’s Tottenham days all over it I suspect. Kenlock his opposite, and Spence, CCV and Knudsen had Skuse and Hyam as a barrier. Waghorn and Morris were the attack.
There was little in the way of definition to the shape of the side, even if it wasn’t quite bare bones stuff. A nominal 3-4-3 that played at a flatter 3-5-2, all thanks to the way in which Forest tilted possession and territory, often split strikers and compacted central midfield and defence.
Jack Colback somehow looks younger these day, perhaps the air is thinner in the North East. But he reached no great heights as the most obvious sitter behind a bank of midfielders that all shuffled and cajoled behind youth product Brereton. Kicking and snarling like a player who’s stood still then gone backwards, in every sense since the promise of his Town days.
It was all headers and volleys and a case of who really cared in the opening salvos, all until Forest who had not scored in half a dozen games were gifted an opening chance through their eventual ad questionable MOTM Osborn. The young left-sided player mugged Ward who cushioned a dropping ball perfectly, but then lacked the requisite awareness as his opposition jinked clear, forcing Bart into the first of many all too comfortable saves.
Whilst on the left side a vivacious man of the match turn from Myles Kenlock had the added security of Knudsen and Nydam to protect and parry his play, you could see as the game went on; Spence was just as keen to maraud forward overlapping rather than underpinning the winger who also had defensive duties on the right today.
Forest would then hit the post from a Watson header. The other ‘midfielder rouquin’ was a close shave away from breaking the deadlock. The initial corner had been won by Brereton being allowed time to run and shoot and Bart to firmly push it away.
You could hear the rustling amongst the 25k crowd as they sensed that another game would leave Forest seeing the woodwork deny them the three points. Watson would find himself free for another corner only to sky his volley wayward in a period where Town’s play wasn’t so much against every run of theirs, but just chipping away at the home side’s shape and belief.
Pantilimon showed for a big keeper he disliked balls lofted across him. Ward when he got forward, had more success than bending play down the line to the isolated Waghorn. A frustration who needed to cut inside all too often. Making space behind the fullbacks, rather than tangling with Spence by trying to angle a direct run proved more useful. It was however from the left that Town got more joy.
Skuse and Hyam were solid enough, but Nydam was more mobile.
Morris did well to win the ball at times given how lightweight he seemed, but a lack of muscle on that side lent itself to guile. A cute chop dropped for Waghorn, but had a touch too much on it and the keeper gather easily. It would require a spectacular own goal from the covering defender to break the deficit then.
It was Nydam as the support act for Kenlock that saw Darikwa most uneasy. The athletic right back wasn’t so good with his use of the ball, so their interplay saw Nydam chopped down to no decision made in telling foreshadowing.
A quick throw by Knudsen would find Waghorn who worked on the periphery of the box, the usual midfield faces allowed the ball to fall to Kenlock who sent over a swift cross into a crowded box. Somehow Ward met the questions being asked of everyone with a nonchalant touch that beat its way into the back of the net. It was 38 minutes in the making, but no one knew too much about it.
The Town fans went wild, almost in disbelief and mockery of the sorry looking home faces. Those who had earlier celebrated Mick McCarthy ‘being on the dole’ were drowned, when it might have been more musical to have them frozen out by a change of songsheet. More and more blue and white and Ipswich filled the air. Thank Klug.
It was a half that looked likely to be defined by what didn’t happen more than what did all until the goal came. Town were not bad, Forest were not good. The game landed squarely in the middle at any given moment.
No changes for Bryan after the break. He remained seated, as Nash stood prowling the technical area. All gestures and instructions. It’s been many years since I stood next to him doing that on Southwold common, the distance I was sat from him only emphasised how far he’s come and the club as a whole.
Ipswich started brightly, and Ward again brought the ball down with finesse and found the byline. But what really buoyed the travelling fans, keen to see something different came from a short Waghorn freekick. Dinked to the near post, the defence almost didn’t feel the need to pick Hyam. Their dereliction or arrogance nearly cost them as the youth product bore down on goal, then slid a shot the wrong side of the far post.
The reds were left suitably close to embarrassment as they gathered themselves and looked to restore some balance. As the hour approached it was obvious that some of the younger faces in the line up would lack the experience and endurance for a hot day under the glare of the Championship sun. Morris who had toiled but not really earnt his place in the memory made way for Carayol.
The youngster made one last grab for the grey matter with an intelligent switched pass on the halfway line. Setting away Nydam who was too green too know the four reds closing in around him could have a foul bought from any of them. A slimline Tomlin just pushed him off the ball and retrieved the momentum.
The substitute who ran onto the pitch, still stood at the end of an ad banner across the length of the main stand. So much had changed at both clubs since the summer, but so little was different. Equally invariable was the short-term contractor’s inconsistency. Lightening quick, he ate up the ground and the goodwill of fans who wanted to see one of his final passes meet Waghorn not the stumbling leg of a former colleague running back to stop them.
Nydam was changed for Connolly who perhaps missed out due to being on loan, rather than lower down in the pecking order. It gave Town a more familiar feel as Karanka seemed to sharpen the tip of his attack. Substitute Cash pushed Lolley further forwards as the home side had a lot more of the ball.
When Carayol again broke he had Waghorn waiting but forced the striker too far, or too wide by one step. The chip towards Pantilimon was almost an insulting surrender of possession rather than a legitimate shot. Once again Town looked good until it got to where it mattered most.
A blatant penalty shout for Town which was given as a corner was the first of a series of decisions which defined the game. Ward beat Osborn all day long, and Osborn was nearly as successful in the other direction. It would be this game of run and cross which saw a red-hand caught by the ball and hesitantly the linesman awarded a corner. When in the 70 odd of minutes Osborn tried to get in the box Ward pulled his shirt away, which took his legs away just outside. The ref waited until he lost his footing and possession to book Ward and give a free kick which would be wasted.
In the first half Town had stood and stacked around the box as a recent run of gifting penalties saw no one make a challenge. It was left to Nydam to pick pockets then a neat pass away to Morris to relieve the pressure in the most threatening of these moves. At the other end of the pitch and the match, it was the late 80’s when Ward would chop down the running man in the most obvious of fashion from behind. With just minutes left, he was lucky not to talk himself into the second booking he’d narrowly avoided. CCV who had been quietly strong and silent, was also making a monologue towards being cautioned it seemed.
Brereton stepped up, and Bart couldn’t stop it. A free hit from 12 yards meant the fingertips of the Pole weren’t enough to keep up the goal drought and damn Forest to defeat. A sickening leveller. Last year we’d gifted them Championship survival, this year our lead again, as we so often did under the man who wasn’t here.
It was the introduction not of an extra striker that had changed Forest’s ideas, but Bridcutt in the middle. Watson was all action and antics, Bridcutt business and belief. When the board went up for five minutes additional time, you just knew. I don’t know how, but we just did.
Waghorn was dead on his feet but Hyam already off for Gleeson, perhaps to combat the new legs in their midfield, we were out of options. A pitiful short corner routine which just needed a good thump at goal summed up Town’s lack of idea and intent.
When Brereton again trundled at goal our defenders stood up and off him. Where an hour or more earlier a flying header or solid block tackle would disrupt or deflect any cross, he was softly pushed aside and lofted a lovely ball for Lolley.
This season I’ve seen three goals before the striker hit them, where I knew they were in already. The first was McGoldricks’s volley at Barnsley, then Celina’s free kick at Burton. As the ricochet off Bart confirmed it and the net rippled like a boxer’s face in mid consciousness, the left hook of a volley put Town down for the last time.
You can argue that the line-up reflected the current situation all too well. Little changes, and little had changed. It was no surprise to see those with academy and White Hart Lane pedigree making the starting line-up, before Town looked more like and more to those McCarthy had assembled this season. The result was not a fair one.
The dismal run at the City ground continues as yet again Ipswich are the architects of their own undoing. Forest fans must look for this fixture, after their Derby games every July.
It’s no wonder the season is long over but still all of these things just won’t end.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 22:58:34|
Shivering in the gloom of the Saturday after Hull, light sleet fell down the spine of England as if the whole island was now shaking its head slowly. A cold wind razored in our faces all day, blowing whilst most were trumpeting the fact there is no way back. The South West branch are a welcoming and united bunch and in the pub; mixed company, mixed views of all aspects, meant Town fans from across the country bonded and held a symposium on the state our club is in.
Even in the belly of Ashton Gate little grumbling took place before the game. Mick may have changed the side, Bart had the back five this time of Spence, CCV, Webster, Chambers and Knudsen protecting him. Skuse returning to home soil as the elder partner alongside Connolly. Ward the right sided central midfielder that didn’t play as a winger, but he didn’t sit centrally long enough to be the enganche layering play behind Waghorn and Sears.
The change which was more pronounced was the fans repeating talk of Milne’s pre-match leak that “change was going to come” this summer. While some may be talking of boycotts and more affirmative action, the only place the bus was going before kick off was over McCarthy, it seemed.
There was a funeral atmosphere long before the inevitable departure, long before the battling, long before the siege, as seemingly the dead-man-walking stood in his technical area to watch a 45 minute tactical masterclass of defend, defend, defy. To out 11 o’clock a banner proclaiming “love the game, hate the business” posed far more questions than it should have done before being folded and stuffed away by fans currently enjoying the fruits of Landsdowne’s labour.
The stats will show the lively and sly Reid had a shot on target after 4 minutes of territorial pissing about from either side, but it was a pea-roller. The wind stirred more in the few seconds it took Bart to stand up and kick it out than the home fans did all day.
Up the other end the ball fell to Connolly who angled a cross-shot with the inswinging right foot. It went past the post, and every attacking head but it looked to catch Fielding cold.
Bristol had a much changed and fragile back line, which was in stark contrast to the control and poise of ours. Town would take possession from left to right and back to Bart with rarely any trouble, it took 25 minutes to see them press down on him and hurry a kick.
At the other end their young and deputising left back Kelly would become the focus. Webster, Waghorn and Carter-Vickers all tried to play balls in to him that allowed Sears to get into his shadow and force him to play the ball out for us. It would be our most successful tactic. All after Magnusson tried to trap a clearance on his thigh and it spilled to his junior colleague who was far too casual in the opening stages of a game so tightly packed.
To say the ref was poor would be wrong, lenient would be diplomatic. He wanted to the game to flow, but when Waghorn was chopped twice by centre back Bailey Wright in two quick exchanges consecutively, you knew the lack of cards that were coming out would shape the way both sides defended.
Waghorn had already seen a freekick in a similar position to his Wednesday winner bounce off the wall in oppositional fashion. When Skuse worked a short exchange to Connolly this time, the different side and different player produced a similar result that allowed Bristol to counter.
The home side had been ferocious in the middle with Pack and former Canary Korey Smith a good match up for a clearly motivated Cole who trotted with a quicker step today to close down play. Paterson was a nominal left winger who dropped off, in and anywhere he could to try and draw one of centre backs into isolation or tactical ill-discipline. It didn’t work.
Brownhill who is quietly impressive in my opinion, provided a good foil as a central midfielder playing out wide and both widemen allowed their respective full backs the change to gambol forward. Pisano was put in one decent cross which was forced away, and Chambers left Skuse hanging with a weak clearance on the edge of the area.
It was really Reid rather than the bigger Diedhou who looked to be the home side’s main threat. The mop-haired #14 grew increasingly agitated as the half went on, and it was fitting he would throw himself to the floor so much in the hope of sweeping defenders attentions aside, whilst catching the ref’s.
After half an hour or so a low hum of disgruntlement came form the home fans, as it was clear that the 1000 or so Blues were in far more supportive voice and mood. It was really the persistence of Town which impressed across the pitch, whereas the Robins had an air of entitlement to the lead, Spence headed over with one of many crosses finding him out stretched, and Sears again had to chase the ball out when he might have put it in from close range as it fell to him in the area with too much to do.
If the flurry that whipped across the South West dissipated, the pattern of the game didn’t in the second half. After barely a couple of minutes a frustrated Reid went right through the back of Ward who had nimbly turned and looked up to find little movement ahead of him. Again, no card came and so all tacklers become emboldened.
Lee Johnson switched his front line with the realisation that the weather and the immovable obstacle of Ipswich’s back line was keeping out his more mobile strikers put on Bosnian targetman Djuric. Within minutes he would be holding his head in his hands, a free shot at goal saw him dink the ball over the bar with Bart face down on the turf. The Pole parrying from Pack who hit the ball from distance. Swirling low and bouncing late, the keeper got his forearms to the shot and kept it out as far as the onrushing Bosnian.
It was a warning and a rare direct threat that would be realised in the next major move. Kelly who had looked much better going forward than defending was allowed a little bit too much time and space. Crossing from out wide again the Bosnian Djuric would lose his marker and leave Webster behind as he dived low to power his header past Bart in the bottom corner. The goal was less inevitable but not too surprising.
Town had often had good build up play but when a cross came whether from Ward, Knudsen or Waghorn there seemed to be enough done to put them off balance and send their delivery too close to Fielding, or too far from a waiting header to level the match.
