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Blackpool v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 22:22:47
Blackpool had not won in a Norfolk handful of games. Along come Ipswich. With more firepower missing, Lambert spun the freshly scraped barrel and selected a 4-3-3 containing two strikers who have great attributes and attitudes, but question marks over their best position. With Sears on the left and Keane central, Bishop was the midfielder put out on the right. Behind them Skuse, Downes and Huws in a conservative V. A back four ahead of Holy of Garbutt, Earl, Chambers and Woolfenden nominally at right-back.

The Seasiders kicked into the wind first and managed to win a trio of corners early on. The final one was caught by Holy and Town pushed ahead with their own attack. There was little in the way of descriptive football. Garbutt had his own corner which he overhit past an expectant box. It was the first of many set pieces Town failed to make anything from.

Ipswich seemed to enjoy having the wind behind them and launched some tidy play from the back, via the midfield. Keane broke the lines for the first time and Sears found Huws at the back post. The Welshman would have had a tap in had he been a yard quicker or the ball a touch more favourable.

Town’s keeper had lots of chances to keep the OPTA boys busy today and took the opportunity to register a shot off target from a goal kick. The Czech’s bouncer beat Maxwell and the bar much to the amusement of the thousand or so away fans. It was no surprise that the Blues were less effective the neater they kept it, both in the conditions and context of a game where a win was vital.

Bishop was either cutting in on instinct or instruction, but given the lopsided way in which this Frankenstein team lumbered tactically today who knows for sure? When he did get sent on the outside, he clattered the boards in a moment of theatre. We all thought the man of glass with lots of class was done for a second, but he rose again to encouraging noises.

Ipswich’s lone striker was isolated too often due to his better runs only being picked up by the opposition. When he did get a shot off it was more out of hope and frustration, giving the away side the look of a team closing in on a goal but not threatening it enough. Down the left hand side we were getting forward in straight lines, on the other, players overlapped awkwardly or both retreated and advanced into channels without taking the chance to cross when it presented itself.

The manner in which Town conceded was extra galling, given it came from the left.

Garbutt appeared to showboat in no man’s land, he went where the ball did not. Downes charged to the rescue when Huws had it under control. Toes were stood on, Downes’ poked the ball free and the on loan Tangerine who locals had raved about in the pub, popped up to place it under Holy and inside of his post. Who else? What else? “Lambert sort it out” was who and what.

Sears broke clear thanks to good work from those around him more than once. He was denied a shot each time. When he bore down on a good save from Maxwell it seemed clear he had his heels wiped out from behind. Both legs went up, all of him came down. Goal kick. In the lower leagues the revolution is still not televised.

By the end of the half Town looked diminished. Shrugs, grumbles and stronger dissent blew across the pitch like the detritus that filled the goalmouth Town would be shooting towards next. It was as familiar and confusing as anything else this season or this game.

No wonder when we had just watched Gary Madine get hit in the face by the ball, win a freekick, then see Chambers given a drop ball instead from which Town did nothing with.
The second half started fittingly non-descript for a seaside Town in off-season setting. The rare flashes and cheap architecture which battled to be noticed amid the grey and shut down, were rarely memorable.

So when Town took a step back into contention, it was worth looking twice much like Will Keane did. Finding himself closed out on the righthand side of the box, he dummied and feinted until he saw Sears in the right place and picked him out with a ball across. The winger reverted back to a striker and beat Maxwell finally. The fans and players celebrated like you do when someone shows he’s still got it after a serious injury. The game was back in the balance. The Seasiders’ advantage expunged.

Downes went back in the book in the most typical way possible. Winning a foul, he shoved his assailant and saw both a card and the ref’s arm swing the other way to award him the free kick. Rehearsing for the rest of the week, he soon went missing down the tunnel.

Dobra and Judge came on as incredibly early substitutes for Bishop and Downes. The young Albanian on the right and the Irishman through the middle, meant Town kept what little shape they had and no smoother feel to their play. Both sides had makeshift and uncomfortable looking right backs, both sides had strikers flanked by midfielders who didn’t quite know what they were meant to be or do. Neither side looked good for a win.

Holy had seen plenty of action inside his box and as the game went on, he decided to see what life was like outside of it. Thinking, he was not. More than once he chased down an overhit through ball or under hit back pass. One time he was lucky that merely being a giant was enough to bounce the on-comers away. Another incident meat he needed rescuing at the corner flag to avoid conceding again.

However, when he was pinned back to his line, he caught gleefully from Madine (via the woodwork) in a move which looked a certain soft goal. At the other end Keane could only steer a header over from glancing at the paciest of corners, or force a save from a greater distance or more acute angle.

Whilst Judge and Dobra were contrastingly effective in the build up play, it was the senior midfielder who was unlucky not to see a near post effort squirm past the keeper. When Lambert made his final substitution, it was again the front three he looked to replenish. Keane gave way to the hulking young Simpson.

Immediately eye-catching, he appears well beyond his years in every sense. A physical specimen who can run at and through players, a left foot that is more than refined enough to trap and release a ball in wet conditions and a ten minute bow which suggests he is yet to look out of place in this league.

Town worked well enough in playing simple passes in the hosts’ half, but at the back only neatening corrections from Earl and Chambers, occasionally Skuse really improved possession which looked too shaky and unsure, far too many times today.

It was little surprise that Town would press for a winner, and it was once again Sears who was clean through. A smart dink over the top, and what was clearly a very smart save denied him. Maxwell doing just enough to divert off his foot mid-move and deny him a second.

That was all Blackpool needed. A hoof forward had seen Judge clear out a threat into row Z. However, this time the ball came down the right and at the near post Nuttall proved the super sub. Capping his half an hour bow with a header which took all the plaudits, points and point out of everything.

Town collapsed on and off the field once more. Some looked at their feet like Freddie did, some mouthed obscenities like Alan did, some looked at each other like Skuse and Chambers did. Everyone was soon looking at Lambert.

One whistle more was replaced by many. Players and fans ambled over towards each other, like teenagers unsure if the engagement would be reciprocated kindly. The management team followed a little way behind, as questions were forming like the changing tide on moving sand.

Can you hear them? The outsiders looking in, they who told us, are competing to be heard amongst the common denominators within the fanbase. Somewhere underpinning the heartbeat of the cacophony, the death rattle replaced the drum, “allez” gave way to V-signs and ominous clapping the players off. Lambert needs to do more than knock on wood, as today’s game was yet another nail driven in. Blackpool. What a place to drown.
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Sunderland v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 09:18:40
With a storm threatening this evening, saw Town return to the Stadium of Light this afternoon under a cloud of high pressure. The biggest and most “premiership” of stadia we’ll see this season, was alight with two thousand Blues, amongst the tens of thousands on Wearside filing in for the game to decide which big club was gonna fade away from contention this year.

Ipswich’s unfathomable dalliance with the top of the table was as distant as their fans, looking down upon a near perfect pitch only obscured by pigeons. Below them silent witnesses watched a much-changed side challenge theirs. Holy was back by popular demand, ahead of him a flat three unchanged. Donacien and Kenlock as wingbacks and Skuse behind Downes and Nolan, with Norwood and Keane the attack.

It took Sunderland barely ten minutes to put the ball in the net. Wyke stabbing past Holy and despite the home fans’ jubilation it was clear from the nosebleeds, he was all on his own because he was miles offside.

With the notable absence of Norris, Judge and Garbutt there was a new dimension to this side. Flipping the midfield triangle so that Skuse was the single pivot and the red and yellow streaks of his midfield colleagues joining Keane in the space that the Irishman would usually occupy meant a new shape and feel to our attacking play.

It was the wingbacks who could really push forward, and this created the bulk of several good chances. Kenlock was picked out by Keane and with the keeper covering back towards the post, it was hard to know if the left back intended to cross or shoot as the ball ended up behind for a corner.

Now this area of the pitch where Town looked to excel would prove fertile ground. A superbly placed ball in for Norwood via good building and link up play down the left put the strike clean through. What looked a certain lead was yanked away from us by an excellent stop.

Lambert’s side may have been weakened by suspension and injury, but seemed immune to the baying of a set of home fans who sat silently until they felt an official could be corrupted. Their players in the main, looked flexible in all of the thirds mainly due to Town’s success in stretching them.

A rare sight flashed past the post or onto the barricade of McLoughlin’s reactions. The return of Nolan shooting from distance and from instinct was a welcome addition to Ipswich’s new look attack. The void between the Black Cat’s rear relaxed just enough to slip him and his mates in time and again.

Keane was enjoying having runners and when he did make space to shoot, the block was nodded over by a calvary charge from someone following in. He looked better finding those on the shoulder than being that guy. Norwood took a sumptuous lay off and curved a fierce effort the wrong side of the post. It was looking like not even Kes could swoop or strike with such speed in the maelstrom of wind and intent bearing down towards a vocal away end.

Sunderland were clearly not as well versed in the lore of Jeremy Simpson, but when Wilson was felled in needless and dangerous fashion on the line it was clear a yellow was inevitable, despite their yowls. Downes would later yap his way into a two-game break after a clean challenge from Skuse produced some amateur gymnastics. The decision was wrong, but definitely not a hill to die on for the ill-disciplined Flynn.

Ipswich had recently employed overlapping centre backs much to the glee of amateur tacticians across the third tier. There little more than sheer guts to Chambers’ run past Donaicen to make a tackle on the home team’s goal line to try and keep possession. However, it signified that somehow, he and his mates wanted it today even if they couldn’t always find the punchline or timing to laugh away the doubt hanging over them.

Sunderland rarely threatened and when they did, it seems their own haste led to waste as shots went well wide or were snuffed out like a candle in, well, the wind. Holy making acquaintance with the halfway line during one moment of madness was a sight that will live long in the memory, perhaps trying to show he can do all that is rival for the shirt has promised to do so often.

The first half saw Ipswich walk off looking good but having little to show for it. Our season in miniature as big players tried to put their mark on the game, but merely put to bed the aberration of the last couple of matches instead.

Under Lambert Ipswich had felt the weight of history like a millstone around their necks. As we eulogised Sir Bobby and lingered on the rose-tinted blinders of the Allezs, it became clear that the good half, was about to be proceeded by the bad one.

Sunderland did as we had and tore into the bottom left hand corner. Pushing the ball about and forcing Donacien into the first of a few last gasp crashing blocks at the back post, via deflected crosses and patient passes.

Much has been made of the rotation this season, but neither full back would finish the game fresh or fit. Kenlock in fact was beaten and so were the three players rushing to his aid all too easily. A crashing shot off the post left the goal wide open, before a striker let the rebound bounce kindly to the arms of our Czech. It was a warning far more serious than the belated drop-balls and lectures of the referee that jarred amidst some of this season’s freer play.

Chambers was next to be beaten. Momentarily by the bounce and recovered to win the ball. Egged on by the home crowd who must have had their one eye closed, he was cautioned for doing his job, as Simpson must have agreed he got a bit of the man. Apart from his soul and dignity, it was unfathomable which bit though.

Holy was getting more than a good feel of the ball, tipping like an American on holiday as Sunderland utilised the conditions and belief it brought up in them. Denying the hosts several chances to turn in a cross or teasing ball, as they found space by pulling defenders with them or beating them on the channels.

However, when Town did remember that the reason they had been so shot-shy and tumbling down the league of late was a lack of service, Sunderland nearly handed us the game on a plate. A routine move forward saw the defender lay it off to the keeper, who like us had an excellent first half and terrible second. Picking the ball up to the collective amazement of the whole stadium.

By the time everyone had remembered what happens in moments like these, and Town took their indirect free kick, they like the set piece, were just a tad off centre as the final touch cannoned of a Blue shin and out for a goal kick. It was our first opportunity and Town merely took another knock.

The imperious nature of the first half had taken its toll on the visitors and Norwood and Nolan were put back on the bench, their natural habitat of late. It shouldn’t have changed the nature of Town’s brighter aspects, but Huws and Jackson didn’t have the impact intended.

In fact, the already booked McLoughlin won a free kick minutes after flattening Huws and completely missing the ball. The penalty for such an indiscretion? A free kick taken miles away after Town were shaping up to shoot. It was as baffling as our decline after the break.

With the added pressure of recent events coming into the game, combining with that of Sunderland’s ability to press forward a goal was somehow inevitable despite the best efforts of the woodwork and a ramrod straight Holy, who seemed to make a save with his ribcage at one point.

When Sunderland did break the deadlock it was just as we had promised to. A sloppy error from Chambers as he took his eye off the ball and evaded his studs. A throw and quick move of chicanery ended with a first time hit that flew the right side of the post and nestled in the net. Having sacrificed width for directness, they squeezed us out of the game all too predictably.

Ipswich were forced to remove Donacien who had stopped to stretch his calf more than once between tackles and set pieces being taken. The second centre back to play on the right became Woolfenden as Earl made his bow in surgical mask and pragmatic patching up of an already breached defence.

Wilson was rescued after a clumsy slip as the last man. Cole made himself into a human cue to poke away the ball in a moment defensive billiards that could so easily have been another boll0ck dropped.

The Preston loanee looked the part, but his simply lay offs and takes merely gave rise to a sense of frustration as he could only offload to midfielders level with him and barracked to get it forward. Town did so and sent away Jackson whose runs were previously as misplaced as they were rapid. With only the goalkeeper to stop him his feet slowed, and mind raced, as the ball got away from him in a moment when his leg didn’t trail long enough to catch the covering defender and earn a certain spot kick.

When the full-time whistle came, so did the predictable shrugs, shuffling and boos. A big away end greeting yet another anti-climax with the mixed responses befitting of this season. On paper this was as weak as any side Lambert could put out aside from the EFL trophy, but it had mustered one of the better halves for a while. Tellingly, the only consistent identifying trait was that they followed it with one of utter collapse and listlessness.

In a week where upstairs have brought back a Butcher to the club, this third defeat on the bounce may call for more bloodletting and dismemberment than today warranted. Had Ipswich taken the points they may well feel that promotion is back on the menu. As it is we sit 7th, and there’s cold comfort in that position.
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Ipswich Town v Peterborough United Your Report added at 21:33:02
With a storm threatening this evening, saw Town return to the Stadium of Light this afternoon under a cloud of high pressure. The biggest and most “premiership” of stadia we’ll see this season, was alight with two thousand Blues, amongst the tens of thousands on Wearside filing in for the game to decide which big club was gonna fade away from contention this year.

Ipswich’s unfathomable dalliance with the top of the table was as distant as their fans, looking down upon a near perfect pitch only obscured by pigeons. Below them silent witnesses watched a much-changed side challenge theirs. Holy was back by popular demand, ahead of him a flat three unchanged. Donacien and Kenlock as wingbacks and Skuse behind Downes and Nolan, with Norwood and Keane the attack.

It took Sunderland barely ten minutes to put the ball in the net. Wyke stabbing past Holy and despite the home fans’ jubilation it was clear from the nosebleeds, he was all on his own because he was miles offside.

With the notable absence of Norris, Judge and Garbutt there was a new dimension to this side. Flipping the midfield triangle so that Skuse was the single pivot and the red and yellow streaks of his midfield colleagues joining Keane in the space that the Irishman would usually occupy meant a new shape and feel to our attacking play.

It was the wingbacks who could really push forward, and this created the bulk of several good chances. Kenlock was picked out by Keane and with the keeper covering back towards the post, it was hard to know if the left back intended to cross or shoot as the ball ended up behind for a corner.

Now this area of the pitch where Town looked to excel would prove fertile ground. A superbly placed ball in for Norwood via good building and link up play down the left put the strike clean through. What looked a certain lead was yanked away from us by an excellent stop.

Lambert’s side may have been weakened by suspension and injury, but seemed immune to the baying of a set of home fans who sat silently until they felt an official could be corrupted. Their players in the main, looked flexible in all of the thirds mainly due to Town’s success in stretching them.

A rare sight flashed past the post or onto the barricade of McLoughlin’s reactions. The return of Nolan shooting from distance and from instinct was a welcome addition to Ipswich’s new look attack. The void between the Black Cat’s rear relaxed just enough to slip him and his mates in time and again.

Keane was enjoying having runners and when he did make space to shoot, the block was nodded over by a cavalry charge from someone following in. He looked better finding those on the shoulder than being that guy. Norwood took a sumptuous lay off and curved a fierce effort the wrong side of the post. It was looking like not even Kes could swoop or strike with such speed in the maelstrom of wind and intent bearing down towards a vocal away end.

Sunderland were clearly not as well versed in the lore of Jeremy Simpson, but when Wilson was felled in needless and dangerous fashion on the line it was clear a yellow was inevitable, despite their yowls. Downes would later yap his way into a two-game break after a clean challenge from Skuse produced some amateur gymnastics. The decision was wrong, but definitely not a hill to die on for the ill-disciplined Flynn.

Ipswich had recently employed overlapping centre backs much to the glee of amateur tacticians across the third tier. There little more than sheer guts to Chambers’ run past Donaicen to make a tackle on the home team’s goal line to try and keep possession.

However, it signified that somehow, he and his mates wanted it today even if they couldn’t always find the punchline or timing to laugh away the doubt hanging over them.
Sunderland rarely threatened and when they did, it seems their own haste led to waste as shots went well wide or were snuffed out like a candle in, well, the wind. Holy making acquaintance with the halfway line during one moment of madness was a sight that will live long in the memory, perhaps trying to show he can do all that is rival for the shirt has promised to do so often.