It was a corner that saw the Bristol keeper improvise with a scrambled kick away, in one of dozens of nearly moves where Town pressed Bristol back but had nowhere near enough artistry to make a draw likely.
Bristol perhaps felt a single goal was enough and saw out nearly a third of the game by repeatedly playing for time, with ballboy and crowd booting the ball away periodically especially as the 90 minute mark approached. However, the 6 minutes of injury time came from a much earlier combination of tragedy and comedy. Chasing Ward down Magnusson hit the turf and clearly did some damage to himself. The slowest and most inept stretcher bearers possible let him hobble off the pitch after a lengthy time down. A few uncharitable and frustrated shouts suggesting he pleasures himself, rose up from a Town support clearly enraged he was down as were our team.
Before Mick threw Celina on nearly a quarter of an hour later, Johnson had made the second of three subs replacing Magnusson, and then the third when he mixed his midfield. Paterson who had disappeared so often from his position, was swapped for a defending O’Neil to see out the game.
Town who had so much of the late push, soon saw Sears pulled down cynically for the games first yellow from a former one. Moments later Knudsen would be a victim of their Italian’s job to even up the card count. A slight coming together, meant Pisano’s scream was disgracefully heard before the impact of the Dane nudged him in the aerial duel.
Sears’ last action with 10 minutes left was to hook a ball out from six yards with his back to goal when it just needed cushioning to a waiting Waghorn. It’s not that he played badly, far from it, but when Celina came on for Ward moments before, you could feel the senses of everyone lift a little.
Standing off the red shirts now pouring back into the box, the Kosovan looking for our bit of Balkans based joy had great fun strafing from one angle to another. His best ball picked out Knudsen who wouldn’t quite control it enough. But as with Ward, the quick feet and ability to turn the man and the ball onto the front foot without touching either gave Town new life.
With tensions growing Morris replaced Sears but it was hard to judge what impact he could have in injury time as he, Waghorn and Webster played up front to take knockdowns and scrambles in a game where Town deserved a point but never got it. A lack of options, a lack of style, a lack of points.
“Ipswich til I die” became a haunting ten minute encore as a few stayed to applaud back at the players who dared come close enough to the away.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 20:26:42|
It’s not often one enjoys an afternoon sat flush on the face Bill Shankly. Bright sunshine and crisp coolness fell about the away end as Mick’s team marched out on to Deepdale. Bart in goal, wingbacks of Iorfa and Knudsen flanked Carter-Vickers, Chambers and Webster. Connolly was next Skuse with Carayol and Waghorn inverts out wide with Garner betwixt them for his first return to Preston since leaving for Scotland.
A 3-4-3 from Mick and former Canary coach Neil opted for a 4-2-3-1. As Pearson trotted into empty space from the kick off it seemed to set a tone. However, soon into head tennis and the game became a contest between two teams happy to nod play into space and nip at ankles, all whilst taking advantage of dispossession to gain territory and the upper hand.
It was Ipswich who started brightly, the opening minutes saw Preston at the mercy of the infectious Carayol. Capitalising on a high line and space to run at, the winger who missed Wednesday’s defeat with illness, was positively infectious and putting skidmarks all about the opposition box today.
Preston seemed to have far more corners than a labyrinth, but when one was easily beaten away, Waghorn played in the much-travelled Mustapha who flew toward us with the ball. Cutting in from the left he forced a smart stop from Rudd which dropped right back at his feet. Stabbing at it, he could not seize a goal as his poke inched past the post and off the hoardings. The dozen or so straining for Mick McCarthy to cuckold them were drowned out by applause and encouragement.
That was the warning, but Preston seemed not to be alarmed. If Skuse and Connolly were the central columns of our solid midfield, Pearson was a shaggy-haired piston and Browne who had headered over at one point unmarked, stood above most other Lillywhites.
Happy to take what Town would give away there was an interesting contest as their lone striker Moult cut a lesser figure than the hulking Hugill Town had cast eyes at so many times before. Off him was the support of Robinson who did little today. It was all about finding Barkhuizen and any room behind the Town line. There wasn’t much.
Another scuttling move started by Pearson saw Preston players surround the referee. A corner was given so we could only presume at the other end it had grazed a Town arm on the way out, as it definitely touched nothing else. Penalty or not, it seemed Preston wanted to hurt us from set pieces more than a set pattern of play.
Town meanwhile were running riot once they got on the front foot. Carayol was the one taking all the glances and chances as Skuse nodded him forward again. Taking the ball off a slower Woods, he ran into the clear down the left. With no chance of being felled, he arced his run and finish past Rudd for his first Town goal, and Town’s first goal. There were less scenes, more dioramas of joy as he pumped arms in recognition of the away end celebrating with him and his team mates.
It was the least Town deserved, and if we should have been two up it was again Carayol who took two on. Poking the ball between defenders he made his own through ball. Waghorn pressed down on the last defender and the 27 was clever enough to meet his run with a soft outstep. Closed down, and then closed out, the former goal machine could only engineer an audacious chip over.
In a close encounter where Preston could have been left for dead, Town again countered from their ponderous ‘play for a decision’ approach. Garner who had been applauded before the game and soon jeered at throughout it, missed the cross from Carayol. It came right the way through to Iorfa who had been less an attacking threat, more a tripping hazard for any Lancastrian daring to entangle legs with him. The wingback, got under it and crashed a decent effort off the bar.
Mick had once again out-thought the young and Budgie-scarred Scotsman. Nothing said it more than a double substitution well before halftime. Preston changed shape but not formation. The anonymous Robinson for Harrop the most telling of changes. Woods who gave the goal away came off for a big lump and Harrop began to drop deeper than Robinson and get on the ball as well as delivery duty.
Taking better corners and the free kick which resulted from Skuse taking the ball and in the ref’s view the man, on the edge of the area. Town fans from a distance were perplexed, Town players as incensed as home fans. Harrop looked the business but hit a brick wall as his Ronaldo run did not leave home fans loving its resultant kick.
Ipswich broke and Waghorn then rectified the card count. Again, we dispossessed a defender, but the former Ger, staggered over the halfway line after a clear tug and touch up job. He was incensed as the offender only got a yellow. The away end erupted into heated debates about “last men” and whether Davies should be seeing red like them. Pearson trotted into view as the ref got sight of it. Preston had a team that looked and sounded like throwbacks but played with a modern cynicism.
To say Town fans went under the stand feeling they could be at least 3 up, might be overdoing it because Preston maybe could have had a goal for every three we hoped to make.
When we resurfaced for the second half, the little blue pill of football excitement so missing from recent Town displays did not. Carayol had us all standing on end, but McCarthy replaced him with Hyam and Town shifted to a flat 3-5-2.
The highlights might suggest it was another game of two halves, two teams trading dominance and a constant fear of us losing, but it would be exaggeration. Preston however, did take the initiative whilst Town pleaded for long ball reliefs, and artful defensive nous.
If those who felt Town should be a man up were still complaining, they will recognise that Knudsen slipping over and taking his man out nastily on the shin could have seen the red card given against us. Luckily the officiating being poor at this level, and as inconsistent as many of the teams meant only a freekick was given.
Preston sent a searching ball in, but Bart dealt with it as he did many times today. Often his feet did most of the work thanks to the imperious aerial ability of Webster, and the reading of the game CCV is blessed with. Chambers the defensive baseball bat between his two towering counterparts in knocking away most threats. Both junior defenders ran each other close for MOTM, by virtue of the fact that Carayol only played half of it.
Harrop was also lucky to escape an early bath, after Garner had a needless nibble on halfway. The little 10 clearly raised an arm and shoved the soon to be carded striker backwards. The referee like most of his colleagues this season clearly unimpressed with Joe’s average antics.
When Neil sent on Horgan for his final sub, the diddy Damien Duff-a-like started on the left. Realising he was up against Iorfa, he and the more muscular Barkhuizen swapped. Town batted back much of the wing-work and redirected headers away. Our biggest weakness seemed to be nodding balls back into a crowded centre, rather than out of play.
With the balance of the game far finer than the lack of guile from an impressively hard to beat home side, it was less backs to the wall from the Blues, more second gear and second ball savvy that kept us in the lead. Bart had one smart save to make, when substitute Earl hit a fairly workmanlike curler at a comfortable height for the Pole to palm at. It was always likely to be a bad decision from a defender, or official that caught Town out.
In a game where the flag was raised more when the man reached the ball and not started his run it was no surprise to see Waghorn finally lose his temper. A petulant booking for throwing the ball away, he was marked down by home defenders and the referee for what seemed to be more than one offence. Fingers and cards raised alongside visiting tempers.
Town didn’t do much in the final third. Sears replaced Garner who again failed to find the net or finish 90 mins either due to injury or ill-discipline. When sat on the turf pointing to his knee, it was clear his game was up. Likewise, Connolly took a head injury in either half. Stooping onto Browne’s studs he was then clattered on half way late in the second period. Perhaps he should have been protected more, in some other games two head injuries would see a man rested at least. From the restart Preston dropped the ball back to Rudd in a desperately unsportsmanlike move.
You can see how an ex-canary would instil such a penchant for yellow in a side. Dirtier than the average pair of undercrackers in places, they were deserving of nothing come full time. Apart from a couple of lobs over the last man for Sears and Waghorn to chase, Rudd had a fairly easy half. Some felt him felling an onrushing Iorfa warranted another penalty decision at that end. But in fairness the Blues’ probing defender didn’t have the ball or much hope of catching it.
The game ended with Spence replacing Waghorn. A last assault from above meant Town dealt with the last gasps of hope with six recognised defenders, two defensive midfielders, Callum Connolly and ahead of him Freddie Sears. Someone joked that once again “Super” Mick McCarthy would sub himself on if he could. Having another no-nonsense centre back to head us into victory might not have been a bad shout.
As Chambers hugged and congratulated into a warm up for that long-awaited fist pump, Bart mouthed something celebratory at us. Chambers then mouthed something with an F-word in it. When he apologises tomorrow (for we all knew it was meant for us), most will undoubtedly forgive him.
A good feeling seeped out into Tom Finney Way but it was barely a few hundred strong, the locals who gazed up at the top six from a vantage slightly higher than ours must know that being hard to beat is good. Being doubled by a team in our disposition is not. They made that well known as we mingled towards car parks and motorways.
After the week we’ve had nothing could be more welcome than that win. Nothing could be more typical. Mick will be deserving of the praise he received in the toilets tonight, even if he was only in poster form to hear it.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 19:01:46|
Trotting on up to Bolton Town were looking to get back to top six contention. The addition of two loanees who had spent this season at either end of the division, saw one in the side and one on the bench. Returning to goal, and thunderous applause as he walked into it in front of the few hundred away games was Bart.
Iorfa on the right, inside of him new boy Carter-Vickers, and surprisingly Chambers on the left. Knudsen outside of them. Connolly and Skuse sat, Celina, McGoldrick and Waghorn the three supporting actors behind Joe Garner’s amateur dramatics.
Matching up Bolton who had the colossal Madine at the forefront of their attack, it took less than a minute for him to chest the ball out from between a centre-back sandwich. Vela skipped on and smashed a low effort of Bart’s shins. If there was uncertainty in the stands at the sight of Chambers the wrong side of his partner, it was squared when he was also the wrong side of his man.
Town took time to settle, and like the weather; their play for almost all of the game was patchy. The most notable shot on goal came from Ameobi when he cut inside and chanced a low drive inside of Bart’s near post. The Pole prodded it away all too easily given how threatening it had appeared. Ultimately it meant little.
Up top, our lone striker had thrown himself into everything as usual, but typically not the referee’s good books. The home fans grew tired of Garner’s floor show all too soon as he appealed for everything but a place on the scoresheet.
When the Blues did get going their looser approach to the idea of ‘matching up’ often saw Waghorn overlapping into dead ends, or Celina more withdrawn and central. Coming deep and not firing seemed to be an irritating pattern to his play today. Some nice flicks up but rarely over centre backs like Wheater will never see us cut teams asunder no matter where they sit in the league, or their own box.
Whilst Buckley got very little joy out of the athletic attentions of Iorfa, besides an early cut inside and rifle over the bar, Ameobi caught the eye again, then his own standing foot as he crashed down on the turf when a goal-bound shot looked promising. Town’s defence had looked superb or at least comfortable individually, but when called upon as a unit we scrambled and struggled against the business of Vela and bulk of Madine.
CCV checked out his new team mates and started a lovely move with a cross-quadrant long ball that draws polite applause. Chambers contrasted, with a failure to launch much of anything without the white line on his right to guide him. One horrifying moment saw the ball come back to him under little pressure and he gave it to an onrushing attack. These were the finer moments that nearly cost Town points today.
The captain would nearly redeem himself with the second of two well won-corners first from the work of right back, then target man. Chambers thundering a low van Basten rip off at Alnwick. The stopper claiming a handy stop to keep things level.