The first half saw Ipswich walk off looking good but having little to show for it. Our season in miniature as big players tried to put their mark on the game, but merely put to bed the aberration of the last couple of matches instead.

Under Lambert Ipswich had felt the weight of history like a millstone around their necks. As we eulogised Sir Bobby and lingered on the rose-tinted blinders of the Allezs, it became clear that the good half, was about to be proceeded by the bad one.

Sunderland did as we had and tore into the bottom left hand corner. Pushing the ball about and forcing Donacien into the first of a few last gasp crashing blocks at the back post, via deflected crosses and patient passes.

Much has been made of the rotation this season, but neither full back would finish the game fresh or fit. Kenlock in fact was beaten and so were the three players rushing to his aid all too easily. A crashing shot off the post left the goal wide open, before a striker let the rebound bounce kindly to the arms of our Czech. It was a warning far more serious than the belated drop-balls and lectures of the referee that jarred amidst some of this season’s freer play.

Chambers was next to be beaten. Momentarily by the bounce and recovered to win the ball. Egged on by the home crowd who must have had their one eye closed, he was cautioned for doing his job, as Simpson must have agreed he got a bit of the man. Apart from his soul and dignity, it was unfathomable which bit though.

Holy was getting more than a good feel of the ball, tipping like an American on holiday as Sunderland utilised the conditions and belief it brought up in them. Denying the hosts several chances to turn in a cross or teasing ball, as they found space by pulling defenders with them or beating them on the channels.

However, when Town did remember that the reason they had been so shot-shy and tumbling down the league of late was a lack of service, Sunderland nearly handed us the game on a plate. A routine move forward saw the defender lay it off to the keeper, who like us had an excellent first half and terrible second. Picking the ball up to the collective amazement of the whole stadium.

By the time everyone had remembered what happens in moments like these, and Town took their indirect free kick, they like the set piece, were just a tad off centre as the final touch cannoned of a Blue shin and out for a goal kick. It was our first opportunity and Town merely took another knock.

The imperious nature of the first half had taken its toll on the visitors and Norwood and Nolan were put back on the bench, their natural habitat of late. It shouldn’t have changed the nature of Town’s brighter aspects, but Huws and Jackson didn’t have the impact intended.

In fact, the already booked McLoughlin won a free kick minutes after flattening Huws and completely missing the ball. The penalty for such an indiscretion? A free kick taken miles away after Town were shaping up to shoot. It was as baffling as our decline after the break.

With the added pressure of recent events coming into the game, combining with that of Sunderland’s ability to press forward a goal was somehow inevitable despite the best efforts of the woodwork and a ramrod straight Holy, who seemed to make a save with his ribcage at one point.

When Sunderland did break the deadlock it was just as we had promised to. A sloppy error from Chambers as he took his eye off the ball and evaded his studs. A throw and quick move of chicanery ended with a first time hit that flew the right side of the post and nestled in the net. Having sacrificed width for directness, they squeezed us out of the game all too predictably.

Ipswich were forced to remove Donacien who had stopped to stretch his calf more than once between tackles and set pieces being taken. The second centre back to play on the right became Woolfenden as Earl made his bow in surgical mask and pragmatic patching up of an already breached defence.

Wilson was rescued after a clumsy slip as the last man. Cole made himself into a human cue to poke away the ball in a moment defensive billiards that could so easily have been another boll0ck dropped.

The Preston loanee looked the part, but his simply lay offs and takes merely gave rise to a sense of frustration as he could only offload to midfielders level with him and barracked to get it forward. Town did so and sent away Jackson whose runs were previously as misplaced as they were rapid. With only the goalkeeper to stop him his feet slowed, and mind raced, as the ball got away from him in a moment when his leg didn’t trail long enough to catch the covering defender and earn a certain spot kick.

When the full-time whistle came, so did the predictable shrugs, shuffling and boos. A big away end greeting yet another anti-climax with the mixed responses befitting of this season. On paper this was as weak as any side Lambert could put out aside from the EFL trophy, but it had mustered one of the better halves for a while. Tellingly, the only consistent identifying trait was that they followed it with one of utter collapse and listlessness.

In a week where upstairs have brought back a Butcher to the club, this third defeat on the bounce may call for more bloodletting and dismemberment than today warranted. Had Ipswich taken the points they may well feel that promotion is back on the menu. As it is we sit 7th, and there’s cold comfort in that position.
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Tranmere Rovers v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 19:17:39
A fixture shrouded in doubt, last minute pitch covers and frosty air at Prenton Park for Town today. Not since the glory days of Burley, have we played this club from beyond the Liver birds. Not since the days of Robson, have we played on a pitch as multi-surfaced either. Mud, sand and grass laid out in front of the Cowshed, in an arena that looked like it would require an Olympic-sized effort to take away three points today.

Town had Norris, a back three of Chambers, Woolfenden and Wilson with Edwards and Garbutt the boys patrolling the beaches down either touchline. Huws and Downes sat behind Judge who had Keane and the returning Jackson up top. Homecoming boy Norwood had to make do with the away bench as Dozzell dropped from today’s squad.
There were questions still hanging over Town that go back way beyond the last couple of months that were so were deficient of anything resembling football, and again, today was not an occasion that lent itself to expansive play.

It took Emyr Huws from the edge of the box to register Town’s first goalward effort. Getting on the end of some decent interleaving of passes and punts from the away side, the Welshman tested the keeper with a solid but easily saved drive. Tranmere had started with a clear intent to get in behind our defence, and dig out the rest of our side by hitting us and the ball, up and under whenever they felt besieged.

The standard of officiating has often been called into question as we acclimatise to the third tier, but there was a sense amongst the lively and noisy away end that Town couldn’t buy a 50:50 regardless of badly they needed one.

Ipswich fed their front two from the width of the rougher territories, and both Keane and Jackson found that bringing others into play heralded better service that trying to defeat three big defenders in the air in a straight battle. All of our creative players from Huws, to Judge to Keane himself found their passes didn’t fall or flow sweetly as they traversed the surface and tried to find the runner they had in mind.

Jackson saw two good chances bobble under him and away from him as he could see the goal, but not with boot and ball aligned as well. Chambers was the first to pick up a rejected corner, firing from distance with no chance of finding the target. Downes then took one at a better angle and distance, but like the goal, the defender was much closer and denied him.

Town switched wingers almost into a makeshift 343 as Norris was told to launch a free kick from just inside the Rovers half. Edwards moved from RWB to LW briefly and Judge took charge of the right flank until the move broke down too. In the midst of this a slow-motion overhead kick from Keane was collected with the ease Thetis got cards rather than matchwinners.

The volume and belief rose behind Norris, but in front of him the breaks never looked like coming. Tranmere tangled and slid into every contest with intent, and Ipswich were not shy or sure in taking possession. This gave the home side some moments to worry the backline and it was a moment of indecision which led to the inevitable concession of a goal.

Tranmere tried to take a quick throw and the speed of it saw it fly out for a goal kick. Norris collected and went to kick, when the referee insisted it was taken further down the line. Much to the protest of the Blues. From there, right wing back Caprice draped himself onto the floor having teased a foul from Garbutt.

It was a moment where Ipswich lost their heads at the merest of provocation. From the looped free kick, Monthé scaled above his markers and nodded inside of the post all too easily. He wheeled away to the jubilation of dozens, and the thousand or more from Suffolk fell into deathly silence. Well executed or not, the injustice sparked a renewed sense of injustice from the players who soon drove forward again.

Keane and Jackson were pushed wide or onto the smatterings of turf with little joy. It was only when Judge bent one of his better passes out, that an exchange of crosses and mistimed runs let Tranmere smother the ball and avoid an equaliser.

Trailing at the half time whistle it seemed harsh on a Town side who hadn’t really clicked, but many individuals looked far better than in previous games. Edwards, Judge and Huws all in their own way contributing with small accomplished moments when needed.

The second half saw blue action on and off the pitch. A collection of the noise moved down the front as the away fans made themselves at home in the spacious little stand. With that. the team grew into the sense of belief being whipped around like a Jackson cross, that this time found no one to put it away.

Great victories often require triumph over adverse conditions, and just as Agincourt was a bog where a young head prevailed far away from home. It was Downes who leapt up to put away Garbutt’s arrowed cross from the marshalling control and pass of Keane. The young King of Portman Road held court with his teammates. All in front of jubilant lads cannoning over the cheap seats to get to them.

With the parity restored and superiority implied Ipswich really went to work on a side that looked like open play was not their strong suit. Huws was like a man transformed of late. Doing the dirty work in our half and juddering forward trying to put his name on the scoresheet and foot through the ball all at once. His rising effort from distance glimpsed the top corner but landed in the crowd beyond the bar.

He would then be booked after a length inspection of a scouse shin, as a hard challenge stopped play and the man, but sent the ball cleanly away. It seemed that the collateral damage coloured the decision. The Welshman’s growing sense of frustration looked to be boiling over, however, it was Judge who make way for Bishop before eventually Emyr was swapped for Skuse, with Norwood replacing Keane sometime between them both.

What a contrast those changes were, and what a contrast in qualities they brought. Teddy looked in fine fettle as he opted to run the ball, rather than put the ball to a runner and began to terrify the defence. He felt he had won a penalty as he skidded towards the byline have skittled all those who dared to close him down.

The midfielder had already forced Monthé to pull him back on the halfway line to avoid a sixty yard foot race the lumbering defender had no right to be in. Both Bishop and Jackson had electrified the channels with their pace and seen shots taste the synthetic palms of a keeper who like his defence, was not fond of catching anything.

After a few minutes of this Skuse took his first touch. Killed it in mid air and rolled it to Norwood with his second. The oldboy was clearly desperate to score, but remained more disciplined in every way to let in Kayden over the top. It was the over the top that Jackson put it. As the keeper looked all to familiar to Town fans, in no mans land the ball dropped like a mortar between bar and goal line and into the net. Town went into the net, and the rascals choir down the front broke out into song, and beyond the barriers in equal measure to rack up a life-time’s worth of bans and memories between them. Scenes as the kids, and theatre types say. Tragedy for Tranmere who had time but not invention or quality on their side.

With the overlapping of wingbacks all half, so too had followed the centre backs in turn. Chambers supported Edwards and Jackson in finding room and chances to cross down the right. Woolfenden had far more success down the left. In the first half his dependency on his right foot meant he cut in from deep but was easily blunted. He strolled and shimmied down the sandier left flank in the second half like it was Ipanema not the Wirall.

Their only hope in contrast was another set piece. A free kick outside the Town box. It was softly given and struck. Floating into Norris arms where it nestled along with hopes of an equaliser. A baffling five minutes of time added on played out, as the only stops seemed to be six subs. Norwood and Garbutt played out a neat and inventive little free kick routine. Opting to dummy the ball into the corner rather than put it in the box.

When the whistle came, the sense we’d got our team back together soon followed. The tingling would have to wait until the car, as thawing out was less important than pumping fists and waving hands from captain, to manager, to fans of all ages. For a few brief moments Ipswich were back in the top two, it was only the fact that Wycombe got a penalty today (in contrast to Town) that put us back where we started. On another day we could easily have fallen further behind, such is the need to look forward to the rest of this season.
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Lincoln City v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 21:16:30
With the sun setting on Town before kick off, the decade ended at Lincoln not as a mismatched cup clash but under the auspices of league rivalries. And just as so much can go wrong in ten years of decisions, with the dying of the light came darkness on the faces and shoulders of those travelling fans who squinted their way through a first half lacking in direction.

Norris retained his spot in goal, Woolfenden partnered a returning Chambers. Donacien and Garbutt the full backs behind Edwards and Judge with the lightweight and fleetfooted Downes and Dozzell in the centre. Norwood and Jackson looked to rekindle Town’s most successful partnership in a season with so few of them.

It was Lincoln who would take the lead. Town showed that when they had time they had some technical initiative, but as Dozzell and Downes tried to weave their way through the middle, the runners beside and beyond on them could only contribute looks to any attempt to end the head tennis that has so marked recent games.

When Anderson received a hand-off of possession into his overlapping run just outside the box, it was a tamest of thunderb@stards which put us behind and Norris back to retrieval duties. Only once the net had stopped the drive did he get a hand to it. If it looked like Lincoln were yet another side playing a different game to Town, that’s because they were.

Ipswich were good so many weeks ago, they were a counter attacking side comparable bar none at this level. Of late, we just usher teams through as they run towards us and see what their luck looks like. The last time we saw victory in the league, we saw fireworks, a new year approaches quicker than Kayden Jackson with a head-start.

The striker was denied a clear penalty, and made it known how foul he felt his felling was. The referee either didn’t see it, or decided the keeper rushed out and touched Kayden’s ball and ankle simultaneously. Blues fans screamed murder, having seen a superior move end with Garbutt blazing high into our ranks minutes before there was a sense that parity was unlikely today.

Set pieces looked to be Town’s best route through a tangle of Imps. Nodding the better delivered corners left us holding our heads as Lincoln held on when their keeper couldn’t. Norris at the other end again showed he needed more than one opportunity to claim the ball. A cross and a free kick could both yield double stops or unconvincing takes from the on-loan stopper.

It was a game which flowed as best as the referee could allow. Both fans found reasons to appeal decisions as did their players, but when Dozzell again was felled trying to break lines and play a shapeless Town back into the game it left Garbutt with a decent spot from which to strike.

Bending it with his left-foot, he left the wall and the keeper and standing as the equaliser nestled into the goal. Deservedly so on the balance of play, previous spot kick denial but it was a finish we’d waited so long for from the Toffee.

Donacien had seen Edwards and Judge swap every five minutes ahead of him and Garbutt trying to find a route through. Of the two the Welshman’s discipline to find the line was more successful. However, fifteen minutes or more after Janoi supplied the best cross of the game thanks to Gwion’s return pass, the winger was deputising for the full back who had come into the team from the cold. Landing heavily, he seemed to feel his Achilles upon on impact and limped on until he could no more, collapsing into a heap several moves later. On came Sears again and now Town had three wingers and Alan Judge occupying their four wide roles.

Edwards showed that he was a converted winger with the regularity we have come to expect. Launching a tackle like an anti-aircraft missile through his man and into the book. He was lucky to only see the red of his adversary’s socks, or not as the case may have been.

Norris and his backline watched as the attacked ball went the wrong side of the post off a flying boot, but after yet another scramble across and away it wasn’t long before the lead was restored.

Walker once again ran through our central defence. Norris bided his time, then ran out, making contact with nothing in a position where handling the ball or hacking down his man was a certain dismissal. He did neither. Tyler the creator of an impressive second of the game and season against us, just lifted it over him and with it the sell out home support.

Finally, we saw from fight Town as in the closing seconds of the half some handbags were thrown between one or two of each team and the referee had seen enough. Whistles brought the half to an end with cheers, sighs and shrugs abound.

Ipswich took this feisty finish into the second half, picking up cautions for cynical tugs and shoves from Sears and Andre alike. Jackson pulled one back, by being pulled back. He was almost in the area and almost certainly in on goal. Yellow it was, free kick it was, wasted it was and sent into an orbit far, far away from the away fans.

There was some belief about us as Lambert’s men began to chase down the more suspect back passes and overconfidence of a fairly static backline. Sears dived on chance but forced out and with it so was the ball for a corner. Just as I lamented the pointlessness of a short corner without Will Keane on the field, Judge sent in one for Town to level. A flick from amongst the attacking heads saw a scrambled own goal and former Canary Toffolo the man with egg on his face.

You’d think Ipswich were a top side in this division from that moment on. Jackson was sent clean through only to be denied by the keeper and offside flag when again a suspicious challenge and need for a decision looked likely, had the linesman not intervened.

With our right side one lunge or one run away from a man being sent off, on came Wilson for Edwards and Woolfenden shifted to right back. It’s an unaccustomed role for young Luke, but the sight of him looking around at his colleagues and the man who was wheeling away in celebration became all too familiar.

First Walker stroked the ball home as the back post was fertile ground for him. Lincoln broke into a stride down the right and Chambers, Wilson and Norris all watched the ball go past them as well to allow our lead to slip away. We repeated the trick as Bostwick crashed home just minutes later. With the game set at 4-2 and the deficit doubled, change was needed.

Will Keane had already become our third and final substitute for Norwood in the inter-goal period. With his first touch he broke the defence, with his second he reduced the lead. A superb finish met with muted appreciation and even less belief. But he did more in two touches than the man he replaced has in weeks.

It was deep into injury time and fans’ patience when Ipswich mounted anything like an attempt to equalise. Crashing passes and headers counterpointed by jostling and finger pointing. Norris had had a terrible game again, encapsulated by a whole campaign with a referee who wanted him to take a goal kick after the Wolves player felt he had been fouled. His inability to take a quick throw in nearly saw us concede again, but his blushes were spared by a bizarre dressing down and eventual restart.

This was not to be the case as he watched Town get caught with a sucker-punch. An underperforming Chambers was under the cosh and two on one, behind him Norris could only watch him cut out and a fifth goal taken away to finish a game, and a decade for Town so continuously demoralising and divisive.

If anyone feels this league beneath us, then they may want to consider that it is right on top of us at the minute and crushing the life from the club. The meccano-chic away end haemorrhaged fans as the fourth and fifth went in. The life blood of the club seeping away in thicker torrents as the minutes dripped by.