As the half went by, and things rarely got more interesting than the drills players were doing during a lengthy injury after 5 mins. Town seemed to realise that stretching Bolton might cause them to break. A good move and Celina with a rare threat found Skuse at the back post. The fact that all of our attackers had drawn their men out with runs wide meant Town lost all elasticity and failed to spring back to meet the waiting the ball. An easy finish was supplanted by an easy clearance.
Skuse had earlier succumbed to a naughty stab at his leg by a churlish Madine. The man that Bolton looked to for everything, was always likely to be involved in everything. Having lost the ball, he lost his head and was always going to get a card.
It would be far more telling than any bouncing ball or half chance. Celina had weighted a touch behind Little and ran off the pitch to get past him and make good on the run. Waghorn did a mini scorpion kick on the other side to start a counter that was as fortuitous as it was always going to fizzle out. Such was the way the half had gone.
When the teams returned for the second Skuse did not. Gleeson became the 4th loan to enter the pitch, and the second one to make his debut for the blues. His first action was to win the ball, look for the return only to watch the consistently off-colour McGoldrick play another pass to the wrong place.
Indeed, as late as 75 mins the number 10 was missing Iorfa and letting him take the pelters from fans sick of seeing the simple ball put behind the runner and out of play yet again. By then we had looked less like a team starting to gel and more like one scabbing over. Knudsen on the other side was rarely beaten but only got forward far enough to be flagged offside. Celina tried too hard, to find a cut inside or chip over the top without the effort of looking first.
It had been at least 20 minutes since Madine had given the home side the lead and a reason to sit back. Who else but the combative jailbird would unlock our defence? A whipping cross inside from their Evertonian, a flick by Vela which could have gone anywhere, dropped to the striker all on his own with a simple slam past Bart. Up until then Town had been pressing with chances since the restart.
From the second kick-off of the half Town had a chance to equalise. A good move saw the midfield shift the balance of play and sent away McGoldrick. With Waghorn rushing into the centre for an easy tap in, our #10 pre-empted the finish and not the run and rolled the ball to a grateful Alnwick at the near post. The suspicion that his legs were going, gathered a lot more evidence today.
Town had threatened from distance, but in the rain and dark moaning floating on the wind, it seemed each move was set to break down. The Trotters had another free kick which could have given us more to do, Madine capped a move with a nod to the side netting, but possession rather than impetus had all been blue.
When the goal did come, it was worth the wait. 80 or so mins of not showing up, saw Garner start deep on the right, Gleeson took on the carrying duties. McGoldrick and Waghorn danced and overlapped, and finally the passes went right. Who else but Garner would crash home from close range, to cap a delightful piece of play. It was a candle flickering in the gloom of a forgettable game.
Town could, and maybe should have stolen an undeserved victory. Iorfa who had put in a much-changed shift today, began a move that saw Waghorn direct a diagonal run into three defenders. With the overlap from Garner on, he spun and smashed the ball of the post. Alnwick was helpless and so was the sense of hope that we’d walk back to the car with a spring in our step.
Sears replaced the disappointing Celina late on and Hyam saw out the last two kicks of the match as Connolly was withdrawn for the final time today. It was a poor display from a Town side who had the personnel rather than the personality to put the hurt on Bolton today. Little came off for us and there was little to take away, other than we stand still when a likely stumbling block looked to be in our way for most of the afternoon.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 21:01:37|
The challenges of a 46-part epic that is a Championship season get no steeper than today’s ascent into the upper corner of a Molineaux, brimming and buoyed by the success that a half season of nearly 2.5 points per game brings. A few hundred Blues were funnelled into a small section behind the goal, overlooking the field of play flanked by a few hundred home fans making the most of the holidays and celebratory atmosphere sweeping through the Black country right now.
If the combination of oriental money, foreign and domestic collaboration and all that offers of gold and glory can bring has combined into the indomitable form of Wolves; then it is without doubt that behind him, the tanned and exotic figurehead of Nunes commands the potential might to sweep aside all of the old order that has risen and fallen around Town in the last decade and half of Championship existence.
Mick had both Skuse and Knudsen missing today from a team that was slandered as being as old-fashioned and spartan as anyone might find. Bart now had Kenlock shielding his left flank, Chambers and Webster the commanding plinth on which today’s side and defensive heroism was built. Added to Spence as the right sided buttress at the back. Connolly and Bru faced up to Wolves’ 2 in 4 as Ward and Celina occupied left and right roles marking their respective wingbacks. Garner the sharp end of an attack that had Waghorn as the shaft of our attack, tipping and hacking at their backline.
If the prospective clash seemed one laden with doom before the onset, the loss of two key players were not immediately obvious in the opening flurries. Wolves’ 3-4-3 was clear and well-constructed. An engine of Saiss and Neves, much talked about at least in part because of the “Champions League” (price) tag of the #8.
What transpired was a game where few real chances, would mean that both sides were well matched tactically or in terms of desire if little else. What could be seen from on high was that Wolves liked to play, and certainly can. This was no side built on physicality or gamesmanship alone. If they are the latest to ignore FFP and spend their way out of the league, they are the most deserving for some time. They are at least a “proper club” of size and stature more befitting the top flight than most in that category. It feels horrible to even think that, because so often they were once like us.
Town’s 4-2-3-1 did not surprise, but nor did it just sit off, or match up. Whether it was the big, the bad or the brazen of Wolves’ attack set upon us, we bent and flexed and weathered any huff and puff they could muster. At times Town were a lopsided 3 with Kenlock drawing up and down the flank, Celina overlapping him both forward and backward as the excellent Doherty and dangerous Caveleiro tried to twist their way into dangerous positions.
Often Town limited Wolves and usually the aforementioned inside-forward to frustrated lashes at goal on an angle too easy for Bart or too far off the mark to matter. When Town did retain the ball then a fluidity to the old gold meant sometimes whoever had position had one pass on and four opposing players closing them down.
In some instances, this might have meant the end for many men, as it had the conquistadors who found molten gold shoved down their throats so fatal. Town however made the most of this. Webster more than once stepped out of defence and between the duo of Neves and Saiss to close either the runner, or retrieve the loose ball.
One fine move saw him burst between them, and career through the midfield to play the ball and then left side of their defence. It was a display where we were reminded just what a good passer he is.
Wolves held a very high line and pressed the game into a tiny phalanx either side of the halfway line. This meant when Town got free they were felled, through cynicism and the scything tackles of markers happy to limit us to set pieces. Neves made them tick, and any sense if his quality being overhyped may fall in the sense that he always has time on and off the ball to test teams or work out the move that allows his strikers to do it.
Either side of a Ruddy slip on a backpass (showing he was still a canary in Wolf’s clothing) Waghorn and Celina bent efforts over the wall in what looked like Town’s best efforts to force a goal. In the case of the left-footer, it careered into the distant stand. Celina went for a Burton, and in recreating that winner, spun the ball perfectly again, unfortunately it was at the perfect height for Ruddy too this time.
It took 40 minutes of a finely balanced game for Wolves to finally crack us, Jota definitely fouled Kenlock on halfway, but in a game full of soft freekicks for both sides, the deputy who had done so well, didn’t do enough to get back up. The #18 who early in the game had gone down under no challenge and looked done for, pulled the ball across the area for his counterpart Caveleiro to whip it inside the post with aplomb. Wolves and Town had been excellent in playing the second ball all game, but they were just that little better this time, and made it count.
Garner who by now had won little, but made himself known to both the defence and the ref with his usual tricks could only dream of such service. Whereas Connolly had looked the classiest of the Blue side of a midfield maelstrom, often finding that touch or turn of body to get a second pass or piece of play going, Ward had got into some excellent positions but not found the cross to equal their effort.
Too often Town had played the ball low along the ground, but without the requisite pace or power to scatter defenders and to get a touch needed to keep the game level. What we saw instead was a monumental collective effort going into half time, but it amounted to nothing in one crucial moment.
The second half saw no changes, but brief hope amongst those gathered below the stands that Town could still change the result. No fans knew McCarthy better than those in all 4 stands today, and it was perhaps telling that Wolves might fear a stalemate by any means necessary.
If the corners of the first half had been disappointing from a Town perspective, in the second half our best chances came when Ward sent them all the way through a box of zonal statues and attacking spinning tops. Garner almost vaulted one as he didn’t know what to do with it, and Bru took the initiative only to lob it again too easily for Ruddy.
It was a game where Wolves where either continuing the derisory ‘slump’ their fans had talked about of late, or were not used to a team not polite enough to stand back and admire their approach to the game. Both managers stood on the corner of their technical area. Mick, driving his team on and kicking every ball. In contrast Nunes orchestrated every appeal and judicious decision from his. Some Town felt after the game his side were dirty, but the ref was fair today, or if not, consistent in what he gave and what he missed.
Bishop and Enobakhare were both introduced at the same time. A youth product from the bench for each team, it was illustrative perhaps that Wolves took off their goalscorer and freshened their attack. Bru made way for Town as Mick looked for fresh movement and ideas in the middle of the park where so much play was happening.
In one move Celina cut back inside one or two oncoming defenders, only to move right across the halfway line when most games it’d be the 18 yard one. Such were the levels on which today’s contest was being played, in the context of a league leaving us behind in so many ways.
Town removed Waghorn after he lost his temper. A booking for a silly slap across the calves of Neves and then a demeanour that showed nothing had fallen right for a man so dangerous to most sides. McGoldrick came on to applause, but a sense that the physical approach that had so far kept the massive Boly unmoved at the back only served to make Coady sweep up a mess into Ruddy early in the half was the better bet to parity.
When Garner soon gave way to Sears with about ten minutes plus stoppages remaining, then Town’s gelatinous sticking approach to Wolves’ torrent of continental passing, playacting and possession football was reduced to trying to loosen a hit and run in the channels between their backline. Ward again staked a MOTM claim with another overlap deep down the right that allowed him to dummy Douglas, then beat him as landed and put in a reasonable cross. Alas, no one in the Town line up really had the head or heart to put the killer touch to any such move. It was frustratingly less effective than the one where Connolly tried to repeat his near post signature move from a corner, but was high and wide.
In counterpoint to this collection of near misses, Wolves spent the second half probing but not drawing blood again. The last few minutes of the game gave rise to better chances for them as their sub got the ball under his feet but not control without troubling Bart’s palms.
Resignation might be the talk of some Town fans, but there was a sense today that we were again a little bit more than just resigned to what was an obvious defeat. If the result was marginally better than recent trips to other second tier big boys such as Boro and Villa then the performance was miles ahead of those two, as were Wolves. With a dropping of points and even more places from the top six, it’s important that Town might be just off those sides at the top and not as far off a shot at the playoffs.
If the horrendous injuries that have kept so many out of the first team, are now affecting those established in it, then again, we can fear another drift toward those relegation places so many made our likely destination in the summer. How close we get to either won’t be final in the next month, but with many more modest and midtable teams to play it could be decided by the run we go on next. When that window opens, it’d be nice to think our season will not disintegrate because of little more than a stiff breeze.
Whatever the future holds for Mick McCarthy and Ipswich Town after this season, it’s clear Wolves and Nunes would have to monumentally screw it up now not to hear the Match of the Day boys bidding another Portuguese dugout prodigy a “welcome to the party, pal” come May.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animals.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 21:22:38|
Moors, moors, moors. A scenic stomp up to Teeside to see a one-changed Town line up at Boro. Skipper Chambers moved Iorfa out of the eleven and Spence out in his place to right back. Gerken was nowhere to be seen on the bench and so the imposing figure of
Crowe warming up caught the eye.
In a game that saw temperatures plummet along with hope in a half empty stadium. What may have been 400 or so Town fans seemed like half of that, as the game kicked off but we never got going.
Former Town captain and current Boro one Grant Leadbitter, used his arms to stop lone striker Waghorn chasing down the kick off in strange NFL style. Boro built and broke but never really threatened. The 4-2-3-1 of Town was well suited to intercepting the long passing moves of a Boro side that didn’t look like it knew if it was a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3 or melting into matching us up in our own half.
Assombalonga was always front and centre, whilst Bamford skipped and threw his body down between defenders often as his partner, Braithwaite complimented this fluidity as he popped up on the left wing, or the space afforded to him between our backline and midfielders.
Celina’s first and best moment of the game allowed Waghorn to win an early corner but whereas our setpieces have been influential of late, they just looked close to being late. One in particular saw the Kosovan go short to Waghorn only for the lone man in double figures to softly give it away and let Boro escape forward yet again.
It was a badly scripted story of how well Boro would be dealt with, as all of their moves forward produced a good head or a calm one from Chambers, who along with Skuse read their intentions expertly. In fact, it was only their first attack where Skuse was caught ahead of his man and grabbed his shirt, that was the exception. Leadbitter was far more cynical. Collecting the man and a caution when Spence broke from their failed corner and was chopped down at knee height, to kill any hope of a counter attack.
Waghorn was essentially an island, drowning in a red sea of defensive pressure and presence. Boro fans berated my suggestion at half time that it was a game where there were potentially three different red cards, two of which came from the slipperiest skid of their formerly yellow streak down the middle of their team: Ayala.