After the ramblings at Portman Road which greeted a shuffling display, some may be forgiven poor Lambert is not that far from walking. For his own good and ours, rather than his career. However, with more changes, forced or not it is hard to see how a game so familiarly embarrassing and happening at new lows could unfold without so many key players not performing.

The Scot may have lost his former glory, the players, the goodwill he so painstakingly accrued, but as Town lose automatic promotion standing so easily and meekly, there is a pressing concern bearing down with the winless momentum of 2019. Sir Bobby asked “What is a club?” it’s about time we asked Marcus “what is our club?”.

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Coventry City v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 18:55:53
Homelessness this time of year is no laughing matter, but with snowflakes on the horizon, it became a cause celebre amongst a growing fraction of the two thousand fans at St Andrew’s today. A venue familiar to Blues of the local and travelling variety, but a shelter for the nomadic Coventry who played hosts to us for a second time in six days.

It was no surprise to see Town much changed again. Norris in goal, Donacien and Garbutt the obvious full backs as it became clear by the inclusion of Wilson and Woolfenden that it was Chambers who was struggling for fitness.

Will Keane again the lone striker, with Judge on the left and Edwards on the right, a triangle of Dozzell, Downes and Nolan were the centrepiece on which the team balanced. It was another case of tactical inconsistency this season, rather than the tactical diarrhoea of the last one.

After an initial flurry towards us from Coventry, save for a solid slide in the box from Nolan the game settled down. Ipswich began relatively brightly, backed by a fine choir and appreciative away end. The empty one behind Coventry’s goalkeeper had THE BLUES writ large, signalling where we needed to aim for in case any of our recently shot shy side needed reminding.

The Sky Blues looked like a team who had everything about them to make them a worthy adversary in this league. It was testament to what they lacked which makes them look certain to remain one for quite some time. Positive on the front foot, but lacking much up top, it was a combination which encouraged Norris and the defenders in front of him to play as if they were midfielders.

Short passes and roll outs on the angle, became a nod to Lambert’s older methods, but it took several missteps before the attempt to treat the 18 yard line like the halfway one, for fans to vent their frustration. In the mean time Town built slowly and then hurled attacks forward, trying to find Edwards or Judge in behind their marker, or connect with the velcro touch of Keane as he came deep and hoped to turn hold up play into a more stable pattern of play or moments of a sexier disposition.

While the ground was barely a third full, the minority of travellers prevented it becoming a ghost town, a hearty rendition of Blue Action’s greatest hits soundtracked the two step approach of Ipswich’s pretend to cross, dither back inside and see what’s going on after years of decline.

A great move down the right starting from a short out to Donacien and benefiting from the input of Keane, Nolan and the crossing Edwards saw Judge with an open goal at the back post. Unfortunately the Irishman was nowhere near long enough to prove a hit, and finished his Gazza impression somewhere near the hoardings, the ball joined him but several yards away.

It deserved more, and so did Ipswich who had had spells of half sliced volleys that melded passing and interceptions into something resembling buildup, before upping their possession and decision making into a much better quality attacking unit. Whether we were 433 or 4231, was less clear than whether we were better than the team our cup side drew with just six days ago, but on they we roared as Town went looking for the lion’s share of the match.

Half an hour was all it took for Ipswich to stamp their superiority on the game. Some good moves had seen a hapless ballboy take a nasty fall on the steps in his eagerness to do his duty and retrieve the ball for our corner, he was massaged out of his embarrassment by eight thousand sympathetic pairs of hands. However, this time the set piece fell on the other side and did way more damage.

Judge and Dozzell exchanged pleasant short passes and on the third touch the inswinging delivery from the winger found its mark. A hanging leap leap from Keane left everyone else for dead as he put his header beyond them all and us into the lead. It was thoroughly deserved.

The two had combined for the goal in the previous meeting, and again showed good eyes and good movement when it mattered. Garbutt volleyed the ball into the ground and wide in our next attack, when again the striker and winger combined to feed him a chance he should have done better with.

It was on loan Villain O’Hare who broke Town hearts with an equaliser from nowhere at the death last week. From an innocuous free kick he out-leapt a charging Norris like a Brummy Maradonna. In flight and Sky blue at the same time, head met the ball that should have found hands, and over it landed much to our relief. The half all but over as well, the away side and fans could be the much happier contingent based on what had happened thus far.

Whatever Lambert said at half time, it was clear that without Chambers and Skuse, Ipswich lacked voices on the pitch. You could hear the odd shout from players mingling between a lull in songs and crescendo of tension, as the ball heltered and skeltered around the pitch.

The flattening of Ipswich’s thirds allowed space and time for the opposition to test Norris in a way they hadn’t in the first period. A solid hand from a stinging shot had seen Town flat-footed and scrambling the ball away. As the miscommunication or misplaced passes put the backline into squiggling almost suicidal notes on how not to defend, Coventry didn’t take long to skip inside from the right and beat Norris low and hard with an arrow into the corner of the net.

The hardy home fans were rightly pleased, as it showed why our inability to land mortars in behind them might cost us. Too often crosses, clearances and switches of play landed too short or too long beyond the intended runner. When you have the lead it’s not a problem, but with such a lack of accurate firepower, the familiar inability to hold a lead makes the assumptions about this league being a walk in the park all the sillier.

It was clear the referee was a cut above the usual standard his peers offered in this division, and he loved to wave play on. He hadn’t really lost control despite his hands off approach until he couldn’t raise his arms as the ball went out for a Town throw. Donacien was faced with an aggressor he soon floored. A flare up that lacked fire, saw everyone within a 200 yard dash involved, including substitutes and bench deserting witnesses keen to join the melee. Far too long passed before two bibbed Coventry players received a yellow card, and those actually in the fray and the game melted away into anonymity.

Norris, Wilson and Woolfenden loved to charge from deep and clear out the ball rather than their man. All three made mistakes in measuring their objectives or their touch far too often. Town seemed a long way from that first half dominance, let alone the early season form which saw us counter attack and outwork teams into narrow submission.

Our unwillingness to gamble beyond the defence meant that when the chips were down for Ipswich, the Sky Blues could sweep in like truculent gulls and clean up. O’Hare found himself clean through and then the bar, as the percussive ring of the ball eluding everyone and the lead with it was an unnecessary scare that a side hoping to climb to the top of the table didn’t need. Town had regressed into being less surefooted and with it, Coventry capitalised.

Removing both wingers, Skuse and Jackson were Lamberts double sub. Moving to a diamond, seemed to be his solution to a game where Ipswich could no longer see the same way through to victory. With capable attacking full backs on both sides, it was perhaps this that allowed us to be caught on the flanks. However, when Dozzell, Downes and Nolan all found Jackson in the channels with cute drops over the heads of the centre backs or beyond the tracking of the full backs we had our best chances to score.

One move saw Jackson shimmy rather than touch the ball, it bounced perfectly, but he took it too far, his cut back went beyond those queued in the box and the defenders headed away for another counter.

Likewise Dozzell was unlucky to lose his feet as Keane danced the play back from the line, and put it straight to him. The young midfielder lay flailing as only a thin high line of defenders and chasing pack managed to shield Town from giving the game away.

It would be Keane though who would emulate the same bad luck, and combine it with Judge’s miss in the first half. Gleefully through thanks to a forward thinking Skuse, and unmarked at the back post. He slipped when the ball to him was inch perfect and a second for him and us looked certain. The jeers that likened him to a “s**t Andy Carroll” showed a similar lack of understanding or judgement.

The game had a generous six minutes of extra time thanks to a nasty clash of heads involving Downes and his marker in no mans land. When the additional minutes came, hope of Town reversing the late heartbreak of the previous week, looked fleeting and unlikely. Jackson in one of his scampering hunts for the overhit through ball, sent Dabo flying like a snake rather than the striker had taken a bite at his heel. It was a petulant booking as symbolic of Town’s lack of grip on the fixture, as the second half had been contrasting to the first.

We could have lost it when an opening in the defence, seemed to spread to the goal, but their sub sliced wide when he should have drew blood and killed us off. All in all however, the repetition of a “game of two halves” were a cliched but accurate analysis of a draw hard fought and lead easily lost in a manner all too familiar this winter.
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Accrington Stanley v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 16:11:27
A second ever visit to Accrington Stanley in a matter of months, and our first in the league. Straight off international break, moved to a godforsaken time for Sky and a number of injuries for Town. As the rain spat on us in the open terrace, there was no point looking up just yet, and no excuse to look down the much-changed home side and ask, “who are they?” We’d soon find out.

People spent the end of each half bemoaning the decisions of yet another contender for the weekly “worst ref we’d ever seen” Keith Stroud commemorative award, but if the hour prior to kick off team-sheet tweet didn’t raise alarm bells, then the final whistle did. Town walked off to a mix of applause and apathy, the referee the kind of unadulterated scorn only matured at ungodly hours in motorway service stations.

Yet few stopped and asked, were Lambert’s decisions worse?
Holy in goal, Woolf, Chambers and Nsiala across the back. Two wingbacks with little defensive intent or idea in Garbutt and Edwards. An amorphous front end that saw Skuse and Dozzell sit in between, Nolan off a front two of Jackson and Judge.

After 10 minutes the near ancient library of bad decisions being written today saw us checking out shanked kicks from Holy, headers back inside from Woolfenden and Toto once again reprising his role of wronged and loveable oaf whilst an opposition forward lay sprawling on the turf with a clear sight of goal.

By the time Stanley took the lead, it had looked like Ipswich had mounted a case to remain encamped around their goal. It lasted from about the 10th minute to the 15th. Down the right the attacking instincts of Edwards, Jackson and Judge saw Garbutt whipping the ball in from a free kick. However, it was followed by a continuation of a series of deep crosses, and a 7ft keeper staying even deeper and choosing not to collect them that cost us.

Edwards was probably fouled by Bishop as he over came all that was Holy for the first time. A lack of appeals from the pitch side of the incident maybe tells us everything. But it seemed odd the manner with which Ipswich just accepted going behind.

There seemed to be a competition of who could play the more asymmetrical football, as both full backs seemed to be outnumbered by home players, and both nominal strikers for Town seemed scared of the box. Not since Pandora has one looked so empty of threat and danger.

Dozzell took a verbal beating, in another game where he looked not to get involved. But both he and Judge were never getting a fair hearing when either one was expected to pick out players, neither in their correct position or Stanley’s goal. Or challenge in the air against giants and win out. Andre is a deep lying midfielder but not a defensive one.

Everything he wants to do is push Town forward. But when pushed back, he was having to be shooed towards his man time and again as no one around him picked them up either.

Both luxury players could have come off at half time, or any time. Both could have had a player nearby who did more than slow it back down, after they turned possession into something for all but a flash or glimpse of mixing our pattern of play up.

When Toto reprised his old role of “who me?” as the opposition argued over the stonewall penalty he’d just facilitated for the first time this season, and hundredth time in his Ipswich career, it was clear he wasn’t going to emerge for the second half. But given the subs available in Huws and Keane, Town’s lack of physicality or guile, and the fact that our wingbacks were not of the calibre Wolves had when they utilised them so well, it was a wonder as to why we were sinking so quickly and Lambert merely looked out of his technical area at the horizon.

No sooner had Holy got a weak hand to Bishop’s penalty and the deficit doubled, then doubts on the pitch spread to the stands. Town’s favourite pianist got a ten man and his drum encore as the final few minutes of the half ticked by.

Dobra warmed up at half time in full kit. It was clear he was coming on and with him so did Rowe. Toto and Dozzell made way, both to accusations of incompetence and ineffectiveness. Town switched to what was intended to be a 4411. Dobra sat off Jackson and Rowe and Judge went back to early season roles as inverted wingers.

If the long balls, aimless runs and skittling challenges that saw both teams clutching their injured limbs and screaming for more cards to be shown were atypical of our season so far, they were typical features of the one before.

Dobra looked lively and his understudying days in the cup looked to have provided him with the moment to take centre stage in his league bow. Driving at players, deceptively quick with and without the ball you can see why he was the perfect super sub for 20 minutes later then when he came on. In these circumstances, he drew worried glances from red shirts, and more red shirts back to defend a comfortable lead.

Town just didn’t look happy shooting wherever they found any modicum of space or sight at goal. Jackson coming from inside late in the half had perhaps the best opportunity to test the keeper, but instead it was Rowe who had one trickle wide to derision that summed up our day on front of goal.

It was hard to keep track of who was being booked and bludgeoned on either side, as players fell foul of a referee happy to take names and the lens of the TV cameras in his stride. Even when it was way behind play.

Nothing summarised this ineptitude more than Luke Woolfenden finding himself on the goal line like a latter day Mogga. The ball coming off him, and over the line, but not according to any official in the ground. The defender didn’t appeal and the one who hooked it away must have smiled to himself. Only he had moved in the whole passage of play.

Accrington still kept coming at us though, and it felt like the ill wind and dropping temperatures might be enough to seize up Town’s already immobile and misfiring engine room. When Georgiou finally replaced Judge, it was presumably to stop them pouring in on Garbutt, and getting off crosses easily, but that damage had long been done.

The Spurs loanee with one good run toward goal, managed to get another corner from which Town would merely nod away what Accrington couldn’t. Any shape or rhythm Lambert had looked to instil in his players spilled out from the tactics board and into the drain.

Throughout the game Edwards, Nolan, Dobra had all received reckless challenges and time on the deck. They’d reciprocated and joined several Stanley players in the book. When the gigantic Sykes tangled with Dobra off the ball, it wasn’t the mutual clash that saw Chambers bandaged like Butcher in the first half. The little man had his mouth stuffed with Lancastrian fist. The ref adjudged both to have thrown one each and awarded a red card apiece.

The disbelief behind the goal and from the Albanian was palpable. So was the sense someone else would join them as neither captain nor official could contain the protests and outrage. If both players receive a 3 game ban, it will be interesting to see who and which team it hurts most. It says it all that Chambers was MOTM by virtue of doing his job, but Dobra was the only positive for barely half an hour or so.
For all our talk of depth, and the dream start we’ve made, for a wake-up call like this to hold off until Halloween is nigh, is commendable.

But once again, the nightmares of last season and same old failures crept in. How many of the players looked at ease in the roles they were asked to play? How many looked like they could control the game for any concerted amount of time? How many knew where their teammates were planning on putting the ball or themselves as we broke down and the opposition weren’t?

Today was everything this league promised it could be. Inhospitable surrounds, terrible officiating, terrible spectacles and basic approaches to games that don’t require complicated passes and pirouettes to overcome them. With our lead cut, it’s critical all hope doesn’t bleed out. We are still top of the league, and with games on Tuesday that threaten that further, this might have come at the perfect time.

If Town are looking to remain at the summit, then we can come into Rotherham and give the home fans a performance that blows away today’s mishap. That might be the best proof of our champion status, while it remains at best, theoretical for many months still.
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Fleetwood Town v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 19:33:33
On the Fylde coast Holy walked towards the adoring terrace all smiles, then he lost his bottle. It tumbled to the turf as the big Czech took up his position in the net, and we all saw the funny side of that particular spill. Chambers the central strut of another three man defence. Wilson was the boy on the beach side of defence and in harmony with the Woolf the other side of the skipper. Skuse and Downes were flanked by Garbutt and KVY as Nolan sat in the hole behind Norwood and Jackson.

In an era where formations as numbers are being replaced by an affected harking back to W’s and M’s, it’s hard to know if Lambert’s 3-4-1-2 was inspired by the home side’s 3-4-3, or merely alphabet soup for Joey Barton to nurse himself with later tonight.

It was a first half with little football and lots of incidents, deciding the game by increment. The man officiating it, helped build into the scene set by a narrow pitch, ill-fitting stands and low terraces that didn’t manage to line the pitch completely. Grey Northern climate and grey-haired majorities within the 1000 or so travelling, helped tick boxes of all the warning signs about what this league might be like.

Some songs started. Some died quicker than others. It was a war of attrition on and off the pitch to really set the tie alight. Holy collected many backpasses and the odd cross. It was clear the Cod army were looking to sink us under set pieces and dark artistry, as the corners and studs came in waves and from all angles.

They are side made of old Blades and scrap iron. Evans the main focal point in every sense and the once crippled Coutts patrolling the centre circle. Josh Morris and inverted attacking midfielder cutting in from the inside right and Paddy Madden the star substitute who rarely shone today. But it was the Welshman who garnered the most attention from fans and defenders alike.

Chambers' ability to judge a tackle today kept Ched detained. Three times the skipper cut out his attacking intentions on goal, the more audacious appeals became didn't matter, they fell on deaf ears. Abuse at every opportunity rained down from some behind the goal, especially when Evans went in on Skuse studs high, morals low, and blood up as the lack of card was at odds with the rest of the officiating.

Norwood earned the first of many bookings for Town. Somehow remaining peripheral despite being front and centre, the striker had little joy against Souttar. The starlet defender resembling a gigantic toddler with and without the ball. Coming deep he slid in behind needlessly on a midfielder and gave away a freekick.

From the second attempt their other big baby at the back Dunne missed his cue and fell over, before the ball was kicked and he was meant to pretend he had been also. Wilson told him and the ref how it was. We joined in.

Coutts soon studded Nolan in a wasted attack as Town looked to make a rare break forward. The man playing as a 10, often occupied an 8’s position. Dropping deep into the gap Skuse left as he looked to retrieve the ball. Town had a tactical pendulum in the cross-field movement on and off the ball. When KVY went forward Garbutt didn’t and vice versa. It was the two wingers who promised the most but failed to deliver.

The new boy didn’t look himself all half, but did manage two wonderful stepovers, before a final touch took it away from him in disappointing style. His other big moment saw him put a certain own goal the right side of Holy’s post, at the last minute and at speed.

Garbutt received two good chances. When Woolfenden picked him out cross field in a Danish style, the loanee sprang forward and cut in. The defence were haemorrhaging position and presence as he skittled his shot past a gaping goal mouth. The next time he would be in such a good position his cross would land too close to Norwood and in a rare touch toward goal, the striker punched his header towards the rafters rather than the roof of the net.

Town were no strangers to incurring the wrath of the ref, the home fans or the spirits of the game. Downes in a performance where neither midfield saw enough of the ball as it travelled between defences put Skuse in trouble. Where earlier the elder man had found the sideline with his slide, this time he was forced to fell his man for a deserved and obvious caution.

It was a poor half, a poor spectacle and a poor part of the country where warmth was all in the hospitality of the home fans and not the game plan of their side. Town emerged for the second half with young Kane absent. Edwards his successor. It posed a question or two.

Was the new man simply crocked? Had he shown too little and been hooked? Were Town moving to a flat back four with Woolfenden as a giant full back? We couldn’t really tell. At times Fleetwood pushed Gwion into being a fourth or fifth defender, as both he and Garbutt were targeted as points on the pitch to dam up any flowing football.

Jackson who had done much more with the little either striker had had, put through his partner with selfless grace. A much understated touch saw him cushion the ball beyond the last man from the air, and play Norwood in. With the near post approaching he slotted past the far one, when he really should have scored. He knew it, we knew it, the encouragement was a mask ill-fitting on his frustrated face.

Cairns would get away with less than Holy. Both flapped at crosses, but in the Czech’s defence was someone appealing for the clear foul that saw him punch away a now dead ball. When he failed to gather later low down and charged out of his six yard box, plenty of players were on hand to boot away what had spilled from his. Convincing? No. But a problem? Same story.

When Norwood finally won a foul, as high ball seemed almost impossible against the towering Souttar, it was cheap. A swinging careless arm and down the striker went. Garbutt waited for his chance. Cairns fiddled with his wall, but despite guessing right, could only palm the torpedo into Jackson. A dynamite touch put Town ahead from a tight angle.

You could smell the blue smoke before you could see it. A thousand of us were loving it. Victory, it was in the air.

Fleetwood continued to do everything to make sure Evans scored, and it perhaps hampered them. Ipswich had enough shape about them to form defensive wedges and use Holy’s kick like a trebuchet to break their own besiegement. Meanwhile the Blues found that with a bench full of midfielders, that would be where the selection problems and solutions would all come from.

Norwood went down, and this time there was no appeal for more than a rest. On came Rowe, who had played centrally at Lincoln. Off went our 10, and on came a second one to join Nolan. There was a Scottish whirl about our movement when we got hold of the ball, but little sense of blowing the hosts away.

Jackson went through the middle as all hell broke loose on the touchlines. Evans finally booked, was eclipsed by a woeful tackle by Edwards. A defender he was not. Flying in and flying into the hoardings went his man. It warranted a booking, but the ongoing melee meant the retribution on Edwards from the impressive Andrew, warranted a red. Instead after lengthy consultation amongst the men in black, yellows all round and more bafflement.

This was because Town had already been denied a clear penalty. Norwood had missed Jackson by putting the ball behind his run, and into the path of Nolan. With shin bone hanging like a trigger, it was swiped away from behind before the midfielder could shoot. When Jackson was then felled after Edwards’ caution at the far side of the box, again from behind you sensed Town’s lead would not be doubled.

Almost from the goal kick given, Town allowed a deep cross to sway back towards Evans. He was as adept at missing opportunities for success as our chairman. Stabbing a bouncer wide, when he should have scored.

Town’s third clear penalty of the game should have wrapped things up. Another good piece of play, another run through by MOTM Jackson. Pushed in the back by Dunne who finally earned the card he’d been trying to get all game, there was no option but to point to the spot.

A small discussion between previous goal scorer Jackson and supplier Garbutt ensued. The striker won, and his run was as staggered as we were when the ball pinged past the post. It was a chance to kill off the game and these early rivals for promotion. There’s something foreboding about the ease with which Town are marching to the top of the table, mess we are making from 12 yards unchallenged.

Jackson would eventually have to go off. Not through shame, but sheer exhaustion. He walked past the away end to rapturous applause, a man haunted by that miss and not the goal which had us in the lead. We were treated to Emyr Huws stacking the midfield and Danny Rowe playing as a lone striker, challenging Souttar in all seriousness but with comedic effect.

All this came about in the dying six minutes of injury time as Wilson had also left the field. His first booking a clear and precise movement to deny danger down our left flank early in the half, was compounded by a second take-out late on. The fans by the incident gave the decision, which forced the ref’s. Ipswich switched personnel around and contracted into side that retreated into their own half, in order to boot the ball as far into Fleetwood’s as they could.

We had joy, we had drums, we saw Ipswich win away, in a manner more befitting a relegation scrap. But once again Lambert and his side did the business. The captain did his fistpump, and we all cheered as they did that syrupy looking Morris dance thing at full time.

A gloomy game, and a gloomy day but we’ve put real daylight between us and the rest of the league already. It’s time to keep a spotlight on the competition and interrogate their credentials to catch us.

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Bolton Wanderers v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 19:08:30
To the University of Bolton stadium to see what we might learn about the state of our nation’s third tier went 700 or so Ipswich fans. A place where once fierce league and playoff matches saw tens of thousands, now an ossuary where Bolton Wanderers used to be.

Lambert spared little sentiment with Holy keeping his place and a back four of KVY, Chambers, Wilson and Kenlock. Skuse and Downes remained in the middle as Edwards and Judge took either wing. Jackson and Norwood the prongs of our attack.

Bolton meanwhile had barely any recognisable names. Recent Town linkees of Matthews in goal and Brockbank at right back were accompanied by the gangly Zouma at the back and the forlorn and hopeful Brown-Sterling a lone striker who was more a midfielder at times.

The game kicked off in brilliant sunshine and dry heat, the players however struggled to do more than bathe in it. Town almost immediately repelled home team explorations forward and switched to a back two. Judge and Edwards coming in from out wide to pack a midfield where the full backs move through the thirds.

This yielded two very different moves early on. Chambers picked out Kenlock on the switch, and he stepped inside as he has become accustomed to. An interchange with Judge on the apex of the box became an early low point as the ball was soon back with Holy. Collecting a ball over the top and into the channels.

Soon after KVY showed jelly legs to dance down the right, having pressed home his desire to catch the eye he worked off the midfield and then slipped inside his man, and over the ball before trying to find either a striker running in at close range.

Norwood was winning applause and encouragement as he got his head and foot to a lot of the ball, but it was akin to the way in which Chambers and Wilson did when they were defending. With Skuse in front of them they formed a neat and effective defensive wedge which pushed Bolton out wide and down the flanks.

Worryingly it was Kenlock who often allowed them closer to the box than necessary. Whether that was due to the strength of more seasoned Bolton players on that flank or not was unclear. What was for sure though that Town looked better playing long balls into space than they did picking each other out at close quarters.

You rarely felt as if Holy would have to use his hands other than collecting lofty ambitious attempts. Contrastingly it was noticeable how Town weren’t testing those of his opposite number enough. An intricate freekick routine saw Norwood slam well wide from outside the box after Judge played a bizarre backheel into nobody’s path. The improvisation was a bum note from the man most town fans are expecting virtuoso performances from.

Edwards and Judge looked like two players who might weight a killer ball to either forward and leave them just Matthews to play goalmouth chicken with. It would come down the right from a neat manoeuvre where Jackson had his low drive palmed past the post.

The corner was well hit, maybe even overhit as the melee at the back post saw many hands go up from Town players and then the ref’s was raised too. Penalty. Somewhere, a Bolton hand had struck the ball apparently.

Judge scampered after the ball, so did Norwood. The man who had missed one at Peterborough made sure there was no saviour between the sticks, thanks to Specsavers and a murderous puncture of a shot not quite down the middle of the goal. The net rippled, so did the applause, most stood in the away end, a few shouted and stuff. And so it began, well actually it didn’t really.

If Town had laboured in the heat, they had built very little in terms of credible dissection of the Trotters. Norwood span and volleyed over when it looked like the goalmouth would all but swallow the ball as it left his foot. Judge had his attempt from a free kick to grab some glory but curled it over, Mr Whippy almost dropped some points from the next passage of play. He stepped in with a petulant foul in Kenlock’s long shadow. Had Bolton been likely to score it was from a set piece, but as they overdid it and KVY scrambled it away you sensed an even bigger cock up was needed to level things.

As the first half came to end there were more questions to ask of the visitors than had been asked of the hosts. It was largely men against boys and when the sparse home crowd felt that the game was not adjudicated in that spirit they began to heckle and call for everything. Zouma went through on Edwards and looked to be out of control more than exuberant, no card let alone the red someone like Toto would have seen last season.

Every shove, every close call on the last defender vs the runner brought howls of protest, it seemed to be enough to throw Town off their game as their ill-discipline was more tactical than anything else.

If 4-4-2 has been a winning formula so far, the mix has at times been a little unstable and rarely explosive. Judge and Edwards switched sides often and caused as much confusion for their colleagues trying to find them as they did their markers.

Bolton blazed one more free kick over in a good position whilst Norwood struck the gloves of Matthews and Judge put the ball wide. Snuck in by the number 10 off a Holy free kick, those predicting an assist for the big Czech in the net might get it right sooner rather than later if teams are silly enough to let them bounce when the ground is still dry.

Going in with a half time lead is usually a cause for celebration, but it’s hard not to feel Town where imprecise and uncertain in their machinations. You could stop at most names on the team sheet and ask if they could have had a goal on an assist next to it and yet it was single slender margin which separated sides you’d expect to be two division apart this time next year.

The second half kicked off and almost from get-go Town had a throw just inside the opposing half. It was symbolic of what was to come. Norwood’s ghosting run complimented the direct one of Jackson and the defender trailing him. Arcing in behind both of them as the ball bounced in front of Matthews, Norwood cleverly went close but only made contact with the man not the ball. Down for some time, the limp was genuine as was the concern behind the goal.

Town won a corner from the next phase of play on the right. It was meant to be an outswinger, but Judge expertly kicked across it to whip in a flat delivery for Chambers at the back post. His movement was as excellent as the cross, but the save which denied him even better.

With the evidence of motivation rather than tactical tinkering from the team talk being gathered, it wasn’t long before Edwards was celebrating down in front of the Town fans. Norwood being closed out on the six-yard mark then sent the ball across and back where the Welshman stepped in to sweep home with a low drive.

Skuse had been the quiet engine propelling Town forward as you’d expect of a man who had the freedom of the swathe of pitch between defence and attack-minded midfielders. But when he did step up to shoot, the corner flag breathed easy, it would take a good stop before the ball would be next to it.

When head tennis followed the resultant kick, the ball dropped outside the box then was returned by Downes. Norwood again found Edwards but his effort clipped the post when it seemed easier to bag a brace. He diverted to Jackson who beat it past all comers to claim our third.

Town looked far more befitting of their station and began to railroad Bolton’s youths. They are unlucky that games are an and a half, because up until their 60 minute mark they were still game if all but out of it. Flagging more than the linesmen when Kayden ran anywhere near a through ball, the Trotters all but rolled over for Jackson to make it four. Well timed, well hit, well beyond the keeper, low and hard, it was a goal befitting a far bigger game and setting arguably.

Skuse had taken a heavy knock just inside the half, and having come back on wasn’t long for the game. The battling lieutenant strutted back to the barracks as we unleashed Huws upon the hapless Bolton. The Welshman looked keen to get going, but collided rather than combined with Judge who was now firmly on the right wing this half.

He had two good sights of goal, but received groans from the same people who implored he shoot from distance not long after coming on. As the lead increased so returned the expectation of more goals that had underlined the disappointment at half time.

When under heavy fire the Romans adopted a tortoise inspired formation, Bolton clearly took classical inspiration as they continued to recede into narrower tighter enmeshment of their lines. It was merely a tactical noose as Town were no longer struggling to put them on their backs, let alone their backfoot. On came Georgiou for Edwards. The prior majority of wonky wingers and congestion was relieved by the breath of fresh air that the old-fashioned left-sided loanee provides. Straight to the chalk soon he was drawing markers and plans to grab a goal.

He was not long on the pitch and Town did just that, but without him. Huws and Judge found each other perfectly and the pass from Wales to Ireland left the home side all at sea for a fifth time. A sweet and surgical cross, Norwood showed wonderful close control to turn and despatch our fifth with vision and verve. That’s what good sides do.

Georgiou fund that when he came inside to add to the tally he was just as wrong footed and opted to shoot. Not for the first time this season an incandescent Judge was left hopping on the six yard line, an empty goal and mouthful aimed at the way of a greedy colleague. He wants it all, even if he can’t always stomach the same from his team mates.

Rowe came on to protect Norwood as like Skuse and Edwards he was too valuable to risk fitness and more minutes against a side now left to kick and lash out. Zouma was content to keep in play and bring down balls destined for the sidelines, much to everybody’s disbelief, he was as ambitious as he was perilous in his duty.

Town finished the game firing pot shots at a beleaguered Remi who drummed away all of them when called upon. It was a sight of gallantry not associated with Norwich alumni too often, and indicative of a team and club who are not the adversaries of two decades ago. The final minutes were filled with the noise of “Bolton til I die” and “Fcuk the EFL” orchestrated by all three sides of the home support and accompanied by polite Suffolk applause.

The game was all but gone as Judge handled one last cross that Matthews couldn’t get to. The goal eluded him again, but the assist did not for a second game running. Had Town done better in picking out those of the front four you’d feel we might have hit double figures easily.

A muted celebration as the Blues’ finishing XI were joined by the subs, the staff and our Johnny Cas. The manager showing only the whites of his hands in appreciation as his captain left off a little fist pump as restrained as the blue flare that sat beside the pitch ten minutes from the end. It’s blue plume of protest barely rising off the ground before being quickly extinguished by a portly orange vest of authority.

Whatever you can say about Bolton now, there are a handful of players and fans who have not yet deserted the ship. The still live for the sponsorless shirt and so they should. There but for the grace etc. Meanwhile Town did enough and scored enough to end tonight top of the league, not since 2014 can you often say that. It’s just, well, the wrong league still.
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Burton Albion v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:08:26
Time to eat the bread the Devil had kneaded for Town fans, as the Blue made their bow in the third tier for the first time in six decades or so. Where better than a visit to the Brewers to see just how far they might rise already? Between 3pm and 5pm, 1600 sweaty, swaying Blues were one. It was just before that, when the East Midlands were informed that Paul Lambert was one too, and Marcus Evans must have heard from the ivory box a different four-letter word reserved especially for him.

Statuesque in marble hues, all 7 feet of Holy stood between the goal and peered over the heads of Donacien, Woolfenden, Wilson and Kenlock. A flat four of Rowe, Downes, Skuse and Garbutt completed the two banks in the counter-attacking 442, headed by the man who’s all beard and baldness; Norwood and the contrasting pace of Kayden Jackson.

It was a new look town in every conceivable way, in new surrounds, but with the comfort of encountering Burton fairly recently. A lot has changed for both clubs, but some faces remain the same. Apart from Jake Buxton’s. If you want proof that League 1 ages you, look into his eyes and greying maw.

Town started fairly well, despite Burton kicking off. Each defender had a simple and solid first touch away. Kenlock volleyed, Wilson nodded and Woolfenden too but when it came to Donacien to get involved, Rowe sold him short on the line and two wingers appeared to take the ball away. It was only Rowe’s nutmeg response which sent him away and allowed Town fans to roar him on into empty space. The resulting chances fell to Garbutt corners, which needed eight phases of play before he got to repeat his outswinging Leadbitterisms.

Holy has a weird habit of always sliding out on his right-hand side, he did it to claim low and loose balls toward Akins and Boyce several times, even when it seemed instinctive to go to ground the other way. He came for crosses with the reach of a crane, a swing of the arm, meant a Norwood nod forward had Town counter attacking a Burton side happy to sit back and try to spring a trap behind our makeshift line.

It took just over ten minutes for Town to find success. Skuse dampened down play in the middle. Wilson looked across and switched it out wide. Rowe flew down the line and his instinct to cut in, saw him jump into the barrier of two yellow shirts. Quickly handing off the ball to Downes, the blondes were flowing forward with champagne runs. An exchange with Norwood on the edge of the box proved good value, out it went to Garbutt who also likes to cut in on his left. It was with that foot he hit it, it was off the balls of Norwood it seemed to ricochet, and squirt past the wrong-footed O’Hara for a less than Hollywood finish.

Elbows, feet, heads all clattered on the terrace as blue smoke choked the celebrants heralding the Ipswich promotion chase catching fire. Norwood could only celebrate rather than claim it, Garbutt owned that moment and opened his account to great relief both sides of the barrier.