Connolly nearly went out from a limb and was clattered to the ground during one corner. He came aground, only to motion to Chambers and the ref he was hit in the face with something by someone. It seemed a clearer strike than their front three had managed, but the referee got his head out of his arse and above water long enough to make the pair shake hands. After the Evertonian had thanked his aggressor, Ayala was encouraged. A stronger shout was the one-time canary going through the back of Waghorn on the halfway line. He got something of everything, but mostly the rub of the green to again see yellow rather than yellow again or worse.
Boro were not a dirty side, but from 20 minutes onwards Knudsen had one sleeve. Fluttering, like a flag on enemy soil as only his white cuff clung to his shoulder all half. He was nearly down to one leg, a simple clearance caught Braithwaite out. The Dane on Dane violence that ensued saw the Ipswich man’s standing leg taken out late and him left in a heap.
It was these moments of non-decisions that were Town’s main talking points at half time. We should have known when the first long ball forward landed on angry little Fabio’s arm. The linesman who could reach out and touch him, didn’t see him touch it.
When he lost track of Grant Ward and the Spurs man made his one sublime run of the game, only to be chopped down on the edge of the box one assumed a card was coming. Clean through and cleaned out, if it was for diving, then so be it. A dramatic T-shape from the man in the middle, a sarcastic V-shape or two from the away end in response.
Moments later Ward would this time turn provider. Fabio again lost him like he was Snow White and the ball whipped all the way through to Celina. Of all the men you’d want to have a touch, it’d be him. It wasn’t though. He controlled it like it was a presidential tweet, Huws got the loose ball and his slamming shot deflected for a Skuse scoop. Randolph was gleefully relieved I assume to see it away, with Waghorn snapping at slim pickings.
A Boro goal was always coming, but when Assombalonga leapt out of Chambers’ pocket and past Webster, Bart was up to the task to palm his effort away for a corner. But it would be a corner on which the game turned. A messy scramble and Spence laid prone on the floor. For once Braithwaite was on time to the ball with a decent and firm bullet beyond Bart.
It was a gut-shot from a largely gutless attack. Town had been great off the ball, but frustrating on it. Huws who had been outmuscled by men half his size, and ponderous in control did not return for the second half. Neither did the ref as the tannoy announced his 4th official would replace him. Presumably the equally effective paper bin in Monk’s office will be lodging an appeal through its union.
It was a game of two refs, and two goal-bound chances. Knudsen who had been good going forward, did just that only to meet the ball going past him. Boro spotted the gap and who else would pounce but Bamford. Slicker than his hair, he danced at Webster like he had Bart last time he scored against us. Questions had been asked of the ball-playing centre-back but he was left stumped and rooted as a quality second rifled past Bart. The game turned and so did stomachs.
Mick’s plans may have been best laid, but there was no rest for whoever was now the 4th official. Up his illuminated board went twice. Ward and Celina off and Bishop and Sears on to join Garner. To hear Celina and Sears bid farewell and welcomed alike with encouraging shouts such as “piss off you’re ****” from one critic rather set the tone amidst the silence.
It was frustration and petulance matched earlier by the loanee’s booking when he held back his man on halfway. When Town had been on the receiving end of similar the ref missed it, as his predecessor had Knudsen grabbing shirt in the box previously with no regard to disguise it. Swings and roundabouts but no joy.
The game descended back into its coma and so did the ground. Cold and dead, there was a sense that every time Ipswich would break, our hosts wouldn’t. As the lack of midfield from an off-colour Connolly and wide options of Waghorn (who before that had dropped deep) and Sears could not break down the extra man needed to corral them at every turn to goal.
Gestede followed after Johnson as Boro only needed a focal point to lump and laserly ping balls at. If the legs had deserted both Leadbitter and the now departed Downing, the experience and quality hadn’t.
The former England winger now glides around the pitch just off the sitting midfielders. His technique was astounding all game. He met volleys, picked passes and placed shots with the switch of stance you can’t teach at that age. With two goals, they didn’t need to carry that sort of weapon and switched to more rapid fire, carpet bombing.
Braithwaite and Assombalonga had the guts of Knudsen and Chambers to thank for deflecting chances away from goal or into Bart’s hands. In fact, it was frustration that again saw the Dane dive in late on Spence and stud the full back to the floor to collect the overdue card.
It’s hard to recount any danger Randolph was really under. Waghorn left Leadbitter with a sore head as his shot looped off him and into the keepers’ arms. Christie appeared to pull up after a foot race with Sears only to carry on after rubbing something out of his calf. He would later hilariously miskick in the area under pressure. Only for Ayala to save his blushes and a sure chance of a consolation.
Garner was pushed and pulled but went down too easily. When again the ref didn’t see the reason for a Town player to be on the floor and Ayala to be on the scene, it was the histrionics of the recruit from Rangers that was his undoing.
With a performance that to a man was too often underwhelming, it’s hard not to see a reflection of the recent away trip to follower recent-Premier League Villa. Where the Villains had enough quality to muscle and pump their balls over us into submission, Boro just needed to do enough to pass us in the table and out of the game. So, they did.
If Monk is the younger successor to Mick, then just give him £40m and he’s your man. 4-4-2 and just enough to outperform us you can see why they want him gone on Riverside for only just doing it today. For all their depth of quality Boro play like they are often standing still when they should be trampling teams.
Town meanwhile look like a team on the end of a long run of games. Physically and mentally tired, all too often if we found the right position it was our decision making which let us down. With Huws so poor, Waghorn so alone and Garner joining Celina and Connolly in being so ineffective, you know these are not bad players but just bad patches. Maybe Bishop did enough today to show Mick he could stop the bleeding and grab a start soon enough?
If the game was as tepid and allegorical as the ten years of pennies from Evans, then so was the message it sends. We’re not a bad side, but we’re not often good enough to run into the bigger boys and come out on top. Time’s tide will smother us eventually though.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 20:42:48|
Four scored saw four changes for Town as they went to Villa park on the back of Wednesday’s hit and run. Knudsen returned at one full back berth as Iorfa took the other. Chambers and Webster stood in front of Bart as expected. Connolly and Skuse sat in midfield with Sears on the left, Ward on the right and Waghorn shifting between Garner and Villa’s back line.
It was a smaller away contingent than last year, but the plus 30k crowd had little to say on a very matter of fact Championship affair. Skuse made an early interception from the kick off only to stumble and make another one at his own expense. The resultant corner sparked off an early passage of pressure from a home side who had just a little bit more about them in so many areas.
Former Canary Snodgrass drew disproportional ire from a handful of blues as well as drawing in Knudsen and Webster as he did his best impression of a Tesco finest Darren Currie. Everything went on the drop of his left shoulder in from the touchline at predictable walking pace, including some excellent set pieces.
The sheer size and ability of Villa as a team rather than a club told early on and all-day long. Physicality and poise in every department saw Hutton winning lots in the air at either end but hassled and hurried by Sears’ defensive runs on him and goal. One overlap to Knudsen produced a great cross which Ward did well to find, but really should have found the net with a better shot.
Makeshift centre back Jedinak alongside Chester had an easy time as everything Garner did, drew disdain and a free kick their way, from a ref with only eye and one arm all too often. By comparison Town lacked even more in the balls department.
On 15 another good move from Town saw another good corner from Waghorn. The pacey inswinger spun out of Johnstone’s flap and dropped for Garner to crash home on the rebound. Jubilation turned to humiliation as no one stopped, no one flagged, no one saw anything wrong except one man.
At the other end Ipswich struggled to keep up. Iorfa did well to shackle Adomah on the left who like Snodgrass cut in every time he could, but he had two feet and enough guile to get past his man now and again. The other person struggling to keep up was a linesman who missed 3 clear offsides because he was so far behind, he was presumably looking for Dwight Yorke to run clear.
When you have a defence so good at winning the first ball, then giving away the second it was only a matter of time before one of the six people watching either our back or goal line, made a mistake which told. Bart and the boys had claimed everything thrown at them from long ball, corners and miscues which had amounted to a handful of decent but not deadly chances from defence to attack in the form of Jedinak and Davis.
Town meanwhile had managed to make good runs on the bounce and bustle of Garner but neither Ward or Sears really got a clear sniff at goal thanks to hoovering up after them from Hutton and Taylor. When Jedinak finally relented having landed funnily a while, he was replaced by what looked like two men in one shirt. Christopher and/or Samba shuffled on to the pitch and cast a long shadow over either front man. All without the need to step too far.
Town’s 4-2-3-1 worked hard, but not necessarily well as the home side moved quickly with power and composure on and off the ball.
Connolly snapped at everything in the air and allowed Skuse to press much higher again. The senior member of the defensive duo often stalled play in both directions with a foot under the ball for lofted ambitious dinks that never quite set anyone away in either colour shirt.
The Evertonian on loan was even more impressive after a nasty header-cum-headbutt from Davis who missed the ball and laid out the much smaller man on the deck. What looked at first like a clean knockout saw Chambers rush in paternally and rouse the youngster. He would carry on and so would the game in familiar fashion. Glen Whelan who had spent most of his time in midfield acting as a third centre back every time Villa collected a clearance. The backline flexed into a curved five and one of the three defenders launched something forward which punched at a staggering Town.
When Chambers attempted similar, Ward and company ran forward, but the ball did not, landing behind them and spinning backwards it was Whelan who looked to pick out Adomah. The deadly wideman didn’t need his head start as the linesman wondered what all the fuss was about long after he had dropped Bart a dummy and beaten the prone Pole.
In a game of next goal wins that began at 3pm, Town had just had 1 if not 3 points snatched away twice in a week, with nearly an hour of the game left to go. 5pm could not come soon enough.
The second half saw little change, initially the ability to stand up and count on your frame or footwork only belonged to a host team who impressive in doing the basics. That was something which had deserted the Blues the moment Adomah fired home long ago.
Former Town man Hourihane rarely caught the eye like he did at Barnsley, but his purring play ticked over as he stabbed passes in and around dangerous areas. In response Skuse and Connolly ate up a lot of ground and left scraps for the centrebacks but too often Webster was either casual or Iorfa kamikaze. The right back charged forward time and again and sometimes he did it with the ball too. His first foray in the second half saw him turn inside and hit a low shot/cross which cause all kinds of problems. Mainly for us, as the settled clearance left us chasing back.
It was a warning.
One Town should have heeded and Iorfa headed as the killer ball left him slipping and eating grass as who else but Adomah ate it up. Racing clear he finished easily and infuriatingly. Villa didn’t so much have a foot on our neck, but a knee on our belly as we flopped and fitted at a level just beneath theirs all over the park.
Flicks from threatening crosses were both our best attacks and their best defence of an early attempt at a comeback. By now, there was little left in a game where Town’s major highlights were the substitutes. Not because they did a lot, but because they represent so much.
Huws and Celina replaced Sears and Ward. The Welshman who had returned with an assist in midweek sat centrally as Waghorn who had been ineffective in open play revolved around either full back where his muscular output looked slightly more effective.
The young Kosovan meanwhile showed what a polarising figure he can be. You either get a killer decision or a promising position out of him. His first contribution was to take the ball back inside and towards goal to start of a quick break, unfortunately for Villa. Minutes later he opted to chip a beautiful cross onto the head of Huws. The midfielder was alas, too deep on the edge of the box to do little more than cushion it out for a goal kick.
Once this struggling of getting to grips with the Midlanders other than to concede possession, cards in the case of Connolly and then Huws who won the ball, possibly the man and howls of disgust. All after being kicked in the aftermath by at least one handbag swinging Villain. It was a frustrating relief to see him get a caution instead of the red one home player deserved but looked destined for him.
With twenty minutes, Town’s chances and hopes plummeted with the temperature. Farce became the theme of the final act. Having made a howler, Iorfa screamed forward in another display of impressive athleticism. Unfortunately, he burst past and blew everyone away in a moment of the wrong kind of football a day too late for Thanksgiving. Collapsing behind the goal, the ball out of play and his hamstring looking out of alignment if not his leg, he lay in agony and ignominy as the home fans jeered and rejoiced in his misfortune.
On came Teddy Bishop, from the depths of the bench and not the physio room. His little legs were pumping on the touchline and so were Blue hearts as the ginger sensation sent a tingle through nearly numb limbs around the away end. Connolly had already moved to RB in the inordinate amount of time Town were reduced to ten men and awaiting the no.7 to make his bow.
With Town heads already dropped and not having a prayer, the opening double tackle that broke down a Brummie break just inside their half saw the homegrown Bishop roared on approvingly. He made a single slide a few minutes later that was enough to show the desire was still there, but perhaps not the dynamic runs or raking passes of yore just yet.
Webster was Town’s main outlet for that sort of thing and every lofted attempt to find Celina or Knudsen in behind Hutton and then the late addition of El Mohamady fell short or dropped long. It was hard to think of real save Johnstone had to make. The early protection that spared that spared his blushes were not the main cause of Town fans seeing red.