With the game opening up and Town realising they didn’t have to do the fancy thing every time, simplicity yielded greater results. Feet in, standing up your man and setting up a simple run and simple pass was all it took to keep time and a step ahead. Burton thought they were level when Edwards fired only to be denied by Holy. Boyce had already fouled further down the six yard box.

The frontman was a simple and dishonest menace, finding fault and the floor all day. Sometimes justifiably, but with Wilson looking like a man ejected from a folding deckchair every time he challenged for a header and pivoted on the striker’s shoulder, you can see why Burton felt aggrieved now and again.

Former midfield maestro Alan’s little brother Stephen was one of the many old heads in the burton team. Whilst Edwards and Fraser were doubling up on a Donacien who started and ended the half poorly, it was the ex-Blade who cut into Norwood on half-way and got himself booked needlessly to stem the blue tide turning on his outnumbered colleagues.

Downes and Skuse were showing him how it should be done, dropping shoulders and looks to move the ball away from danger cleverly. It was total voetbal from the captain’s best mate when he launched a sixty yard switch into Rowe’s path. The inside forward has real dynamite in his boots, and was unlucky not to blow the home side away with vicious shot. It flew across goal and was only tipped past it by a great save.

Whilst Town laboured at times, their hard work made them look good for their lead. Holy only really playing himself into bother with the odd Friday night car park punch at crosses he really should have caught, regardless of his name. He could count his blessings when Brayford forced him into a smart jab along the ground at his near post. A hint of the corner conceded being unnecessary as it looked already to have bent out.

Likewise, when he kicked with his left, his distribution went hardly anywhere but up and back toward his own defence.

Town might have doubled their advantage when Garbutt bent his own low questioner across the box. Jackson used his speed to dive into its path at the near post, but never made any contact as Buxton coolly read the danger and extinguished it.

The defender was lucky in earlier altercation where either he or Edwards appeared to lunge in two footed during a melee. Slow to blow up or keen to play on the referee then missed a clear moment of madness in a half where he otherwise got most calls right.

The second half started in a much different fashion. Town went from flat and pragmatic efficiency in 442, to a more dynamic but off key 4231. Rowe in the 10 spot, Jackson down the right subtle changes to the shape. However, Rowe and Garbutt’s tendency to cut in and Jackson’s inability to remember he was a striker allowed Burton to pour down on both full backs now.

Their greater success in possession meant an increase in pressure for an Ipswich side still very much in its formative throes. It was elbows however that saw the feisty Norwood talk himself into the book. Suggesting through the universal language of mime and shouting the F-word a lot to the linesman, that he had in fact been receiving the physical punishment he was flagged for dishing out.

The pressure of wanting to be the main man was clearly weighing down the legs and head of a man with an obvious talent for engineering danger. The tragedy in this game being it was he who suffered the unfair judgements of marginal calls. Time and again he would find a runner or a defender to exploit, but the ball or the opportunity he needed was nowhere to be found.

Akins however, would put our strikers’ woes in the shade with a blazed effort way over and wide of the goal. Once more, an overwhelmed Donacien saw his attempt to clear his lines ensnare him out of position. Returned square, Holy dipped as if going under a door, not a window of opportunity to prove his assuredness. The Burton man drew him in, and with artistry opened his body too much as the goal beckoned to be filled and he slapped a shot into the faces of expectant home fans instead.

Downes seemed to upend Boyce all too easily on half way, and made sure of his card by volleying him in mid air, before dropping his head and raising his hand like a boy learning how to be a man about such adversity.

Garbutt would then put through Norwood with one his better balls and moments of creativity. The Toffee stuck it on a plate for the striker who gobbled up ground but stabbed wide when a certain second seemed there.

When Judge came on to see what he could do, it was Jackson who made way. Rowe returned to the right wing in the new formation and the Irish magician was given centre stage. Both men would combine to pick out Norwood and spread play to Garbutt in minutes where Ipswich redressed their lack of play and panache.

Burton looked unlikely to get back into the game, and it seemed all but over when Quinn dived in to Downes from behind. He immediately pointed to where he should have won the ball, knowing he was taking an early bath and hoping to divert the decision with amateur dramatics. It was no good, and off he was waved by jubilant Suffolk types and grumbling Burtons.

Huws came in for Wilson who sat on the floor clutching his toes. Back went Skuse as a sweeper and the Welshman stood head and shoulders above everybody else soon after.

An aborted and intricate set up saw Norwood run and Judge miss the pass, only to dive into a 50:50 and upset the odds of winning a free kick with an Oscar worthy cry of pain. A second kick by Judge, from closer in and a comfortable save ensued where previously Celina scored.

Town were comfortable despite more changes than they would have liked. It was the fear of Christ which swooped down upon us, when Holy miskicked under no pressure. Smashing against Boyce who half heartedly chased him down the ball span for an eternity past the keeper and then the post. A ruckus ensued on the Town bench and fingers and cards were pointed before some was ushered away. This time Lambert remained bristling under his polo shirt, no doubt stinking of Brut and bullishness.

With victory nearly kicked into the distance, Town pressed forward. El Mizouni emerged from the bench for MOTM Rowe. Taking over wing play, the youngster had not yet taken the knocks or praise the Impish Danny boy had all game.

The Tunisian proved to be the one who upturned the home side and our expectations with determined keep ball in the corner. Picking out Huws the Welshman saw the posts and saw glory skewering a left foot drive wide. On the far corner of the six yard box was Alan Judge, trying to make himself seen as he jumped up and down on the spot, shouting at Emyr long after the goal kick had been taken. The little fella might not have been happy.

It was six long minutes of injury time. Each second felt like a season in the Championship. Each kick, felt in the guts of every fan behind the goal. Town cleared off the line from a corner which came against the run of play. Burton poured on the intensity but not the poise to claw back a draw.

A polo shirted man in black greeted us all when the whistle came. Pottering around like a Dad as the lights go up at a kids party ushering and thanking and taking credit all at once, and all a bit sheepishly. It doesn’t matter if it was ugly, it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t always convincing. A svelte bloke with a precision engineered beard and tattoos, pumped his fist at his in triumph as he emerged from behind the scenes of clapping and high-fiving team mates. The rain held off until we walked out of the ground, points in the bag and fair few pairs of pants still in bum creases no doubt. It was a sign.

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Preston North End v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 19:23:13
The season finished last week officially for Ipswich, destined for Div 3 with a sojourn to Deepdale one of four more stops at the end of the Championship road. Just over 400 navigated bank holiday roads blocked by umpteen crashed and stranded cars to sit on Bill Shankly’s face and look down upon the state of two teams heading to very different places.

Bart had Emmanuel, Chambers, Toto and Kenlock as his defence. Skuse tucked behind Downes and Bishop. El Mizouni started on the right, Judge on the left and Jackson up front. The bench contained notable names in the form of a returning Keane and potential debutant Ndaba. Preston meanwhile opted for a more lucid 4-2-3-1.

Neither team started with any great urgency, knowing that there was nothing more they could do this season to change their fate. Preston moved the ball around in sizzling 25 degree heat like a bead of sweat, Town came ready for a game of headers and volleys and not much more.

Emmanuel brought down the ball well on the touchline turning his man with ease before gifting possession straight back to a home side happy to canter attack, such was there little need to counter what scant resistance pushed up against them.

Chambers gave away a soft and obvious free kick in dangerous territory. Gallagher could not punish us like he did in the reverse fixture earlier this season, the wall doing its job before Bart was called for the first of many saves.

It seemed that Ipswich could get the ball to halfway with ease, but once beyond that line they could not cross, pass or shoot with any belief. Preston came back at us down the left, and regular standout for them Robinson turned Toto and Chambers far too simply. He beat Bart low and hard with a kick straight through the ball after what seemed like barely enough minutes for most to finish their free pie.

Gifts exchanged, and it was again Town who were down on the festivities.

Ipswich looked like a side with potential to explode a game, but it was always limited to self-destruction. Some good movement when the Lilywhites stood off us, meant too often Bishop would skip and turn into a cage of four white bars and still have no option to release the ball.

At the other end on loan Citizen Nmecha looked every bit the winger wanting to play up front. Drifting centrally when the ball came over, he was too quick off the mark and last man to stay on side. When he did get through, he was ushered away like a pigeon unable to sh1t on the statues in his way.

It was a game with very little happening, but a lot of fouls given. This added to the set pieces, which seemed to trouble the Blues far more than Preston. Every time the ball swung across the area, you expected a hammer blow to finish off the pinata of a defence we had in place.

Party time came for North End when Emmanuel’s defensive nod was the cue for Robinson to double his and his side’s tally. A thunderous drive as Toto held his nerve and little else on the line while it whistled past him. Too often this season you’ve known that once Ipswich concede, they are lost. Another nail in when we were long dead felt unnecessary no matter how sharp and true its placement might have been.

A game broken by the need for refreshment only seemed to drag the silent away end under more. Gasping for all the wrong reasons, we had seen little from our team beyond tentative build ups and powederpuff finishing. Rudd saw one good move culminate in a shot over from distance, and a corner drift out before Toto directed back into his arms safely.

It was the blueprint for our best chance to make a mark upon the game. Chambers ran from deep to meet Judge’s corner late. It dropped on the line for a white foot to volley it away from reducing the sheen of embarrassment from both sets of players’ faces.

Nmecha and Bishop seemed to compete for who could catch the eye and ball right as the half closed out. The starlets being given centre stage thanks to hard work already done by Robinson and lack of work done by Skuse and Chambers in gluing the side team together as they have all season.

Either player might have beat their opposing keeper with shots through crowded boxes and past the post. However, Bart had the most to do as always and it was Robinson who sparked the best glance at a third. Another Hollywood shot and the Pole palmed acrobatically, the stage was set for Nmecha who could only find another glove instead of the gear he needed to anticipate a goal going begging.

Ipswich had yet another run down the wings with El Mizouni looking the most promising but least polished of the youths out there in Blue. A touch of near arrogance would be followed up by a lack of anticipation or the Tunisian looking lost; as the step up required more distance or more awareness from those around him to be really effective.

Kenlock down the left again looked going forward, and when he wasn’t left on the back foot by the wandering Judge or inexperienced Idris he did well to push on and find any of the attackers joining him on the wing. It earnt us a corner in the last moment of the game. There was almost relief as Chambers buried his header, only to see it turned wide. The stop meant the referee at least allowed us all to go for a piss, a pint or to peer into social media away from another 45 minutes of reality.

Emmanuel did not return for the second half. Bree warmed up confusingly next Kenlock before trotting off to come on again. Presumably enough had been seen of Josh today to note he had amassed League 1 readiness.

Town kicked off and were immediately swarmed off the ball as Teddy’s powers of slip and slide seemed to have deserted him. Careering into his adversary he came with nothing as Preston mounted another charge without the need to challenge much more.

Maguire had been the leading attacker, but spent the first half very much as a second stringer. When he picked up the ball and ran the length of the half almost he brushed aside every challenger from midfield to defender almost in slow motion. Laying the ball out wide Bart could only parry the shot from Robinson who was again denied only to set up Nmecha. This time the tap in was easy enough and Town were on their third strike to count against them.

There was little reaction from any of the 12,000 in the stadium and even less from the away end who were eerily quiet. Haunted perhaps by the ghosts of old during Evans’ time or looking at the horrors which lie beneath.

Ipswich nearly and comically reduced the difference thanks to Jackson. The striker who had barely stayed centrally all game, no longer had to cross to where he should be. Keane replaced El Mizouni and Lambert tried to form a diamond from the shards of broken glass his team were now. A hoof from Bart caught out Rudd and his defender. Jackson was forced to dance wide and spin like a man with electricity in his boots, before a bolt crashing off the bar with all but one defender on the line of the net to aim for.
You have to laugh, apparently.

Gallagher’s biggest contribution in the second half was allowing Toto to trap the ball and perform a roulade so slow, it almost rolled off the penalty spot and past the veteran midfielder like he expected the ball to land in his lap whilst he instead skidded face first down the turf.

He was replaced by Moult and then Maguire was subbed for a bloke named after a defunct 90’s ice cream. The second change would go on to try and rearrange Kenlock’s kneecaps with a less than surgical lunge. The left back was belatedly shown a tallow card despite the referee not seeing him slap his assailant around the head. Town were lucky not to be down to 10 men and did little to reduce the humiliation they were being made to suffer as it was.

Moult and final sub Stockley made their way towards Bart’s goal with lunges unchecked by their markers. Both failed to connect or control their efforts on goal as crosses looked to inflict more misery on upon a beleaguered Suffolk support.

Nmecha would grab his second goal, and Robinson would have a hand in his fourth. A simple pass across the face slapped home for the final part of a dreadful quadrilogy from an Ipswich perspective. Far post, but far from done the loan man would make a case to gather plenty of interest beyond Preston next season you might wonder.

Lambert did bring on Chalobah who replaced a faded Bishop. The Chelsea standout shaped up to fire over the bar in one of Town’s brighter moves, but it was little to write home about. In the same genre Judge again appeared to want to carry the whole team. Drifting in and determined to score that goal he has attempted several times only to see an angled shot fly wide and over to a ripple of applause rather than net.

As Ipswich write their last few stanzas of dark poetry this season, it’s hard to find rhyme or reason with Lambert’s insistence that motivating his players is not a problem. Clearly the things which are a problem dwarf it so considerably, it is no wonder we are vying for the award of worst side in the Championship over several seasons not just his one.

Town were flat and shapeless all game. The wind knocked out of us early on, we lay flapping and unappealing like a binbag of excrement on the Lancashire turf all afternoon as the loacls merely stepped over us at their leisure. It is rare to leave a game with such little passion but displaced anger and disbelief. Toto jumped in the crowd at the end, he was met by someone he knew and a stranger having some words. Chambers put his shirt into the hands of a child amidst the throng waving the players already heading down the tunnel off.

He has given us so much this season, it is hard to begrudge him much. But in a day where he came up so short, and so did those around him, it is fitting he can finish it half-naked and ashamed. Uncomfortable that all the footballing sins of the club had counted against him already.

Last season it took just twenty minutes and two Mustapha Carayol runs to completely flatten Preston. But that was last season, a long time ago. We look forward and down, with Lambert at the wheel. You can cup your ear and listen for violins all you want, you may even here the soft thuds of deckchairs being rearranged, but whatever depths are coming to engulf us before we resurface, this division will miss us and we it.
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Bolton Wanderers v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 18:49:39
A game shrouded in doubt, despair and at its beginning, bathed in sunshine. Ipswich returned to their old enemy and fellow relegation favourites Bolton, rooted to the bottom of the league. It was to the same ground with yet another name, we came looking to inflict a positive change on a season already long fated to be a failure.

Carnival atmosphere greeted those who walked through the turnstile late to see voices loud, beer on the floor and spirits sky high. Above ground the songs continued as a flamingo, a penis and balls of varying colours and sizes bounced off joyful blue faces amongst a blitzkrieg of inflatable-based fun. Once enough rubber had been launched into action to give the Vatican cause for concern, the teams came out.

Bart had Emmanuel, Chambers, Collins and Kenlock ahead of him. Skuse sat with Dozzell and Bishop as almost inverted CM’s. Their stronger feet on the inside of the formation’s isosceles engine, to enable them to find Judge on the left and Edwards on the right, as Quaner completed the line-up.

Bolton opted for a flatter 4-5-1 that saw old loanee Callum Connolly in central midfield and Magennis their only outlet up top. It was enough to see town have most of the ball in the opening minutes, but the Trotters most of the chances, if you can call them that at all.
Blue Action were living up to their name as a repertoire of defiance rang out, even if the game wasn’t anything near to their moniker. Dozzell sent away Kenlock with a first reminder of his close control and vision. The full back could only watch his cross beat everyone and go beyond Edwards in a poor recreation of the season’s opener.

As the fans traded renditions proclaiming allegiances “until [they] die” (and then some of our number caveated Bolton’s with an existential jibe “until July) Chambers and Emmanuel in particular, put their bodies on the line.

The young right back spotted the danger superbly to close out the Wanderers on the left for a corner. The second kick of that phase of play fell to Ameobi who was 3 yards out. Had Chambers not been 2.5 yards out and on him like a second shadow, the former Magpie’s backheel might have crashed into the net and not the hoardings via the captain’s boot.

Ipswich were playing nicely within their thirds, but not through them or through Bolton. Skuse might shield a long ball down for Emmanuel to move it on, or Chambers to find Collins but beyond the odd miscontrolled backpass to Bart, those waiting beyond, were kept doing just that.

Collins reads the game like it’s on an autocue and slammed the door shut with more than one great block tackle. But when he’s not averting danger with a strong header or well-timed step forward, he was inadvertently creating it. Wasteful sweeps forward came straight back once too often to be coincidence.

When it was his partner who made a miscalculation in where the ball would drop, Bart was forced to come and aged ex-Canary O’Neil was no better than Luke. His studs and apologues meeting the Poles head with accidental force and the fury of the travelling contingent. It wasn’t malicious, but typical.

Ipswich only swapped wingers briefly in the first half, but it was from out wide any chance might come. Judge tested Matthews at the near post with a neat, but fairly simple drive. Quaner was felled as much by his enthusiasm as the chasing defender when Kenlock lofted a ball into his path and the force of run seemed to snap his hamstring, and send the German skittling and shaking his fingers as the ball cannoned wide.

No penalty, no injury and no convincing us or the ref, of a chance to take the lead. It would be several minutes later before the on-loan Terrier would change that. A thwarted corner after Bishop, Kenlock and Judge overplayed their hand down the left, and was sent out on the other side for the set piece. The ball again was repelled before coming to Chambers on the wing. With a cross so good it was literally unbelievable to have come from the captain. Jumping in stages, the German extended his neck and then his forehead to take the acclaim from the other end of the field. The ball bounced low and into the corner to put Ipswich in the lead.

Bolton and their fans seemed more shocked than we were and both wingers got into the box, but not into a position to score. Bart looking solid after his head injury then saw his elderly attacker replaced by Jay from the Inbetweeners. The change was stark.

Whilst the youngster injected a bit of spunk into their play, it was the Blues who got their blood up again. Dozzell and Quaner interchanged down the left side, crossing the halfway line of today’s temple of doom, momentum slowly built, and possession stayed with Town. Kenlock played it crisply into the German who turned as powered by the breeze and like a slow-motion Murphy slammed his second across Matthews’ and beyond any dive the keeper could make. Eruptions in the away end. Then our redemption song.

Both sides emerged from the tunnel still huffing in clouds of disbelief. It was therefore little surprise to see Bolton really come at us from the kick off. A sweeping counter attack saw Buckley again fire wide when he should have worked Bart. It produced audible derision and disgust from relative corners of the ground.

Ipswich meanwhile had little reason to keep things anything other than steady. Bishop perhaps struggled to make much headway in either half. It was no surprise to see him dispossessed and crowded out, as Edwards and Judge swapped permanently, and the usual options disappeared with it.

It was barely past the hour mark when Bishop went off for fellow youth player Downes and the midfield changed a little. With it the game remained a mixture of turgid long balls hoping to set away either striker or bamboozle any of the centre backs.

Bolton had a scare when big Collin dropped his centre of gravity just a little. Sent way down the right he got close to the line, and found the foot but not the connection of Judge. The Irishman wafted what needed to be batted into the net, and it fell all the way through to their right-back who was relieved to give away a corner.

Downes was unlucky when his header looked like he’d met one of the many beach balls rather than the match ball. Skuse sent a cross that just sat up a yard too long, or the substitute was just a yard too close to steer it anywhere but upwards and off target.

Chambers went off for treatment after a brace of blocking shots with his face. Parkinson moved Connolly to left back to bring on the tiny Oztumer. The former Wallsall magician conjured up a volley through a crowded box. Bart needed two attempts to smother it, but any chance of the game catching light was put out. You could tell despite the fun and accepting tone either side of the stewards, this was rock bottom versus a club in utter turmoil.

Ipswich brought on Jackson in the later stages for Edwards. Instead of removing Quaner from the slim chance of a hat-trick, the former competition winner took up position on the left wing. Lambert perhaps spotting that when Edwards nutmegged his man, and charged forward, and then Kenlock did the same there was room to exploit on that side.
The Welshman walked off to an ovation. His highlight reel moment perhaps being early in the half when he looped a ball over his man near our corner flag and ran away with it, waiting to be felled for a cheap free kick.

Such trickery was a welcome distraction, and the unknown pleasures of watching Judge demand the ball and reparations from a linesman who was flagging against him in every close call, was the only thing to really eclipse it. André again showed good close control and vision to send him away on the turn and touch in a move that deserved more than a scrambling stuttering halt from the players and referee.

Chalobah entered the fray for the #23 who was clutching his bum as he walked towards his manager. Whether for fun or relief, it perhaps meant nothing more than his race being run. With the game all but over, it wouldn’t be Ipswich if all the good things we’d done could be stained with calamity.

Skuse opted not to take a mandatory card as Oztumer greeted him with the ball and an eye for goal after Downes sold his colleague short. Town let Bolton continue down the right and tried to see them out. But the cross was uncharacteristically well placed. Confusion reigned and as the ball was scrambled out of the goalmouth the referee took a second to decide it had crossed the line.

The four minutes of injury time was all but elapsed, but it was a long thirty seconds until the end. Paul Lambert joined his players near the touchline in saluting us. A raised hand from the dugout throughout the game greeted every song directed his way, now came up close. His sweater a contrast to the track tops and sweat-soaked polyester of his men as Chambers’ rare victory fist beat out a few cheers.

If this was a dress rehearsal for League 1 next season, it’s hard to pick too many faults with the team today. Emamnuel alongside Chambers acquitted himself well, and the rest of the academy boys were guided or beguiling enough to warrant further patience. However, as a few Bolton fans clapped us and said “fair play lads” as they passed the away end, you could be forgiven for hearing the diddling of an organ in your head. Compared to them, perhaps we really don’t have to worry too much?
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West Bromwich Albion v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:26:25
A slip road beyond the Bescot, in a car park outside a Greggs, a few statues listened to a pub band on a small stage murder Smells Like Teen Spirit. 1200 or stood behind the goal minutes later, following a club already doomed. A simple expectation beyond our imminent exit at this level, here we are now… entertain us.

Bart had Kenlock, Knudsen, Chambers and Bree as a new look back four. Skuse sat and Nolan and Bishop scurried and streaked ahead. Edwards on the right, Judge on the left and Quaner the focal point.

West Brom had a line up where only Townsend had been linked with us in the last decade and Livermore had been on loan. Such is the gulf in squads. It was hard to know exactly how or where Moore fitted a front line of Phillips, Rodriguez, Gayle in the middle and Murphy into any kind of formation. The Baggies were so shapeless, and full of other people’s cast offs it really came as no surprise. But it should be.

Only four minutes were needed for Town to be behind. Kenlock heading backwards and centrally, just about. Wafting down to the turf, Knudsen had little choice to bring his man down. There was more cover, and more yards to cover than the one which saw him see red last time out.
If anything summed up our season today, it began with the first goal. Loanees Gayle and Johansen stood over it. The Cottager driving home via the shankiest of deflections past a stranded Bart. The Pole could not stay erect, nor could he be expected to predict the cause of such jubilation to a team desperate for a win.

From then on in, it seemed to be all Town. The perfidious Albion would merely do their part, and do it badly.

Quaner showed he has good feet, but they are some distance from his head. Close control and the ability of Bishop, Judge and Nolan to support him, meant Ipswich had options. Reliant on the running and spark of Bree and Edwards up against Murphy and Townsend shots came in thick and fast, mostly towards Johnstone.

Ipswich were unlucky when a neat move saw the Welshman Edwards cut inside. Charged down, his dynamite failed to ignite, and the shooting star man’s effort bounced away from goal and behind. Chambers had seen the white, stabbing over from his left foot and the edge of the box, but the best of Town’s moves and efforts at the far end fell to Quaner.

A long pass behind one of the lumpiest and most static backlines we’ve seen all season (including our own) the Terrier took the ball across the box and face of goal. Shooting from just too tight of an angle he forced a block from the keeper, but maybe deserved more. Especially as both he and Judge had tested Johnstone’s grip with shots that masqueraded as backpasses.

The home side had their best moves down the flanks. A free kick from Gayle swung wide and low from a similar position to where they scored. It was this sort of in-game narcissism which cost them and him. A spurious penalty claim at the hands and feet of Nolan was waved away, when a card should have been instead. Such was the wastefulness of the Magpie who could not even get one for sorrow past the imperious Bialkowski.

Murphy forced a great tip past the far post, onrushing Gayle and Rodriguez. His run beyond the missing Gwion and overstretched Bree deserved better. That only came from our keeper determined to keep us in the game.

Despite being down and dumped upon, the Town fans were choking on the abundance of atmosphere. Acrid and burning, blue smoke filled the away end and floating amongst it was the anthem made famous by Blue Action. It was everywhere, it was hectic, it was proper naughty.

This was all in response to Gayle driving low and quickly into the net. Unfortunately for the Baggies boinging up to celebrate a second, it was the wrong side of the post. Meanwhile, the Blues continued to bounce and believe that Paul Lambert is as Blue as we are.

The half ended with another period of Bishop driving past players, dancing like a popstar but not quite hitting his stride or shot to change the game definitively. It was quite the show, and that’s all he, Nolan and Judge did. For the ball, the for the yards forward, for a chance of an equaliser that kept us ticking waiting to go off.

Skuse had his moment on the far side of the box. A corner scrambled out and away, like a cider-breathed Makelele, he stroked and then drove the ball back, but defensive instinct kicked in and a home arm stopped an away foot from doing the same. It was the kind of penalty you hope to get when behind. It was the kind which you are guaranteed to get when you’ve got VAR and those beyond Birmingham behind you.

When Town emerged from the break, Andre and Emmanuel had their shorts out and finished their warm up. Jackson had his out and his drill top off to take Quaner’s place up front. It was a marked difference from his Wigan bow. But before the house would come down in puttering Black Country frustrations, West Brom would try and dominate right after the interval.

Edwards again seemed uncomfortable coming back and caused a foul and took a card. The effort was there from us, but not them. Never bothering the goal, Ipswich showed them how it was done. Rampaging up the other end towards us, we sucked the ball in and with it the players to our hearts.

Judge and Edwards cut angles through the glacial defender, coming back out to the right via a block, Bree swept up the crumbs of misdirected possession. Looping to the back post, up rose Nolan like a beacon. A quick swivel of spine and spirits and the alarm sounded too late for Johnstone. Crashing to the floor as the ball nestled in the bag. The midfielder emerged from the moment beating his head in pleasure as we behind them threw up hands, shouts and pinned one another to the stadia walls in intimate release of relief. Town were back in it, literally and not just morally.

Ipswich’s ascendency was replete with smart passes, and smarter runs. It was unfortunate neither Judge nor Jackson could find each other or Nolan when it mattered. Caught short and slow at the back, Bree, nor Kenlock nor Knudsen were nowhere near as Chambers stood up Gayle once more as his colleagues were equally absent. Once more, both men should have done better and didn’t.

Both Bartley and Dawson looked like old men behind the equally aged and middle of midfield. West Brom’s spine is the football equivalent of a boyband, now an ever diminishing manband, back on tour and the take thanks to tax issues. Stumbling and dithering throughout their core, it was only the bullets of the widemen that threatened to strike us down from any sort of distance.

Meanwhile Johnstone was charged down by the hungry and far more dangerous looking Jackson. The striker was being fed the right sort of opportunities today. Getting in on the shoulder and shadows of stranded defenders and struggling returns to Johnstone it seemed only a matter of time before one miscontrol might swing it back to us and put the visitors ahead.

Kenlock to Kayden down the left flank allowed him to smash a shot at the legs of the keeper with no one else near it or him. Town’s corners seemed to suggest the game would not remain all square for long. Judge lofted and lifted the ball and spirits with his deliveries. Heads in either colour shirt struggled to deal with them definitively.

Both teams changed their midfield with Johansen tiring and well past the point of pulling anything but an orange shirt. Bishop came off for the bulky looking Dawkins. Running out to the left Judge was pushed centrally to reconfigure the lulls and winds of play buffeting both defences.

Jackson was getting all kinds of shots off thanks to the movement outside of the box and inventive passing into his path rather than onto his head. Dawkins chested the ball down from another cross nodded his way. His second touch did not have the electricity of his first, from bosom to back of the stand in one shift of posture.

Ipswich meanwhile were partying from front row to back. More flares, so as you’d have thought our 70’s heyday was back, such was the cacophony and carnival from thermos to flat cap to thunderous claps between songs. We serenaded our leader and Lambert duly raised his hand in austere and loving terms from the dug out before going back to his Ian Curtis moves as he sought to bring back joy to either side of the division within the wider fanbase.

Town have wandered for nearly two decades in this desert of a division. Magpies, Bluebirds, Canaries, Swans, Robins and today throstles; have all flown above and below us during this time. The searing heat of expectation, the mirages of success, the dirt kicked upon as the vultures now circle might see those footsteps all wiped away when they finally drag our corpse down to the third division. However, today felt like one last gasp of life.

Neither team looked like themselves right now, they looked like what they always seemed destined to be. Midtable second tier teams, who sometimes mix it with the biggest and best.

Oh well, whatever nevermind.
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Wigan Athletic v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 19:44:16
Ipswich travelled to the DW stadium still rooted to the foot of the table. Tangible hope filtered through an away support, bolstered by free tickets for the young and the improved performance against Stoke last week. If anything, the sense of changing fortunes was mirrored by the changes to the line-up. Deciding on a 3-5-2 masquerading as a 3-4-1-2 of Bart, Pennington, Knudsen, Chambers, wingbacks of Bree and Kenlock, inside them Chalobah and Nolan sitting and Judge free to run behind Keane and Quaner was how Town looked to win away.

In absentia from the dugout, Lambert sat on halfway and high up, earpiece in and surveying. Touchline bans seemed no obstacle as the Blues in the orange away kit shone the brightest. Inventive pressure and pressing meant that we had early cause for optimism. Down the right flank, Bree was having time and space to pick out and runners and Nolan burst through to head wide with our first meaningful probe.

In retaliation Wigan moved more centrally and their first effort also went behind, thanks to a Bart tip. Town charged down the corner and broke thanks to Judge’s poise. Instinctively, the out of position Naismith earned a booking for bringing down the Irishman mid move. Despite the advantage waved, Town failed to capitalise.

If the lead was going to come, it seemed to be from an orange shirt. Town pushed the Latics and pulled all the strings through geometry and neat passing. Into the box from the right flank again, Keane fired wide first forcing a save. It was then the turn of Chalobah who received permission to fire a shot that was made by Keane’s delicate touch. Deflected past the post by the outstretched Jones, the L plates clanked against the bumper and ball against the sidenetting, as the Chelsea kid was unlucky to claim another goal.

It was that chance that led to another. Town’s Irish maestro pinged the corner to the back post. Towering defenders and charging forwards all failed to connect with the ball. Instead it was the alone striker Keane who saw it hit his standing foot more than the one he swung towards it. Deflections again denied a clear chance to move ahead.

Ipswich were then dealt yet another controversial hammer blow. Town’s shape had been impeccable all game and repelled a Wigan side whose main outlet was also their right back, aiming crosses at lone striker Clarke. Incisive and over the top, that was just the ball from Morsy which sent the striker through towards Bart. In slow motion Jonas, who turned back to cover tugged the striker back with yards and a touch or two to go before he could shoot. Down went Clarke and out came the red card as Chambers went from running back to cover, to running straight at Probert.
Ill-discipline? Terrible judgement? Instinct? Defeat?

It didn’t matter as the free kick pinged off the wall and out. Town dealt with the corner. In the following minutes it was the movement of Quaner to lone striker and Keane to the left of midfield which redefined our intent. Defending with bodies behind the ball and breaking the next few minutes saw the game turn quicker than any of our creative players.

Intelligent runs seem rare from the big German Collin, but he lulled in centre back Dunkley’s periphery just enough to draw him in. Tentative fingers from behind. Impact with the turf from a penetrative run into the box. Disaster for Wigan as Probert knew he had to level things up.

It was perhaps a flying elbow on halfway from Morsy, earlier which had so incensed every Blue in the ground. That and the sending off had painted the referee in a suspicious light. In view of everyone, Quaner took the first opportunity he could to reduce the injustice. Dunkley was merely the dummy on the spot which meant the ref had to point to it even if there were some doubts where the foul took place.

In the lead, the ball pinged from post to post as Keane fired hard and low from 12 yard. Town celebrated wildly as the home fans matched the weathered, greying surrounds. It was the least we deserved on the balance of play. Doubtful in its origins the goal may have been, but the game was now well and truly alive.

Ipswich had looked impressive but imbalanced all game. The presence of Nolan was not enough to stop in the inversion of Pilkington and the overlap of Reece James. In the face of their shearing runs and extra space they now had, Kenlock was struggling to keep the number of crosses down and it was the young Chelsea man who allowed Windass to flick another good chance away from goal when Wigan probably should have scored. Damned by boos on all sides at half time, the referee just shrugged at us and the home team scampered off pretending they were not the intended targets of some of the discontent.

In the dressing room, it was not Lambert who would likely be lambasting the Dane unless via Skype. Taylor perhaps relaying praise to most of the team who had dug in and gritted their teeth. In taking the lead against the odds and officiating the away team had stifled Wigan’s fairly impotent build ups. Displays like this are why you travel to games.

It was to be the end of Quaner too now, the German had done a lot of running, but little else. Taking the pressure off the beleaguered banks behind him, he was replaced by Edwards. It forced Town into a more spartan 4-4-1 with Keane now taking the free role. Down each flank was Edward and Judge.

In the opening attack, winger found winger and then the referee was found wanting. Town pushed down the right and Edwards was about to fire. In from behind the already booked Naismith slid. Down went Edwards, free kick and no leveller from Probert.
Insignificant as the foul might have been, those who sat nearby with notepads had tangible evidence that the 12-10 disadvantage needed checking. Town took a wonderful swing from the boot of Judge. Doubling the lead was not likely when Pennington headed with his guts not his brain and blasted the ball wide of the post as if he was at the other end.

Indifferent to our plight as they have been all season, the footballing Gods were left unimpressed. Tearing through on goal, there was neither enough room to shoot or enough contact to force a second spotkick. Keane took Judge’s through ball to Jones’ oncoming body but came off second best. Definite as the contact might been, we were not going to strike twice in similar circumstances.