Whoever had corporate box 11 behind us, said or did something that saw a few dozen Suffolk boys lose their composure and focus on the game far more than the ones out on the pitch. Stewards radioed and remonstrated in mild urgency as beshirted stirrers of the proverbial were asked to sit down, when bravely facing fury from those they had a few inches of Perspex to hide behind. Those in more casual attire risked having their collars felt as tempers flared. It was the most drama we’d see all day.
Town fell a place and into pieces long before the final whistle came. The usually high calibre of Bart, Skuse, Garner and the spine of the side drooped worse than Celina’s embarrassing swan dive when faced with the prospect of beating his man for a second time late on.
Desperation and inadequacy ran through Ipswich far deeper than the double-scorer Adomah had all day.
Overall, there was every reason to feel aggrieved with bad decisions, but our own side made enough to bury those rather than any incisive openings. It was days like today that show why we’ll always be part of the chasing pack, and ultimately easy prey for bigger more equipped animals in the second-tier jungle this season.
With McGoldrick missing with reason, the attack worked but didn’t come off in a game where movement alone was not enough. The re-emergence of Huws and Bishop gives hope. The standout of the day was again the lad we don’t own who started where they finished in midfield. There’s a bit more depth and potential to swim towards the current contenders. But likewise, with the injured and error prone nature of either right back the softest spot of a defence still not all there, Town could still sink back into midtable and muddle through until we hit some kind of end.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 19:59:37|
Town’s form ahead of the trip to the Pirelli had been dropping like a guillotine. With revolution and malcontent in the air, but little seemingly on the block; McCarthy again changed his side. Bart once more had Spence, Chambers, Webster and Knudsen as a very clear back four. Skuse partnered Nydam in the centre and then all four strikers were thrown ahead of them. Garner the only centre-point in the centre circle. Waghorn started on the right and Sears on the left with McGoldrick moving between them.
Burton fans talked of their yellow brick wall last season, and looked to it infrequently this time again to cement their survival. In a game where the Blues fans made up a large proportion of the 4 thousand odd crowd in a ground and club so far out of place, but not undeserved of their Championship status, it was a glimpse of what we could have more often if the run continues.
It was a game of anti-football, Burton didn’t want us to play and we seemed to repeat back every stuttering header and two touch and chip movement in stilted politeness. It took Ipswich twenty minutes or so to make anything resembling a chance, and between that time they just made every fan in the away L behind Bart’s goal tetchy, frustrated and fearful.
McGoldrick was largely a passenger until he drove forward to bury a soft shot into Ripley’s hands. With that his other notable contribution was making use of two very good runs. Waghorn drew half the yellow defence with a diagonal bolt, Sears went on an umpteenth straight-line dash. The former Hammer received an expert pass, worked into a great position then failed to land a blow with a puffy cross to no one.
The width Burton were afforded game largely in the fact that Town had plenty of options off the ball never the right one. Sordell slid through the back of Webster after only a few minutes, but every other time he did it with the ball. Knudsen and Nydam did a good job of shielding out the former Trotter and Akins. However, there were two occasions were the Dane gave away a throw just by standing up. Mistiming his challenge, when he picked himself up the ball pinged off his shin or standing foot. Such was the manner in of Ipswich’s ineptitude at times.
Seeing Spence outpaced by the aging Warnock late in the half was easily as depressing and alarming. It was a half where Chambers verbally rebuked a linesman not up with play as much as anyone else around him. Burton made use of a strong breeze towards the right corner, Bart’s kicking time and again dropped shallow with backspin off a yellow head, or blue body away from us and into danger.
If any of Dyer, Akins or Sordell could shoot Town would deservedly have been behind. Bart injured his shoulder when spilling a fairly routine shot. He did well to atone at the onrushing feet and smother the ball. He spent the rest of the half windmilling his left arm.
The blowing and swirling elements of both the weather and the play made for terrible viewing. As corners were overhit as much as crosses from a home side who look capable of everything but finding the goal. Town seemed to switch formation without really matching them in any significant way. Sears and Waghorn changed flanks, McGoldrick then took up the left side when they finished the half on the right, everyone else remained the same. Especially when Dids did not, matching up Burton’s ability to find the side netting. Unfortunately.
Something had to change, but not Mick or the team. The sun came out and so did both sides. The neutrals had little more to feast their eyes on as Town’s central midfield consisted of Skuse winning the ball and then getting it back again to repeat the trick. Lund and Murphy for Burton both had attempts on, across and near the goal.
It was the efforts of those that warned Town first, then caused the opening goal for a team who hadn’t scored in a handful of games. Who else but us could serve one up to them? A smart shot palmed wide excellently by Bart. The resultant corner another example of what happens when you don’t pick up runners or those riding their markers. A tidy header and easy lead. Turner clawed himself onto the scoresheet like he had Garner all day with far greater importance.
The fact that all Town could manage from a corner previously was a soft scramble, and Chambers obstructing someone to earn a needless booking was a stark contrast. From here the boos and protests that had been brewing well before the game started to eke out like a wet fart of dissent. The air was rank once the home fans gushing went flat.
Change did come, but from left-field in more ways than just the dug outs being there in relation to us. Bru emerged from the depths to replace Nydam to a chorus of boos and disbelief. Tucking in on the left next to Skuse, his first contribution was a neat loop to Knudsen who showed a consistent touch and lack of control.
It wasn’t long before Town significantly found their feet and form. Garner who had proved himself predictably irritating in the middle took the ball on the right and danced with his defensive equivalent. Interplay between ball and man, saw efforts come and come back to the frontman. Spinning clear off the invention of McGoldrick, and into the path of Waghorn the goals per game king crowned the move with a thunderous drive.
The bullet went through many bodies and tangled limbs and looked destined to be ricocheted out, but it wasn’t. Sunk between the mouth of the goal and home fans’ ribcages as the away terrace bounced off one another’s in relief.
The right side could have delivered the killer blow as Waghorn again found himself in the box. A deathly hush as the scorer tried to assist Sears. He clipped a tight-angled effort across Ripley and the goal. Sears was half an inch away from glory as a corner was given presumably because Ripley got a touch and not out of pity for either player failing to.
Soon after that Sears ran his last line as Ward wrote his first on the dram yet to unfold.
The second sub to be greeted with derision and disbelief didn’t really deserve it. A neat and tidy wide option, he made the Brewers think twice more than once. Meanwhile McGoldrick now playing a sort of Darren Currie tribute by himself on the left, suddenly cut inside and lashed another shot that looked the part but fixed nothing as it settled the wrong side of the post.
Varney a fan favourite from McCarthy’s glory days entered the fray to his signature song from us, not them. It wasn’t even close to the strangest thing you’d see or hear today. Abuse and protests towards the manager subsided and grew between encouragement for the players. By now everyone but Mick was calling for Celina.
The scoundrel of last night’s twitter infamy had 1400 characters calling for him, as social media made real started singing his name; all the while his teammates battled and bullied in equal fervour, but to far less convincing effect. Bru won the ball in impressive fashion knocking his man and the matchball sideways, Waghorn was unfortunately too far away to help, but right in the ref’s ear and his expletive-laden reaction put him in the book too.
The home side had been all over us for more than hour and bar the odd move and moment Town had simply been all over the place. It took a few minutes more to see those already on their feet applauding. Celina came on, McGoldrick went off and the striker on the wing, came off for someone who’s still either a striker or a winger.
With expectations and tempers high, the diminutive Kosovan had all eyes on him. Dancing on the turn past his man, he sent Knudsen away only for the Dane to try, and fail. His cross not bothering the near post as a crowd either side of the goal expected more.
Again, fans willed the ball back to the final sub when it came back towards them and he managed to run past everyone, and the far post on the edge of the box as the opportunity disappeared as quickly as it came.
It would prove third time a charm as the youngster won a soft freekick expertly. If Waghorn’s clipping of his own heels had been masterful, the Man City kid’s a valiant effort fortune clearly favoured. All 8 stone of him rose and fell under the challenge of Warnock as he crashed to turf on the edge of the box so did Burton’s day.
A long time coming, Celina, Skuse and Waghorn stood over the ball. Next to me a stranger and I pondered the fairytale of winning skill and winning effort “It’s not going to be him is it? It’s on his right foot”. Well it was, and what a strike. Right in line with me, it bent and snuck between the post likely a sniper’s round, a moment where you could be happy to die. Emotions, grace and belief went awry as the youngster wheeled away in delight that outdid any sense of ego.
Off came his shirt as he milked his moment dry, a strange jumping dance action in celebration as the cocky little genius stood in all his plucked chicken glory. Mobbed by his team mates as we mobbed each other. There was a sense of consequential dread as he picked up the predictable disciplinary, a yellow card and game of “where’s my shirt?”. Getting dressed and a vague dressing down from the official he trotted back. Mick clapped him with three quick slaps of his palms barking and pointing at the rest of the side to see out the game. Back to basics and back in business for the four minutes of injury time.
Post-fistpumps and with the glow of getting away with it at its brightest, two Burton fans assured us that was the best they had played all season. We assured them it was the worst we’d played for a long time. Pragmatic about their survival it’s hard to apologise and not smirk a little.
Again, the poison came to a head, the uncertainty of fans, players and manager were all on display. A lack of belief all round apart from one man, in one moment, stole 3pts and arrested the slide. What system did we play today? Who cares? It’s not worth trying to work out but it is a problem for tomorrow. Tonight we can consider how Mick has changed a game for a handful of times this season and turned draws into wins, those that came before Celina will not feature in the headlines or forethoughts, but the turning and tightening of the screw by Ward and Bru’s inclusion paid off when Bersant nailed it.
One of the worst, weirdest and wonderful games I’ve seen in over 25 years of Town, and best of all, there was something for everyone tonight.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 20:16:04|
It’s been a long time coming. Town’s return to the steelier side of Sheffield has been years in making, and much like their form this season it was pleasing to see at first, but finally too much to bear come 5pm.
The loss of Garner to a knee injury meant a surprising line up in part, but unsurprising deployment of 3-5-2 ahead of Bart. Chambers being flanked by Webster and Knudsen came up against the duo of Sharp and Clarke. Around them was Iorfa and Kenlock acting as wingbacks to form the defensive lip of a shallow 5-man bowl. Skuse sat behind Nydam and Ward and McGoldrick was nominally a strike partner for Waghorn, whose inclusion as a striker meant Didsy was often drifting towards Iorfa as a sort of winger.
The game started in bright unseasonable sunshine and a din across the lower tier. A massive following keen to see a resurgence in form, or a forgotten venue, or both; were making a grand noise. Aided in part by the rest of the 25k crowd in the home ends.
It was a half where Town had again made do with those available, and made the conscious decision to neutralise rather than corrode, the confidence of a side whose bounce from league one clearly had them sky high. Whether through formation or functionalist football, the quick build-up of pressure and play towards the away end by the home side was met gamely.
When Didsy found a perfectly weighted Knudsen through ball pleasing to the touch, he dragged play down with some technical drawing of defenders, before finding Waghorn too hurried and too close to the near post now to fire off anything effective. It was a design of things to come, both in terms of the unfamiliar attack and its scarcity.
There were passages of play punctured by a ref many felt was a homer. Certainly, it seems, one could again question the weekly calibre of second tier officials, but one must also question the recurring naivety of a Town side that seems to play into the hands of opposition so happy to drop to the floor when all else is shut out.
When Leon Clarke was booked for redirecting an already airborne Grant Ward with a clumsy slide from behind, the obvious yellow was met with predictably obvious glee of a congregation clamouring for momentary judgement when our salvation today looked unlikely.
Several corners ensued as Sharp looked the, well sharpest Blade out there early on. The number 10 snuck up on our centrebacks like time had on a career of non-Premier League heroics. While he and Clarke sounded like a crime fighting duo of Victorian literature, they proved to be both aged and experienced in giving Bart and several blue shirts either side of him palpitations.
There is no doubt that 3-5-2 doesn’t suit us. It fits all the right players in the all wrong places like a baggy t-shirt of tactical utility. Skuse seemed to get a foot to everything and if not a head, by 25 mins Ward and Nydam had switched sides, but the momentum of the half really hadn’t.
When through balls did find Waghorn or McGoldrick, they had the touch and time to bring red and white stripes scurrying back, but not enough blue shirts into the game. McGoldrick took one run from deep from the left flank and when it looked like everything was falling in to place to beat Blackman he produced possibly the worst and most uncharacteristic shank. It bounced off the hoardings with a thunk that said in a syllable why we just weren’t going to kill off the Blades.
Likewise, Town had two attempts to tap in a low cross from right to left. When McGoldrick was the supplier in the earlier attempt there was no one there to apply the killer touch. When Ward whipped one in to a crowded box just before half time, there were too many bodies and not one calm head. A long break due to a presumably nasty injury for Freeman. One of the many unfancied names, that made you remember how good the home side are collectively, it affected them and us for diametrically opposed reasons.
If McGoldrick is a No.10 in a world of false 9’s, Webster tried to shake off the positional rust by stepping out ahead of the defence in a manner way apart from the true 6’s of old. The like of Venus or Linighan wouldn’t be seen dead patrolling in such a semi-circular manner. It didn’t really work. The man hasn’t started since January, and that ballistic right foot of his sent wayward skid missiles at, past and towards team mates all too often.
Town looked more likely to snatch a lead in a 45minute spell that had seen Kenlock turn inside on the line and use his weaker foot to drop passes and play out of trouble. It was a much-improved performance rekindling the promise we’d seen so often since his debut.
At the far end the two young Premiership loanees had contrasting approaches to their defensive duties. For a big lad Cameron Carter-Vickers liked to let the ball bounce and then boot it away. More often than once it set us free, and challenged the gangly Blackman to dally in possession when needed. The Chelsea keeper spun on the edge of his area more than once, both with ball in hand and at his feet and each time looked likely to gift us something we just couldn’t manufacture ourselves.
The second half came as a chance to see Town attacking towards us, and there were plenty of pairs of lungs keen to inhale the ball our way and into the net. It took just a few ticks of the minute hand to put blue heads in theirs. Before falling to Fleck of all people, you knew the Norwich connection would produce a sweet one, as Basham skipped into the air and met an excellent cross unannounced to head home.
Iorfa had already come in for some criticism, it was conspicuous when you considered his absence in a move that was so simple from the side he was patrolling. But to single him out when so many were at fault for not doing the same to Basham might be unfair. Webster had after all clearly been instructed to ramble against a side so well drilled. Chambers and Knudsen also had had their moments of getting to grips with man and not ball too.
What had troubled Town also bothered United as Nydam found a wonderful incision not long after. A defence splitting ball in the proper and uncliched surgical sense fell to Waghorn. The man who had a goal every 81 minutes this season, looked certain to crunch his own numbers in this 90. Another example of excellent touch and control not always obvious from the North-Eastern attacker. Instead his superb shot crunched off the bar, a beaten Blackman and blues all over couldn’t believe it.
Mick decided there was space in which to play and removed Kenlock. It was clearly not akin to his removal at Barnsley as Town switched to a 4-3-3. Waghorn and Ward the widemen and McGoldrick less up top, and seemingly not up to turning the game like he had any man charged with dispossessing him.
The 4-3-3 would soon change again as Nydam and the injury-prone Irishman were removed. It turned out to be a clever choice. Neither team were accustomed to draws and artistry was lost in a clash so coloured by industry and midfield collectivism. The introduction of Sears and Celina as widemen completely changed the face and pace of Town’s threat.
Knudsen meanwhile dealt with Sheffield’s best chance to double the lead by halving their striker. Picking up a yellow card as he got up off the youngster who had kept him from the turf and an unblemished disciplinary record.
Clumsiness was another trait shared by both sides when Clarke had a chance from looked like 3 yards to finish everything. Bart saved easily. Too easily in fact. It was also Clarke who hit the bar in similar but not quite as impressive fashion as Waghorn had, such was their profligacy and the pondering nature of a game where neither side seemed demonstrably better than the other.
Celina had the more memorable moments of the double substitution. Closing down the ball and turning his man, but out of play from Knudsen’s clever work. He also spun a cross from deep over the bar and outside of the front post with a box full of players waiting. His first touch of the game had been a header from a corner, he was the wrong man in the right place and so it continued all afternoon. He beat two men with tow touches as he careered into the area only to have a toe poke it off his with glory beckoning and fate slowly shaking its wrist harshly toward the young star.
Sears meanwhile had look so often a lost cause all season, but chased them better than anyone in Yorkshire today. More than once he forced CCV into an error, despite being awarded the MOTM gong by the home fans. The young defender gave away fouls and possession as he had earlier in the game. Unfortunately, time was against Town, not the imperceptive officials.
You can see why the equaliser never came. Too many mistakes in play and preparation cost us. But whilst we edged out narrowly again to a side who sat in and around top spot. Mick’s home county has gone from providing many happy returns, to little for us to celebrate. The Blades are more like another red and white striped side when they came up and bothered the playoffs a while back.
As clubs they couldn’t really be further from Brentford in geography and ideology, and more like us in size and shared memories but ultimately United might fall short of promotion and understandably so. There’s no disgrace in the wonderful way they’re going about things right now.
With our sensational form, receding into defeats either side of the international break and memory beyond, the upcoming derby looks even more significant. From relegation favourites, to not quite fan favourites, the bar has been set much higher because of August. As we look to finally record a win years in the waiting next Sunday, it’s as important for the return of the natural order as it is the momentum that we thrived upon only weeks ago.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 19:56:15|
“…Right up there com’t end o’t’season” said a local chewing chips, and all the vowels possible in my ear as we walked away from Elland Rd. today. His unsolicited interruption to me serenading Snr with breathless, sweaty, swear words and post-match expressions of pride down the phone was as unclear as the significance of today’s result. Whether he meant us, them or both we’ll never know.
It’s fair to say, before kick-off the black clouds and smiling locals rolled into suburban Leeds with ominous speed. Less “welcome to ‘Ell” more welcome to the dreary overpriced service station you’d rather not stop at but always have to on the ring road to the Devil’s residence.
Mick named a side with two changes and no clear formation until it took to the field. Bart started the game with flat banks of four and two strikers. Knudsen and Iorfa had Chambers and Spence in between them. Nydam and Ward the pinched wingers beside Skuse and Adeyemi. McGoldrick and Garner doing as they pleased way up top.
The game started with the first of many easy interceptions for Skuse. The westcountryman handed responsibility for getting forward quickly as Town first pushed down the right-hand flank, were turned all the way back to Bart with a second more frenetic a second, more frenetic move down the left.
Leeds seemed to have done their homework on us, and their shopping all over Europe. Eunan O’Kane is a man I’ve wanted at Town for many years. Sometimes, they hid him in the heart of defence between Ayling, Shaughnessy and Cooper. As the game moved in stilted passages, Leeds switched from 2-5 in the defensive and middle units of their team.
Up top they had the superb Hernandez as a secondary number 10 out on the left and complementing him, the wonky winger Alioski. It was the Macedonian who held that numbered shirt but cut in from the right on his left foot every time, much to Jonas’ confusion.
When their central secondary striker went through and then fell under Spence’s awkward challenge a baffling card and kick combination was served up to the Blue and was the last thing anyone let alone the proverbial Doctor ordered.
Completing their ferocious strike force was a hulking no.9 who looked like a middle-aged Sunday Leaguer who didn’t know how to give it up. At first glance, he seemed only interested in his own reflection, but under that lumbering frame was one hell of an engine and clever transience on the ball. Every move saw the white van of a man hang out aggressively in Spence’s blind spot before manoeuvring dangerously across the centre-backs. It took just 12 minutes and simple pass from the hosts, for him to fire low past a helpless Bart.
If Town were often too static and strung out in wire tight lines across the pitch, then Didsy was at times utterly electric. Knudsen started well, but soon succumbed to clumsy touches of the ball and Alioski, getting caught cold or flat footed in either direction. His eventual booking for pulling back a man who had less turning options than Zoolander summed up his trajectory in the first half from clear stand out, to stranded time and again. A short throw routine with our injury-prone striker should have produced better than a fumbled exchange that put most of our side out of position and chasing back.
In one move McGoldrick earned a corner having brought down a clever through ball from Skuse. Stopping it in mid-air on the edge of his smaller toes, he tipped and tapped through a whole defence but only found a corner when the net beckoned and the only defender in touching distance pushed the ball away. In contrast, the impressively reckless Garner did similar with a more bouncing set up and swing that went wide when glory beckoned. Both either side of a glorious move that saw Didsy again skip into danger and push it across the six-yard box just beyond the waiting Garner for an easy finish.
Grant Ward had a lot of luck down the line and up against Anita at left back. The former Spur flew past the former Magpie with impressive ease. A lot of this came from Mick’s early shuffle. Skuse remained the anchor as Nydam and Adeyemi tucked up and in to form a midfield V to catch a lot of play thanks to Leeds’s positional indiscipline.
When parity came, it was hard to say if it we deserved it. Some attacks had seen all ten Blue shirts defending set pieces and counters, however the Championship is a numbers game and out rise so far is the kind of sh1t that don’t add up.
Garner and Ward had been revelling in pressing back defenders all game, and sometimes the keeper. In fact, one rush forward from Ward saw the bizarrely cavalier Wiedwald met him close to the halfway line. Clearly the flying lime distracted the winger and he was mugged to the delight and relief of 14,000 enthralled day-trippers and even more regulars in the home ends. What did tell was Garner’s more muscular approach as he won a foul cutely near the line. Whipped in across the face of goal, the unsteady German could only stumble backwards as Didsy drove home a headed stunner.
The whole away end seemed to pause in unison as the ball hit the net like a body in icy water. When the breath and belief returned so did the 600 voices in celebration. Town players coolly sipped Powerade bottles around Mick in celebration and satisfaction.
The rehydration and relief soon splashed back on Blue laps as Leeds streaked forward. Again, questions may be asked as defending men were lost in the fog of longball, and Bart could only fill the space between the last man and the only one rushing forward to meet the ball and dispatch it. Kalvin Phillips would do little else, or need to as he restored the lead in sickeningly quick time all too easily.
With more to come and a quarter of an hour or so left before the break, it was great to see Town almost give the game away then rescue it all before the interval. Yet again Spence was stalked into getting caught slipping as the lively (cheating, dislikeable little) Saiz somehow ran clear only to have a Captain’s block stop his axe blow of a shot and deflect it away.
Soon up the other end Town had moved in little formational triangles, and muscular direct football that flirted with 4-3-3. Clearly the Leeds fans and players feared it, as Ward fired a sweeping back post corner past the flailing fists of their keeper. It dropped out for a second one from the other side. Again, they left someone to run at them, it turned out to be Luke. Warm applause for an unwitting Anita who had stood still all game, and it finally paid off as he planted on the line and let the header fly away from him like he had when tested by Ward and Garner all half.
Town were out early for the second half and unchanged only in terms of personnel. Nydam no longer floated around in front of the Dane but had clearly been ordered to shadow O’Kane and stamp out his ability to hurt us from deep. It worked well.
Adeyemi had a clear run at the back four thanks to Christiansen being short-sighted enough not to move his side around. Mick on the other hand had conspired to see us now moving it around as if were the much better side but much lower in the league. Possession is 9/10ths of the boring excuses for your team being sh1t these days, but all it did was rekindle the contest.
When Didsy moved from just behind Garner to just behind Skuse, a tantalising run for yard after yard gave the illusion that the bloke who is always breaking down was bearing down on goal unchecked. Finally felled it was the right result in the wrong place. A shaky short one to Knudsen who was the only left foot on the field capable of shooting, proved a cross is sometimes better.
When Garner again untangled himself from playing the man and space behind him on the line (and rarely going over it), he produced a cross almost as expertly crafted as his offensive routine. It would be the last thing Anita would do as he was switched before the resulting corner. McGoldrick had ghosted into space but saw Ayling go to ground to win something fairly for once. Clearly the former Bristol full back has a name that is Anglo-Saxon for massive lump of ponytailed human blancmange. He hit the turf time and again without shame, even then Nydam was the tiny gust of wind putting him there, and he got the decision every time.
There would be one more galling and telling one soon to come. If Bart might be blamed a little for the second goal, when Leeds made it three against the run of play and undeservedly he was certainly credited with it. Parrying the ball downwards from a corner, only one man knew what the naked eye could never do. An 80’s dance move thanks to 90’s tennis technology and a decision the colour of infra-red. It won us the game against Brentford, but ultimately meant all was lost when 90 mins came, as 70 mins approached.
Mick had already been signalling to one of three attacking subs warming up, as the home side jogged back under a rare barrage of noise he signalled to two more. Nydam and Ward understandably withdrawn. Leeds looked susceptible to pace, so Celina then Sears entered the fray as the game ended for two players who had done well in places.
Nydam might have surprised a few today, and at times looked every bit the kid in the game, but when he tangled with all comers and had one or two nice passes and a shot come off he looked every bit the man. Ward who can be so flaky, was smoothly versatile and useful all day but didn’t have the legs and tools to keep unlocking Leeds.
If Town couldn’t answer the conceded goal as quickly as Leeds had before the break, the 5 mins it took them felt like an eternity. Iorfa had been rampaging forward with more success and regularity as the game opened up. There are times when everyone in the ground doubts if his legs know exactly what they want to do, Dominic included; but when one scrambling run saw him find space on the cusp of the area he opted to use his shot as a cross. The reassuringly flappy German again spilled and this time right into the waiting path of Garner. Joey jumped at his chance to ram something other than an elbow down opposition throats and slammed the ball into the goal as the ground rang with just 600 voices or so, and alarm woke Yorkshire eyes wide once more.
For a set of fans fixated with the ills of Manchester, their unintelligible version of Love Will Tear Us Apart was an odd choice, yet fitting sentiment that has seen our own open letters underlining the state of Ipswich’s support right now much better than their taunting. Really what the home fans needed was some Atmosphere, as the last 20 minutes was given over to silence and pregnant pauses in play and posturing all over the ground.