Ineffective finishing had kept Town ahead. The centre of the pitch was congested so Wigan passed and planted ball after ball, out wide. In came crosses, but out went shots and headers as Clarke and Pilkington both failed to score when missing was harder. Defenders from right to left earned applause and roars of approval as their captain moved brow and armband in appreciative encouragement.

If we were to smash and grab a second then it was around the hour mark where the game pivoted. Town found themselves in acres of space. Infectious running from Chalobah, to Keane, and back out to Judge defined a splendid move. Down past the far post went a curling drive, when a simple shot might have been enough.

It was again Judge who cut in from the right side this time. Tipping a curling shot wide, Jones looked at his defenders incredulously. If they had the numerical advantage it was not showing. Despite this, Kenlock lost his man on halfway and Windass really should have supplied the equaliser as he broke into the box, Clarke again somehow missed an open goal from inches not the yards past the post he put the ball.

Immediately the changes of Powell and McManaman for Dunkley and Pilkington told us everything. Town has seen Swansea do this in their only victory under Hurst. Turning to extra width and bodies higher the pitch. It was less a system more a mindset that put Morsy as a defending midfielder. Dropping back to make 3 a 4 if necessary, they obviously feared the march of time and orange kits coming their way.

In another twist of ill fate, Keane who had put on perhaps his best performance in a Town shirt pulled up. Travelling at pace, he suddenly arced and dropped to the grass clutching his hind quarters. In came Kayden Jackson to reshape our attack and plot a new trajectory for both the service and success of our front line. Devastated, the former Red Devil shared the pitch with his former colleague Powell for barely a minute as he was consoled by him during his limp back to the dugout.

It’s common knowledge that the one flaw in Morsy’s game is poor discipline. The Egyptian didn’t so much walk into the book, but flew into the back of Judge in a nasty fashion. Tempers flared, fingers wagged. Deliberate and indefensible was the challenge, but so was the home fans repeated booing at any of our players who needed treatment.

Improbable as a win might have seemed. Town were producing some of their best football all season, even with ten men. It was the loss of Keane and then Judge for Downes which really sealed our fate. Demoralised by the combination of pressure and disadvantages coming our way it was the poor touch of Jackson which made nothing stick long enough to curb Wigan’s dominance.

Immovable as Chambers and Pennington seemed, Bart too was tipping and claiming everything all game. That was until the unfunny Lee Evans fell over thanks to his own poor touch, and the momentum of our challenge releasing the ball into space. It was the first of two poor free kick decisions which were well taken. Dinking a post-modern wedge-footed effort over the wall and centrally, James seemed to be the one-man team on which home fans relied for parity.

It marked a different approach to moment when Morsy had to remove Jackson from the face of Fox. The defender had left Kayden crumpled on the touchline cynically after he and Edwards had moved the ball past him into the channel. Implicit from his body language, again Probert tried to make amends way after the incident, but served only to raise the sense of hatred towards him from the visitors. Dallying before playing on was a common feature.

In came Garner for Windass. Toughness for flair. It’s this season where we have been counting the cost of missing Joey’s goals and combativeness. Doubts began to creep in, as the battered bodies of Ipswich could only marvel as Bart plucked a Powell header out of the top corner, instead of out of the net.

If a leveller was coming, from who else would it be? Town’s left side had been buttressed, but it was always going to be breached by the impressive James. In came his cross. Down went Garner, header, bounce, hysteria, 1-1.

In the six minutes of injury time, Edwards had the best half chance to to seal the game. Trademark, volley-flick and turn. Indecision took the best of him. Downes was charging in, but neither shot nor cross went way wide as with it the deserved three points.

Ipswich are relegation certainties it seems. Teams like Wigan would go down most years if it wasn’t for our own catalogue of misery and hubristic self-pity. If all we can do now is laugh at the odds. Death must be made to tremble in taking us.
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Aston Villa v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:44:47
There is a scene in High Fidelity where the protagonist goes back to all of his ex girlfriends to piece together why his life is in such disarray. The same mistakes, the same problems and same comic irony is lost upon him. As Lambert returned to the 3rd of his former clubs since joining us, and 2nd in as many weeks, the game played out in much the same way. Despair and defeat.

Bart and Kenlock returned to the side, as Lambert perhaps showed that now we are not able to afford mistakes, having made two serious ones last week it was no surprise to Elder dropped. Having not convinced much at times, likewise Gerken’s omission might be understandable.

Beyond that, Chambers, Collins and Pennington made up the final 3 of the back four. Skuse sat behind the impetuous and impressive Chalobah and Downes in midfield, as Keane was very much a lone striker at the peak of a 4-3-3 that saw Judge on the left, and Sears on the right for 15 -20 minute spells before swapping on command.

Apartheid. Communism. Keith Stroud. Human history is littered with injustice and little men, thrust into the clutches of power and centre stage to play it out for all to see. It is easy to criticise Keith Stroud, because he is sh1t.

I have a dream, that when Keith Stroud takes control of a game, Ipswich players are judged not for the colour of their shirts, but their conduct in the tackle.

Town played some good and highly creditable football. Taylor put in a teasing cross and Chambers nodded it away. Town played a counter-attack and looked at Villa’s defence with hungry eyes. Their line was higher than Del Toro’s hair in the Usual Suspects and equally in parts, questionable and brave.

In a division which is very much a marathon, Town sprinted to their weekly collapse. Every time Villa touched the ball, they got a free kick. After 5 minutes they floated a delicious one following El Ghazi’s felling, and Bart did what his defenders did. Stood stiller than a puddle as who else, but the wrong Chelsea kid got his head to it. Abraham wheeled away and the emancipation of our clean sheet was complete.

In a first half where two teams and a referee vied for control, it was clear that Town were 3rd best all too often. Splitting centre backs to play out from the back with 3 defenders and a goalkeeper who can’t control the ball that well, was a recipe for self-immolation. Even Kenlock the most likely to beat a player had neither the required touch to meet an overlap convincingly, or the belief to cut inside when space and support was there.

Villa simply rolled Town along the wall and out of the door in far too many tussles. Service was not forthcoming. Poor Keane, not because he was bad, but because when he did work some magic down the right thanks to the support of Chalobah and Sears, it mustered the weakest of shots at a keeper who spilled everything.

At the other end, McGinn span away from everyone bar Skuse, and when he realised that Judge, Kenlock and Sears would not commit to shutting down his left foot when Adomah or Hutton could provide an outlet out wide, he shot. This was a problem. He’s really good at shooting, and Bart couldn’t hold a ball if you dropped it in his cupped hand and coughed today.

The first half saw some bizarre moments and some brilliance. Chalobah and Downes were allowed space to play but not enough of the ball. The athletic in manner in which Trev chopped the ball like a Power League Ronaldo and drove towards the box showed the desire we desperately needed. It ended with Pennington copping a tame cross right to Kalinic who even dropped that initially. It painted a picture of a team who again, faced a keeper terrified and in need of targeting, whilst we are a team fighting a war with Nerf guns.

Of all the strange decisions, Town nearly went even further behind only to be saved by a linesman who had closed his eyes and guessed. Adomah who always scores against us, did it again. Bart with the assist via a palmed McGinn effort, and in off the post. He looked a hand’s breadth off from the stands, but the lino definitely didn’t know, which in fairness, was in-keeping with most of his work today.

Town had got to half time with some good intentions to attack, but apart from Judge constantly wanting the ball and Sears being able to run like a video game character and get it to the line before firing into the box, nothing was sticking.

Stroud had had the chance to flash his cards about, El Ghazi was cautioned for diving in on Collins needlessly, but when Town’s defence spent more time playing across the 18 yard line than was healthy, it was a lucky break to see Villa so wasteful and so casual.

Abraham opted for a gymnastic overhead kick early in the half and missed, before realising that doubling up on Chambers and Pennington at the back post, meant that he ran clear but too close and tight to get off a second goal.

If the home side had the advantage it was in no short part to the fact they could be waved on deep inside their own half, lose it near our corner flag, and be given the restart. High balls were nothing to do with how shorts were worn, but where Claret heads were dipped in. Keane, Collins, Chambers and Skuse all had their go at trying to talk sense into Keith without talking their way into his book.

The second half was met by the opening of the heavens. As rain fell harder, there were no signs of redemption or freedom for the Blues. It was a question of when Villa’s deserved second would come. Not if.

Freddie and El Ghazi both had a game of ‘who could look most like scoring after a mazy run before smashing the ball at an unsuspecting fan in the upper rows’. Collins also showed Tammy why having a girl’s name can make hairy arsed old defenders treat you like a little bitch. Clobbering him in the air and clearing his best chance in the opening minutes as the ball fell loose in the area.

There was death all over this game, no real spark or sense that either side would come away unscathed in some way. As Town looked to make a change, the giant Quaner was limbering and shaking the rain off his forehead as Villa forced a corner. Town again marked zonally, a tight line of Blue across the six yard line.

I’ve seen a man hit by a tram. He fell with less force, distance and ceremony than McGinn did. He was also hospitalised for several days. Pick a defender, any of them and you may as well blame them for the decision to award a penalty, even though Alan Judge was probably closest to him. I thought last week’s was soft, but this was footballing fudge, the kind with second hand sweetcorn in it. Abraham sent Bart the wrong way and got the brace that would see Villa limp past us.

Collin lumbered on for Keane, which seemed bizarre. For Town had barely managed to make the ball stick up top but when they did it was either Keane who did it, or found Judge deeper to keep play ticking over.

Town would finally break behind Villa’s line after Abraham went looking for his hat trick. Turning Pennington and Chambers he ran free at the near post and forced Bart to tip over. With confidence overflowing like half time urinals, Villa looked like they were going to punish us. Instead it was the lens through which Keith Stroud sees football.

Downes had been tenacious all game and showed a restrained sense of poise to chip over for Quaner to run on to. Shrugging off all doubts and attention the big man fired at goal. Villa had Elphick and Chesters back, Stroud had theirs’. You could not only see the ball hit the trailing arm of Elphick but hear it. Such was the noise in Villa Park. Soon it was replaced by a guttural roar of expletives and disbelief. If last week’s blatant penalty denial had been and understandable misreading of a ricochet, this was a human rights violation.

Town looked incensed and inspired. With Adomah withdrawn, the candidates for a jammy goal had decreased, so Ipswich took their moment. A decent move down the right saw Judge miscontrol and the ball run behind the attack, it came back to Freddie who took a touch and hit an absolute screamer. If their keeper was suspect, this was made it irrelevant. Buffoon wasn’t getting that rocket. It marked Town’s second goal in 112 days for me, that was the last time I saw us win. 1100 of us celebrated like we were going to again. Football is irrational.

Soon after Smith took off the already carded El Ghazi and brought on Kodjia. Moving to a 4-4-2 then pushing Kodjia out wide when Jedinak came on late to match our 4-3-3 it was testament to the threat level we posed to a team waiting for their first home win in months.

Between then, Town made a good fist of sh1thousing a drawer. Judge made a meal of going down, when stepped on he contorted like a murder victim and won a hard-fought foul. Whipping the set piece in at the near post, Trevoh nearly capped a fantastic display off only to see his glance at goal crash off of the post.

We were also denied by a corner being succeeded by a drop ball in a half where not even set pieces were going with us. Glenn Whelan is a midfielder so slow in every conceivable way, he seems to have it as super powers. He fell over trying to win the ball from a corner, but is unclear if the contact took place whilst he was still playing for Stoke, baffled and then aflame, Town watched as Villa smashed the drop ball uncontested back to Bart when we had been waiting to cross it back in for a header on goal.

Nothing was going right for us all game, and as Bart made his first goal-stopping save late in from the onrushing Abraham who had this time ghosted past Kenlock at the back post, you sensed that settling for a gallant, yet narrow defeat might be the best result possible today.

Quaner had reinvigorated our front line, and made us look like we had the power to compete with a one man team. However, it begs the question why he didn’t start, and would he have been more use attacking the kind of full backs that let the ball go out for a corner rather than control it as Taylor did twice in the second half?

Lambert is saying all the right things, and no doubt will have to be careful after the game not to be up in front of the FA. But for all the cruelty, malice and unfairness of the day, of our plight and our position, we did little to help ourselves and little more than stand still when it really mattered. One less week now with which to make the Great Escape, but away from fantasies and Hollywood, it is best to remember they sometimes used to shoot people who even looked at the fence too longingly.
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Blackburn Rovers v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:07:26
In the wilds of the frozen North, a few hundred Ipswich fans were stuck in the loft of Ewood Park awaiting their team. A long way from safety, and even further from the pitch as the stand sat empty below us.

Debutant Judge made a bow and settled a few questions about where he would fit into Lambert’s system. On the right wing mostly, Sears on the left with Keane in the Irishman’s preferred position and Quaner in his up top. Skuse and Chalobah made a defensive pair of midfielders ahead of the same back five. Gerken marshalling Pennington, Chambers, Collins and Elder.

Blackburn had an odd line up and shape that flittered between Bennet as a full back and wing back, and Dack as a deep lying play maker for the odd minute before running beyond Evans to join Graham’s slipstream. Sometimes they had 3 at the back sometimes 4, the same up front and you could not always tell if it was because of Ipswich’s weaknesses.

The game kicked off in fairly unremarkable fashion. It wasn’t until Cole Skuse marked an opening 24 minutes of uncharacteristic casualness on the ball in the 6th minute or so, that it got going. “Man on” would have helped, especially as there were two, but he looked like a man rushed back from injury and unable to rush anyway, as a stray orange calf blocked the ball behind for an early corner.

Moving from fairly solid defence of Reed’s set pieces, Town put every man back and the height of the front two helped to make a shield wall across the six-yard box rarely seen in mini-season under the mini-manager when we last played Blackburn.

Town looked far from confident as Gerken switched from centreback to centreback, and the ball moved across the fissures this system calls for. With Judge and Keane constantly looking for it in far off channels just beyond our own 18-yard box, there was hope, but little evidence either would alleviate Rovers’ dominance between the semi-circles.

Ipswich were facing a keeper and two full backs that didn’t look like they had revised for any test today, but time and again retention was not better than before kick off and we failed to do more than overlap and overhit all too often.

Judge found Sears with an exquisite long ball that was completely passing by both teams until the wideman could bring it inside. But again, support and belief let us down long before our delivery could.

Blackburn looked to have the opposite in terms of presence up front, but on the overlap a man was always spare. Both Pennington and Elder were asked to deal with high balls, through balls and a decision on where to place their studs. When Bennett screamed through at the back post, his shot matched his run and nearly hit us away fans. It was a let off that saw Town shook.

Not long after Dack was lifting the ball after lifting himself off the turf from a soft free kick. The game had played on until the long-haired midfielder had decided he didn’t want to. Sitting down centrally the resulting effort was turned away and just went the right side of the post for a corner. As it came back in, we all watched the ball as it bounced off the foot of the post with Gerken beaten.

In the maelstrom of poor decisions from Lambert’s defence and poor possession from both midfielders, Town saw Dack race down the flank in a rare wide appearance and try and lift the ball over Gerken. Collins cleared away what should have been a stronger effort and sure goal. Soon after Lambert switched the wingers before Armstrong repeated the move and tested Deano’s gloves with a straight stinger, easily palmed out.

The lack of protection for either full back may have seemed unnecessary given Rovers’ dearth out wide, but when they moved en masse from side to side it loosened Town’s resolve.

Ipswich deserved to be behind at half time but could have lead minutes before the break. Quaner who had carved gaps in the defence, often enough for Chalobah to pick the wrong one, then drew Lenihan in from an off-side position.

Leaving the ball, the German got the defender to follow suit and Keane raced through. Raya flapped and blew the oncomer too wide and too far. With not enough time or men to get in the box again the ball cannoned out for a corner.

This was a month of games where Lambert revisits his exes’ and trying to get balls in or even near their box is going to be a huge problem it seems. Our survival might hinge on it, thanks to narrowness and depth of running from Judge and the crowding from either central midfielder it was hard to know if this was 4-2-3-1 or lopsided 4-3-3 at times.

It was crucial with Ipswich still in the game, they took the break to reassess and change. Mogga substituted Reed and swapped Armstrong over to Elder’s side. Town gave a cheap free kick away on the edge of the box when they had 3 to 1 in their favour. This seemed to be telling.

Blackburn’s dominance was a silent acknowledgement over the game, hanging more like bad breath than bad intentions in the queue to full time. Nonetheless, Sears sought the ball cleverly down the left and with Elder overlapping, Quaner was just three yards out but with his back to goal. As it came across the German looped it over with the outside of his boot. Keane waggled the outside of his hand demanding the next one comes to him as he seemed to do on his debut the other week.

The home fans barely made sound all day, there was ripple of frustrated encouragement across the attic seats, thudding dully across the rafters. That would change as Blackburn grew into the game. Judge won cheap fouls in reasonably good positions, but most of Town’s set pieces floated into Raya’s hands or beyond his grasp with little threat.

When the end of the deadlock came it was like all fatal moments, unclear and out of nowhere. I’m sure we’re all overjoyed Armstrong survived what appeared to be a landmine he stepped on, almost gallantly given Elder was chasing in behind him and sure to have triggered it next. As the referee took his time and the linesman wanted nothing to do with it, Chambers earned a booking thanks to the crowd not liking him stepping over the spotted ball. The referee with his back to it all gave him the card, somebody else deserved.