A rare booking for a Leeds foul, and even rare decision our way saw more quality sapped from Leeds as Hernandez showed if he was capable of 90 mins he’d be at a club with more than just designs on being Premier League. Waghorn soon joined Sears and Celina as the final sub as MOTM McGoldrick was lovingly greeted in the stands and on the bench.
Mick left guile to the Kosovan now, as pace and power kept us on the front foot in a 4-2-get it up there and us streaming forward selection. The much-wanted winger looked to fit in well but made some odd decisions with his distribution. Step overs gave him ground and space but he drilled low crosses when floated ones threatened such a poor keeper, and would have been better. What he did show, was that we had something to offer games that needed changing and changes. That desired start is coming, and with playoff placers vs strugglers at Portman Rd. this Tuesday maybe it’ll be his night.
Delivering some much better corners at the death Town had every man bar Skuse up for Celina’s set pieces. The booking he earned was one of many vitally superb last-ditch tackles, he ran the captain close for today in terms of snuffing out any more unwarranted assaults on our goal difference.
Those that feared a beating before, will be ruing the fact that Town didn’t see the joy of six outside of a derby day. A draw would have been fair given the turn around and narrow margins between both teams.
If Leeds are truly promotion calibre, it’s amazing that we’re so close behind them right now. From the basement of Championship football, where fake Tom, Dick and ‘Arry’s don’t come back, the clogs of McCarthy’s men have again come thundering up the stairs only to get a face full of landing today. Expensive Italian loafers may rest uneasy on all our backs tonight. But if today’s showing is indicative of anything, then we’ve seen that for as long as we keep this up, up is where we’ll be heading.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 21:36:14|
Rain greeted the away fans as it drizzled in our end on a slight wind, it had threatened to all day. Before the game some Barnsley fans relayed their frustration of 18 months or so as we compared notes. The feeling of having the squad sold from under them was clearly taking its toll and despite assurances “’Ecky were keppin’t lid on it” their lack of confidence in their side rang hollow. It was the polar opposite of ours once hundreds began drumming our way to ground in anticipation.
Plenty walking up the hill were walk-ups as the away end was fuller and louder than the 600 or so pre-sold, requests for spares common from lunch time on. Some of the new signings must have dined out on the musical tributes coming their way as all the new songs got an airing during the warm up.
Not since 2002 had Town won all three opening fixtures, it was a time of nu-metal, old media and the twilight of the careers of some of the fathers whose progeny littered both squads.
A baffling selection from Mick was shrugged off as Bart kept his place at the base of a 3-5-2. Knudsen and Spence flanked Chambers as wing backs Kenlock and Iorfa pressed ahead. Skuse had to chaperone both Downes and Nydam while Sears partnered Garner upfront. No Smith at all in the lineup caused mild concern, but the plan was clear. Barnsley’s 4-1-4-1 meant all eyes would be on the midfield.
As Town saw Chambers receive the ball directly from kick off and his punt forward fail to connect with either striker and lose use a throw, Garner did well down the flank to reverse the trend for a corner early on. Nydam all diddy and confident strutted over to take it. Downes came up to him short and like much of the first so did their execution, however well intended.
It put Town on the back foot and there they stayed for the half by and large. Today it was no surprise to see the right as fertile ground for dominance and the alternative attacking prospect of Dominic Iorfa hurtling towards you is enough to make giving way understandable. The on-loan Wolf was knocking at the Tykes’ door constantly. He had more crosses than Easter and none of them looked deadly. Redemption was yet to pass too.
At the other end, former McCarthy signing Hammill was delighting in tearing through and past Myles Kenlock who unlike the rest of us; had the kind of day he’ll want to forget. It was lucky that Knudsen’s one real error after ten minutes or so wasn’t costlier. Moncur stuck out all half, more than his rugrat hair piece. With a head like a furry onion he looked to make blue eyes cry when he received the Dane’s soft gift. All following Nydam being dragged in behind the wingback from a run receiving a curled pass off the outside of a Barnsley boot and drilled it on the spin back on target. Bart palmed to Bradshaw who with the goal all his, headed softly into the waiting gloves of Bialkowski.
Both Moncur and Potts have been linked with Ipswich and both linked with Hammill in doubling up on the left’s weaknesses. For every cross-field ball Knudsen managed to set away Iorfa, he had two or three moments of marking the man Kenlock didn’t. It is fair to say the shape of Town’s 3-5-2 wasn’t unorthodox it was akin to a sack of sh1t.
With all three centre-backs auditioning for the Webster role of pass pinger, it was the captain who moved the pieces of the back line as best he could. Cutting out the dangers of Bradshaw and co. with deft experience. When the deficit was made, again Kenlock will be glad Bradshaw will take all the credit. One of many communication errors between Bart and his defence gave away more than a corner. The one-time Walsall man put us up against it with a free header from another decent move.
It’s hard to say what worked well, rather than who worked hard. Garner and Sears pumped arms and legs in an effort to chase everything on the floor and over their heads. Nydam who took every set piece, but often failed to find a blue shirt did much better when he had one moment of time and space. Dropping the ball wonderfully over for Sears to get away but not put away the chance.
At the other end Bart was again excellent in stopping shot, after header, after scramble. With Garner clearing off the line and at the other end being cleared off the line our only real chance of the opening play, it was the Pole making his goal impenetrable again. When another free header from a corner dropped over the bar following a rare fumble home fans must have wondered what had happened. Their attackers saw very little reward for their work.
Town did improve as the half came to a close, breaking out more fluidly but failing to gel as the midfield three was two young and too inexperienced overall to command the game or the respect of the opposition. Skuse struggled to steer enough of the play or players around him and when Barnsley broke free yet again it looked to be game over before the break.
A suspiciously forward looking Bradshaw waited for the overlapping Moncur to slide between centre backs and test Bart when he should have bamboozled him. Hedges the much quieter of the attacking 5 had scored in injury time against Morecambe but failed to make a habit of it here.
You could not envisage a bigger reversal of expectations or fortunes for either side before kick-off. Under the stands the steady stream on stainless steel an echo of the Reds’ riotous 45. Changes were needed and unsurprisingly they came. It was Kenlock and Nydam removed for McGoldrick and Waghorn. With Celina too on the bench it was strange that Mick kept such explosive options dry up until now.
However, if the 3-5-2 of today was anything like the Burley one it was one were we didn’t look like going up. Too many sideways passes, we had one man over in defence but only when attacking and our options were decimated as the wings became the place where Barnsley hemmed us in to profound effect.
For all the talk of 4-4-2 Mick over the years, it was rare to see four potential strikers out there. Downes and Skuse came into their own as partnership in the middle. Sears went left, Waghorn went right and the natural feet meant we could cut in at will and it wasn’t long before we drew blood.
As Sears and Knudsen now at left-back formed a slow and steady overlap, the ball came in and out of the Barnsley box seemingly one time too many. The Dane steadied himself and assured himself of the MOTM accolade. Every Blue saw a cross sit perfectly in the back corner of space between hosts. From our vantage, you knew as soon as McGoldrick dropped his shoulder, white shorts were being pulled down. A sweet volley into the back of the net was never in doubt. These moments of ferocity and beauty always seem to happen in slow motion.
Hundreds celebrated as one felt the long arm of the law and cold smack of tarmac under several stewards, not to return unlike Ipswich. The noise and significance still in the ground was clear to all.
Garner had spent all game winding up either centre back. Whoever had the job of standing next to him didn’t want to. He was clotheslined, had his ankle stamped on and in one bizarre moment was pinned to the ground during a corner in the six-yard box by a clearly livid captain. Whatever he said to them saw little given by a ref who was left red-faced when he let Nydam slide through dangerously before the break and waved play on. When Potts was dispossessed and went through the back of his man, all he could do was stop the game and warn both when either could have been booked or more.
Unfortunately, McGoldrick’s free kicks were not as good as his volleys when Skuse laid it off to him he skied it, thankfully for the one and only time. Generally, though, it was Town’s whole approach which impressed. With the game all level the first sub on loan Ike Ugbo relieved Bradshaw who never looked like doubling his tally. Nor did his colleagues after a dangerous volley flashed wide in one of many close shaves with Town’s woodwork and lead.
Ipswich meanwhile pressed on and the legs of Sears and Waghorn unlocked yards of space. It was the kind of game where either player deserved attention from more than just their markers. Downes was quietly effective when given the chance and with Skuse next to him both had the wherewithal to make simple layoffs and let the attackers do their job.
It was Barnsley now who found that pressing forward left space, and in one sweeping counter attack counted the cost. McGoldrick’s second sashay put a spring in his step as the inside of his heel redirected the ball and left his man chasing shadows. Garner delighted in weighting a perfectly timed ball to Waghorn’s run. Low and powerful he raced forward and despatched the ball in off the inside of the post with near perfect technique.
There’s something about the sight of Martyn racing clear to finish the game and win it for Town that makes you want to see it again and again. You can almost picture it when you close your eyes.
A final change for Town came when Downes hit the floor for a second time. The first saw Skuse react to the foot being left in and three men bearing down on him. Expertly timed barrier slide saw the other central midfielder hobbling too. When Flynn fell a second time in a matter of minutes McDonnell emerged yet again to take his chance. The Irishman did just fine for the last 15 or so. With injuries mounting up he should be eyeing this week as time to make a case for himself.
Town could be judged harshly for the first 45, but the way they closed out the second way was equally a return of what you’d expect from McCarthy and the portion of the game we should focus on for now.
As Barnes made his bow from the bench, Town fans wondered what they might have missed out on three or four times. The young fox drifted to the periphery of the box to rework a cross cut out by Chambers. When Sears showed a rare moment of weakness the youngster got a chance to volley at goal from the resultant passage of play.
It would all prove futile as Town saw out the time and served another defeat on a side that must now fear relegation already. Barnsley will probably have enough about them based on today. For a second time running allowed us to burgle them in this this fixture. Often this one throws up bizarre comebacks or pedestrian stalemates, we can rejoice in it finishing the former even if they have a case for it being the latter.
At some point this McCarthy juggernaut will slow, if not be derailed. With bodies being put on the line and all too often the physio's bench, we badly need some luck in that department too. That, and reinforcements. News reached us that Smith too, is out for a lengthy spell again and became a small cloud in the brilliant glow of sunshine and 3pts. The Lions may find us easy prey with some many wounded, if today brings up the names of yesteryear then who is our Matt Elliott in 2017?
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 20:11:39|
Sent to Nottingham, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? But whatever compelled 1500 or so blue souls to a ground where Suffolk seems to translate as second best for years now, there we were. At home, many watching on TV sets to see a solid second tier team, once known for European heroics and generations of success outside the bigger, fashionable clubs in the English game take on Ipswich to avoid relegation to the third tier.
It was like looking at next season as the teams came out in too many ways to be comfortable. This was Ipswich with no Lawrence, no McGoldrick. Bart had Kenlock, Berra, Chambers and Spence from left to right. Skuse, Huws and Ward the more fancied midfield of late and Rowe and Sears supporting Samuel as a lone striker. The team told us as much about our future by noting who wasn’t there as much as who was.
Forest started in silence and a deflected speculative ball across the goalmouth, fell just beyond their expensive focal point. After two or three attempts to get something on target saw Ward whip past the post their opening salvo at salvation or just enough safety gave way to a period of Town ascendency.
In the time, it took a few amateur awayday Stellings’ to announce the Blackburn lead and commemorate the fondness Mogga is still held in by us, Danny Rowe began to smoulder rather than light up the match.
Impressive youth product and nominal number 1 Jordan Smith was forced to save the recently fit Rowe’s effort as showed what cutting in and letting go might do for the first time. Town’s version of 4-3-3 seemed to work much better as both lone strikers looked isolated. Samuel more from the impetus of the wide players servicing him, Assombalonga more through the impotence of his.
Carayol who has always impressed me, crashed to the ground and before being subbed early on massaged both his hamstring and his groin. Who else would forest look to but a lad named Clough. Former Trotter and fancied by many Town fans at one point saw the home side put a flatter, higher line behind their striker and cause more issues for Bart on the counter. The Pole off his line quickly, and collecting slowly much to the annoyance of home fans who slowly found their voice.
Build up play from Town saw Skuse switching momentum down the right and Spence finding Rowe more than once. Huws and Ward swapped sides often, and when the wingers did it, it exploited space and little else.
Sears down the left had the speed but not the balance too often to find a shot or cross that could make the difference. Even when Skuse sliced a volley from a defended corner way beyond him, or Huws passed 15 yards into touch with the wide-playing striker having no chance of getting one on the intended ball. When he collapsed in a heap untouched when Town needed the cross more than anything, the jeers of the home fans drowned out the sense of wonder at what the hell was going to come off for us today.
Rowe on the other flank (mostly) had much better going of it. His electric runs slowly burning and forcing the Reds’ defence to twitch and jerk. When he again found that moving across the whole width of their shuffling perimeter he was unlucky to see his drive bounce back off a defender. The follow up from the keen but off key Samuel forced a save and the woodwork to conspire in keeping us level and Forest in striking distance of survival.
Bar this chance you felt Town might well deserve a lead, or even just a break but didn’t look like they had the skill or savvy to force one. At the other end of the pitch and the contest Assombalonga seemed to be the one man carry a team on his shoulders. His battle with Berra saw much manoeuvring but few shots fired. Both he and Kenlock had moments of denying him, it was Eric Lichaj who had the best chance of making himself a hero. A beautiful cross proved too much for a defence even as resolute as ours, and on the all but the goal line he let his toe take the ball high over the bar, when any other part of his anatomy might have got the touch to poke the ball over the line.
Moments later he tried to atone for this sin with one of the worst penalty shouts ever seen. If Chambers’ tapping of an invisible watch at the linesman had spared his blushes after a late flag early on, I’m not sure a whole game of charades would have spared the Americans blushes. Going down untouched like a geriatric sex worker, his demands for payment from the linesman were brazen and shameful in a manner that deserves viral condemnation.
It was a soft throw across again that would crucify Town. Bart seemed to fly in behind a stationary Kenlock, and getting an uncharacteristic flap at the ball, Spence then cleared off the line as somewhere in the melee the ref pointed to the spot. Confusion reigned amongst Blues fans long after who else but Britt held his nerve and slammed high into the net.
Town rallied, but the corner which they won and saw Berra glance way wide summed up the lack of breath or belief that remained after such a body shot. The hosts went in at half time looking safe(r) and Town fans wore looks that became increasingly stranger and furrowed. It wasn’t unfamiliar enough or good enough.
Before the interval our Ward had been hobbling on his ankle, Skuse had collided heavily with their Ward during one of his many intervening runs. To hear Emmanuel had been warming up and was coming on was confusing but not surprising, until Kenlock was the man removed in a straight swap. Perhaps Mick had wanted to see a half each from the young-backs, perhaps he was less than impressed with some of the defensive decisions that clouded another example of Myles consolidating his claim for regular football.
Town’s straight swap didn’t last long as the game again mirrored the season as a whole. Anything good about the start not built upon, the need to chase worse teams than us, and lack of end-product saw Emmanuel shift to the right and Rowe fill in at wingback. It stifled Forest’s more direct build up, but where the gaps had been ours to exploit previously, now the openings and distance to run shortened.
If Rowe had looked the only man likely to score, let alone have a go from any angle Forest found a superior effort and it was a Captain’s moment. A simple shimmy inward and Cohen unleashed an absolute worldie. Clearly deflected, but no one cared. It looped past a stranded Bart in a way that you just knew would hit the bar at the other end. Forest went wild, and seemed surer of themselves and their status next season. They have a habit of saving these types of things just for us it seems.
Town might have appeared winded by the first goal, the second one smothered us. Adrift and left to wonder at what distance divine intervention might be as Mick switched us back in shape again with the sense that all was lost for a third time in a row. The moment that sealed it again a spot of bother far more blatant.
Emmanuel chasing down his man from the wrong side, is something we’ve seen before. Him handling him less so as the youthful exuberance upended Ward yet again. A clear card and black mark against Josh as again Assombalonga lined up. Switching his kick, it wasn’t just Jesus who saves. Bialkowski hammering the spot kick out for a corner and a restoration for Town seemed just a matter of faith and a little patience.
Sears who had again worked hard but not made headway was booed off or Moore was booed on. Whatever it meant, was soon replaced by a clearer chant of disgust towards McCarthy from a growing minority.
Celebration gave way to rhapsody as finally the second coming of Assombalonga was heralded by their star shooting high into the net again past Bart, having beaten all in front of him and a tight angle. The former Nottingham man chambers and Huws rushed straight to the referee. It was clear the man in the middle had pointed to a free kick for Town, before changing his mind and direction.
Our white Knights gallantly trotted out of position so the scorer could be released and goal made. The mistake was glaring, so was the ref’s but nothing was changing. Town limped to three goals down.
The sub Moore caused far more fear than necessary in his defensive counterparts. Hauled to the ground several times, Huws criminally wasted one free kick with a tame chip into Smith’s arms. The tallest man on the pitch also took a nasty elbow to the mouth which went missed and unpunished. His revenge was a cold moment, a header from close range kicked off the line when he did well to find the effort.
For all his attempts, he was just that moment too slow, too ponderous, too far behind when one looks at the performances of Rowe in a similar light and context.
The final bow of Berra came ten minutes from time as Webster made his long-awaited return. He was a shout back to better days, sunnier August afternoons full of hope and pregnant with potential. As we throw the dirt on this season and the mudslinging will continue as it must surely do now, one wonders if we saw our future in the crystallising defeat today.
An unpopular owner, a squad loaded with injury prone, expensive and incoherent players. An expensive manager, well regarded and with a point to prove. The last time I saw a team like that perform like Forest did today, all whilst facing the drop; Mick McCarthy was in the dugout. We were playing fellow relegation avoiders Birmingham that day.
Bart waded through the pitch invading home fans, between the red smoke and relief evaporating into the air. He was clapping purposefully.
Every team finishes where they deserve, on and off the pitch.
|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers Your Report added at 19:52:11|
The season over in April and a short taste of summer on a cool, sunny day. Nine changes for Mick as he looked over those we’d seen less of this term. Gerken came back between the sticks. The familiar pairing of Smith and Chambers the only one. Kenlock and Emmanuel back inside the side-lines at full back. Diagouraga sitting with Dozzell and Bishop, out wide Samuel and Rowe. Pitman the lone striker.
An opening minute of head tennis saw neither side take control of anything. The lack of fluency showed as Ward lead the line for the Millers and showed why Town might be looking at him as much as anyone in Blue. After ten or so minutes Chambers struggled with him and the ball in the box, the ricochet falling between Gerken and the onrushing red. Emmanuel clumsily flew in from behind to give the hosts a chance to draw first blood.
A well struck spot-kick, a dive to his left and Gerken palmed away. The palpable belief from the few home fans that had bothered with the spectacle clearly evaporated as Town scrambled away. The stopper in lime green will never escape comparisons with the Pole but his first half showing between the posts was reasonable enough.
One good punch and little else, he was off his line smartly and his choice of kicking allowed Town to play out of the back. The rigidity of the 433 gave way on around the 20 minute mark to complete amorphousness beyond the defence. Town were never free-flowing, at our finest perhaps gelatinous.
Rowe swapping sides whilst Samuel went up top on his own, Pitman filled a sort of neither/or role between strike partner and wide outlet. Winning cross-field long kicks in the air admirably, but losing the battle with himself all game.
There had been neat triangles of football deep in midfield allowing the full backs to get involved, and Rotherham’s strict structure and punt to Ward policy meant that Dozzell and Bishop both alternated behind the striker and at LCM. Whoever took the latter role drawn out wide to meet the oncoming attacker as needed.
It was in this period that Town carved out the better chances off the half. Rowe was clearly designated set-piece taker, his delivery consistently deep and troublesome. All of his corners found the last man, but not the first touch goalward. It was a freekick from just inside the touchline and just outside the box that saw him swing his left foot through the ball and whip across goal for the first time. When Samuel won one on the opposite side of the box, Pitman worked a baffling chipped effort from Diagouraga’s layoff that did nothing but alarm fans instead of foes.
Bishop and Dozzell had perhaps had the focus of the most hope, if not all the eyes of Town fans on them with every touch. The lack of understanding amongst the lineup saw both miss runners and momentum and restricted us to safer five yard passes around their men. The youngster who would turn one, then nutmeg another was nowhere to be seen; as the older version of the Blue #7 meticulously tried to get Town playing but couldn’t. He had the ball, he had the brain, but not the belief it seems.
It was about 28 minutes before Bishop found Kenlock and not just empty space ahead of him with throughball. The assured left back on the overlap and Ted sent him flying down the line. His cut in, cut out and Town won another corner. Rotherham meanwhile were using the hold up play of their bigger striker Morris to unleash Ward. Emmanuel not long after the penalty was more comfortable shepherding the smaller striker away from goal having stayed the right side every other time. Had the hosts’ #10 had hold up play any better than his attitude we might have been in trouble all afternoon.
Rowe was the really moving into centre-stage as most of Town’s better moves seemed to involve him. A shot towards goal as he ran diagonally in from Dozzell’s visionary pass. The low rifle caused all sorts of problems from the man stepping up from the National League. Just behind him in terms of movement and effort was Samuel, he made that literal as his rebound also failed to find the net. The keeper and then the woodwork conspiring to deny Town who had hoped to ride the limited pressure of a team already sunk.
Half time came just as Ward again tried to run clear. Clutching a clearly pulled hamstring he hobbled towards the throw in he’d won, sat down and the referee seemed to sense his anguish as much as ours and blew up. The image of the striker sitting forlorn and broken encapsulated a half of football with all the feel of a friendly and warmth of an afternoon in Yorkshire.
An unsettled and unnerving half saw only Rotherham make the obvious change. Ward unable to continue was replaced by someone else you’ve probably not heard much from before. If Burton had a side that looked like a Championship calibre swapsies pile of players which few others needed let alone wanted, Town played along with the theme of fielding strangers.
It didn’t take long before the unimpressive Ajeyi went off injured or sick and tired. His distribution had stopped both teams playing often enough and caused Rotherham to shuffle around a bit. Their midfielder dropping back before firing wide at the post in another unlikely effort.
The lumpy afternoon from Diagouraga saw the big man slow down again. His movement dropping in contrast to those ahead of him. Rowe dipped the ball forward perfectly and Pitman seized on the bounce. Further out than his effort a week ago, he again failed to find the target despite the much better build up but none of the breaks.
Mick’s lack of shape saw Town move to a strange 4-2-2-2 with the deflated Bishop removed for Moore. The lofty striker seemed steely and determined, his first chance to score saw even his long legs too short to stud home on the slide. A good move down the right saw Pitman ass the ball across the goal thanks to the legs of Emmanuel and then thrust forward of Rowe.
It was the two recently non-league men than combined to allow Rowe to have beautiful effort clipped wide. Moore stood between two defenders and blocked the view of the keeper long enough to shield the ball down to the diminutive strawberry-blonde winger. No peach, and little sweet about the continued struggle against such low-hanging fruit.
The waspish frustration only increased when it was the second of such attempts to beat a keeper with little natural ability.
If Ipswich were to take a lead they needed to remove the shackles that seemed to slow down so many moves across the pitch. The unorthodox nature of the gigantic striker meant he so often looked like a crane when we needed a wrecking ball. Neither Rowe or Samuel seemed to find their mark. However, the Reading striker showed great technique and comprehension of Blues’ attacking intent. I’d like to see more of him.
Emmanuel beat his man then turned back on himself to cross nicely with his weaker foot. The godfearing Samuel had no divine right to score, but he deserved better than the save off the legs of O’Donnell.
With little left of the contest and Bru coming into central midfield, marked a shift in approach. If Diagouraga has hopes of staying in Mick’s plans he needs to complete 90 minutes and do so to a much higher standard. The same might be said for many of those out there. Dozzell shifted into a deeper role that allowed him to become more of a playmaker. That left foot of his could level an entire city in the right contest.
However, it was Ipswich who would give way in a fashion that summed up so much that is wrong with this season. A reasonably well defended corner saw the ball pushed back to half way. It was the half measures all day that meant it wasn’t too surprising to see a mortar round drop in the area and no one scramble. The solid centre backs afforded one momentary lapse and the hosts fired themselves ahead and into a brief moment of escapism. A rocketing lead taken well enough, but as the whole game had shown.
Questions were far more prevalent than answers.
Sears emerged to play out the last few minutes as Town threw everything forward. Rowe making an impressive debut in uncertain circumstances. If Oar was not the answer, it’s impossible to know if Rowe is. More aggressive and industrious, he is more like Anderson or Roberts which must be why Mick likes him.
Moore on the other hand put in arguably his best shift for Town, again off the bench. Not everything went his way, and his shove on Mattock at the corner flag either non-league experience being shown up, or revenge for the left back’s earlier diving misdemeanours in a game littered with bad tackling, bad passing, bad shooting and a bad taste in the mouth. The Forest Green import was clearly having his shirt tugged but not his attention as he headed back a corner past the keeper, only to see it booted off the line and away.
There was little noise all game. A few strained lines again telling Mick McCarthy what a dozen or so thought of his football and an inflatable dinosaur upturned on the concourse said as much about today and this year as the few hundred who spent most of the game silent. There might have been little on the pitch to shout about, but you hope that today might settle the arguments about who we need next year in and around the squad.
It’s fair to say that Rotherham are possibly the worst side I’ve seen in the decade and a half we’ve been a Championship club. What such an experimental side told Mick exactly we might not see for a few weeks. To say it blew up in his face today would be too much, we simply didn’t get much of a reaction at all let alone a meaningful result.
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