Gerken’s dive was just as good as the spotkick. Alas, he went the wrong way as Graham almost pointed to where he was going to put it, well inside the post and slowly. Town were behind. Always behind.

Lankester made a birthday bow on his 19th. Quaner withdrawn and Keane moving up top.
The sub went on the right and Judge went centrally. Presiding over where the ball should be, as the evidence stacked up against the away side.

It was not to be Lankester who would make an instant impact from the bench, but Blackburn’s Nuttall. This time Armstrong did Elder on the other side, strafing across him and firing a machine gun pass into the middle. All of Town’s defenders were cut asunder as the youth team product blasted home a doubler and killed Town off.

A lack of tactical discipline from us and actual discipline from them was all that perhaps we can cling to in terms of unjust actions being done upon us. Bennett could not catch Sears at one point, so pushed him into the hoarding playground style. No card but a free kick. This was topping what in the first half seemed to be the clearest booking you’ll see all season as Lenihan did the same to Quaner as the German cross the halfway line and the defender cut him off at the knees. When he was finally booked for a nasty tackle in the second half the decision was not lost on many travelling fans.

The pinnacle of what should have been given to us, when we did little to deserve anything was a clear handball to deny a goal bound shot. Bennett who had also lunged in on a countering Sears, stuck his arm out to deflect it out for a corner. The ref beat his chest like an emasculated gorilla. His understanding of biology, up there with that of physics and the laws of the game.

Lambert put Bishop in late on to become the third player in the hole, and the number in over their heads into double figures. Rejigging the lines to make what might not have been a 4-4-1-1 as Dack and his mates cannoned balls over the bar and the game well and truly beyond us.

Once again Town find themselves riding their luck, then setting fire to it in a bin like the division’s paupers we seem so keen to be. Hurst’s player’s all but banished frim sight, it’s easy to see why some are now looking cynically at Lambert and seeing a relationship between points for the PR, but little points at or away from PR. But the picture is bigger and darker than that alone.

We lined up again with changes, new faces and little looking like we could do more than steal a 0-0 until we leant our soft bellies onto the cutting edge of reality at this level. If we go down, we deserve to thanks to displays like today being seen too often.

Elder showed that like most of Lambert’s signings, if it wasn’t for injury or circumstance they’d not be here. Cementing his place as the second best left back at the club for now, he was merely the temple on which today’s knock out blows fell. Had we played out 1st choice, we may have left with stolen parity and a point. Keane is the man with gold in boots, and if we fail to put every attack through him, we are foolish because not only does he want the ball, but the ball wants to be with him if it has any chance of finding the goal.

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Accrington Stanley v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:23:27
Merely six feet away from the pitch and today the abyss was smiling back. 1200 Town fans made an L shape around the Wham arena, the open terrace and half the closed stand a section of blue and white. Snaking through side streets, open ground and balsa wood toilet blocks, this was a glimpse of what is yet to come.

A spearmint Pole in goal prayed before us then gave us a little jiggle of acknowledgement, the first of a refresh to the side. Ahead of him Spence, Nsiala, Pennington and new boy Elder. The only man new enough not to have a cloud, or the wrong kind of question marks hanging over his head in the back five.

Dozzell sat deep like an Orwell Pirlo, at times everything flowed through him, but there was also a tactical bridge that spanned and denied him traffic. The business of Downes and Nolan as a different triangulation of midfield middling today. Edwards on the right, Sears on the left and homecoming Jackson crowned the Ipswich line.

The game started with mild bemusement behind the goal. Single tier stands, less than 5k in the ground and a familiar feeling in unfamiliar environs. Accrington started well and earned territory and confidence with simple, unrefined play.

Scrambling from either side, but mostly in our half saw Pennington and Nsiala doing simple things, our full backs winning plenty when under little pressure but Town failing to fund much of an outlet. The flat 4-4-2 of Stanley meant our stretching shape and cross field Hollywood balls had a dead-cat bounce off home side shins and bodies able to intercept obvious diagonal cuts inside or arching moves into the channel.

Elder looked the better of the wide options going forward. He has both the physicality and the control to at least solidify a side who have all the inner strength of jelly in a washing machine. Every spin past a Lancastrian tackle, or promise to shift play out of the back and only a little bit forward manner we are so accustomed to was met by another midfielder happy to clatter and scythe down anyone standing still enough to be caught.

Bart made two saves of note in the first half. One he spilled at his near post and then smothered. The other was routine only 12 months ago but met with support that was overcompensating if not well meaning.

The real talking points were that Town took 37 minutes to have a shot off target. Nolan whipping the ball high and over the chunky custodian Ripley. It was a demonstrative ending to what happens when you are good enough to keep moving the ball just outside of the oppositions’ circle of interference, but not good enough to beat all but two sides this season.

The other was that Flynn Downes needs to be given the moniker “calm” as a reminder. Removing the threat of a cross field delivery, he was one of several to receive a touch of dubious heft. Hitting the floor indicating where studs had caressed his thigh, the referee failed to remove the offender and offended. A touch on his cheek and young Flynn flung palms into breast, knowing he had not done enough the referee spoke to Finley not for the first time, then booked Downes where a red is what the rule book calls for.

It was 45 minutes where Nsiala looked the better of our two centre backs and Jackson had all the support and touch to show he was never getting the better of theirs. Edwards at one point was free on the touchline, but Spence understandably mistook for a ballboy, such was his intent to shy away rather than signal for the ball.

If this is what the future holds, then I’d we could at least pass to someone not marked by three players and forced to knock it straight back until the ball is shepherded out for yet another pointless set piece or throw in.

When the second half came, so did Bishop. An obvious change for Downes who was being targeted and biting like a shark at anyone in distance. The referee was happy to not have to make a decision, so when Downes racked up an innumerable amount of innocuous fouls before the break, it was a clear and obvious change.

And what a difference it made. Young (is he still young?) Bishop danced and plied his trade across and around all comers. He and Dozzell worked off each other and sometimes brought in Nolan to make the midfield less estranged from either flank or forays forward.
Accrington had nodded just past the same post Bishop’s first shot fizzed past just before the break. Their chance probably closer, but ours more eye catching. The defenders stepped up to try and condense the area the ball was contested in, as Town looked more equipped to exploit the up and under running clear tactic thanks to Jackson. It was Accrington who were happier to use it though.

Surprisingly, their best chance to beat us on the break was a low run across the face of Nsiala on the halfway line. Bringing his man down with precision cynicism the Congolese had not just come in from the cold, but into his own in terms of rugged and habitat-appropriate defending.

Town may have looked better, but we had become sick of seeing the same routine moves break down thanks to a lack of catch and release in short passes down the line, or a lack of static attackers getting into the box to meet the crosses or challenge the defenders dealing with them. Elder, Sears and Nolan all had moments of getting past their man, but all had moments of indecision.

When Town had a shot on target Ripley parried easily. When they did it again, he denied us with his gut and it wriggled away from goal and out from a corner. The result of which was a near post header and Nolan using his standing leg to trick himself and the defender, before hammering the squirming ball into a low and credible shot across goal.

These are the scraps upon which a goal and results starved side now fed.

When new-boy Keane replaced Stanley old-boy Jackson there was a slight keening of interest amongst the travelling throng. He is all a few swishes of ponytail and some neat ideas, packaging the neat and tidy footwork of a player who actually looked to stay in the centre circle when Town were defending and be in the centre of everything when Town were attacking.

When Sears burst through Accrington’s middle like something from older, kinder, better days he took not one, but two bites at scoring. A low shot from central sent him wide. Blaring a low one at an impossible angle he had both Keane and the latterly introduced Ellis Harrison waiting on the six yard line.

Town had gone 4-4-2 to try and get a goal back, because along with missing the target we had repeated the trick of conceding from a set piece with little need or reason. Spence gave away a fairly routine free kick. But it swung past the goal and Bart to the left hand side. Neither centre back dealt with it, and Kee unlocked the tie with a close finish. Those 200 or so that had been bouncing to the drum opposite us set the tone. Rapturous celebrations, red streaked to the far corner. Town shuffled back into positions all too readily and familiar when you don’t do the same defending dead balls. Ironically, a more fitting description or feeling around Ipswich you could not find this season.

There was no anger in the away end either side of Town trying to snatch damage limitation from defeat, from adding another agonising 90 minutes to a season overstocked and over-faced with them already.

When the final whistle came so did the first signs of protest and dismay. Players trudged off after dallying ass far from their fans as possible. But inevitably the dressing room was at the corner where they had to parade across the faces glowering or turning away from them behind the goal.

“Passion” was questioned not quality. As we walked behind the stands, protests from a dozen or so evaporated into the open sky towards Marcus Evans. He remains as ephemeral and formless as the few voices ringing with pointed questions and demands he “get out of our club”. With the human shields and structures long gone this and previous summers before, there is little place left to hide for Evans other than the boardroom, beach-side resorts or any of the other dozen boltholes down which he and his money might sink as long as he is owner here.

Lambert may well rage and howl as we did tonight. He may well question the attitude and application of some, all, or individuals as we might. He might look around and wonder what is to become of ITFC by May, by next season or beyond. He may well do as some no doubt will and make a fist of it, until walking away or feeling unwanted is inevitable.

A tree can be teeming with life for years before you know it is definitely dead. A chainsaw, a match or the slow force of time may all final see it disappear from the landscape entirely. That can only happen when there is no longer enough to sustain it.

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Middlesbrough v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 20:51:37
And so it is, just like Mick said it would it be. 2018 ends not with a bang, nor a whimper, but another edging toward relegation and financial ruin which needn’t have been so. People may talk of clichés or curtains, but our run is like a roller blind. Every turn a descent, every click upon click sees a straightening of the logical conclusion, as pace and momentum gathers, and darkness enshrouds all.

Lambert did not stick with the same back 5 as you’d expect, Gerken had Pennington and Chambers with Spence on the right and Kenlock debuting for the Scot on the left. Knudsen on the bench was met with confident rumours on Teeside he was all but gone, to where or when unconfirmed. With Elder of Leicester mooted it seems a likely guess.

Chalobah, Downes and Nolan were the three in the middle with the Chelsea lad taking up the Skuse mantle behind and between his colleagues. Lambert opted for purer pace up front with Sears on the left, Edwards on the right and Jackson in the middle. It was a valiant and sensible approach but was to yield little more than any other combination on any other week.

The Boro fans were aghast with what they had been served by Pulis in recent weeks, a lack of goals, defenders upon the shoulders and shadows defenders, and strikers who couldn’t finish. All propped up by physical, sitting midfielders. It was in the pub and confirmed in the programme notes that Pulis has a brief of curbing and reordering the house at the Riverside after years of big spending and scant reward. Neither fan nor manager were joking when the opening minutes produced some of the worst football seen at this level for decades.

Headers and huffing weren’t even broken up by hoofing. It wasn’t until Chalobah was felled by an accidental Wing, clutching his face where elbow landed on halfway that there was any sense of respite or resettlement to try and play from either side.

A man nearly as old as my Dad and dressed like he was off to manage the local Under 8’s not a top six side, it is notable that the wee Jimmy Kranky of English football management has turned out a side despite its depth of talent; so dour, so defensive and so ugly it is a throwback to the circus spectacles of yore.

Hugill a striker we once coveted was given a great opportunity after Downing had tested Kenlock early on to great effect. When the front man was finally through with a decent distance and sigh of goal he skied into the silent end and ether behind the goal with impressive inaccuracy.

Before then only deflection and dipping volleys had seen Boro threaten the Town goal from Howson and Downing who enjoyed success down our left. However, it was the same flank that saw Sears and the overlapping Kenlock combine to cut triangles out of the Boro box and neat reversal let Freddie fire low at the front post for a routine stop.

Chalobah was unsure what to do with so much space to play in. He dazzled when turning tight to onrushing challengers, and bored by the expanse between him and the home team’s back 8 he often lopped a Hollywood ball out wide to a full back, gaining polite applause but little territory or angle of attack.

Unfortunately, that dazzle turned out to be merely the hazards amid the debilitating red smog as he earnt a silly but necessary booking hauling down a man by his shirt on the edge of the box. Boro failed to punish us, but then the ref then failed to punish Besic who was naughty, if not nasty with a clear challenge from behind to ensure Nolan got no further than the ground just ahead of him.

The freekick saw Town waste a short but well played corner, earnt from a great header on target by Trev which had Randolph scrambling like a 2nd rate air force and acrobatically deflecting the aerial assault on his far post.

This game did not feel like comfortable playoff contenders vs struggling remnants of folly until the 37th minute. Hugill and Spence challenged for a cross. Hugill appeared to slip, Friend fed into the line of the ball at the back post and Town rallied again. All whilst the ref who was under watchful Town eyes for past misdemeanours pointed to the spot. It was either a fiction or superb officiating, ultimately it doesn’t matter.

No one knew why, no one appealed in red or behind the goal, it seemed as Chambers asked for clarification the finger pointed from spot, to a bemused Spence, and back to spot again. From there the on-loan Hammer dealt town a death blow from 12 yards, firing low past Gerken.

All too often Ipswich have looked like a side who are good for seventy minutes, but alas games are played over ninety. Nothing reinforced this more than our one good chance before half time. Nothing breaks like a heart, except maybe Ipswich. A jagged, fleshy, squelch after a pump. The ball squirted, Jackson scampered under Flint’s hurried feet, to free it on the edge of the area. Nolan took receipt and deserves credit for one of many insightful passes that set away Sears. Freddie cut back to see a solid shot clatter off Randolph’s shins as Blues’ fans struggled to do more than gasp and clutch at the spectre of parity or life after half time.

In our last match Town took just two minutes after the break to surrender their lead. They needn’t have feared a repeat not just because they were not leading, but again because neither side got going very well after the break. Literally as the officiousness of the day saw the initial kick off made a rehearsal for no clear infringement.

Chambers had been a lion in the backline in the first half, nodding away every half-chipped cross and unclaimed loft from all-comers. He beat a paw against the turf in worrying fashion when his ankle seemed to meet the red tide and studs of Wing who yet again seemed clumsier than the more considered fouling from Boro in the same fixture last season.

We waited for a few minutes with baited breath to see if our bionic man would need repair or even replacing but he limped on behind Kenlock to boos from home fans clearly not versed in the Luke Chambers code of being harder than a man whose blood type is Viagra.

Boro had a penalty shout waved away when Downes went in on Saville. The Teesider deserved a card, as the ref waved away any foul. If not, then Downes should have got his second having lost his head previously with two nasty lunges that forced Simpson to book him just after the goal before the break.

It was an immature but necessary performance from young Flynn, laced with Scholesesque sh1thousery but not the passing or volleying associated with the Red Devil of old. Both he and Nolan joined Spence as players who put in creditable if unspectacular performances today.

The right back would then earn Boro sub Tavernier a clear card in the next piece of action. Old replaced by new as Downing jogged off from the right, Tavernier took a spot on the left and Pulis narrowed his phalanx to something with all the tactical grace of a fence panel.

Spence took not one, not two but three attempts to join his nutmeg on the other side of the legs and outstretched arms of Tavernier clawing at his shirt. Eventually the referee conceded where Boro should have done much earlier. The petulant kick away of the ball not punished but any of the trio of just deserving shunts one assumes.

Town wasted whatever they gained as it took mere minutes for the petulant to turn prodigious. Receiving the ball wide on the left Tavernier hit what from the away end appeared to be a Brazilian flavoured finish on the outside of his boot past a helpless Gerken. What the video screen revealed was a sh1t cross, deflecting off a lunging Chambers who did the right thing, but put the ball the wrong side of his post when really Gerken again will hit the floor with questions and despair hanging over him. We might see more changes of keeper this season than the previous 4 or 5 combined if this continues.

With Ipswich truly buried and the raw pace of Jackson replaced by the yet to be stunned and slaughtered attributes of Roberts, Lambert added to the attack something different but made little difference. Kayden had spent the game looking at the ball the way rich Victorian men looked at curiosities or objet d’art. Now it was Roberts’ turn to chase it all over the horizon and see it slip beyond his grasp.

Switching with Sears to the wing he initiated a great overlap with Kenlock who was received licence to roam by Boro swarming on our right flank and Nolan’s ability to pick a pass. When the former Shrew was replaced by Dozzell Town had the same ineffectiveness as previously.

Sears clattered half-shots off of shins, Andre then returned the ball to Kenlock who stopped it as his defender leapt, then he launched it for Roberts to header agonisingly wide in slow motion. It was the clearest attempt on goal either side would have from open play, and everyone involved from a Town perspective, deserved better.

Boro would see this as a moment to finally attack Town with some real intent. A double save first from sub Clayton saw Gerken beat away either effort from medium distance with strong but unconvincing hands. When the reds swarmed on yet another corner Hugill would take the last moment of the match to hit his best effort all day. Arcing neck sinew and spinning header into the far corner, the Town stopped was up to the task and produced his best save of the game, maybe season when it mattered least.

The official announcement claimed over 23k witnessed this spectacle, that was a lie. But whatever % of it was town was tiny. A few hundred allezed, shivered and shook in the end of year gloam. In every blue heart is a bird longing to sing, but all we can do is drown it in lager and service station coffee, let it choke on the smoking ruins of our club as we wait for tomorrow, and beyond that, someone to open a window.
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Stoke City v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 19:49:40
“They had more energy than us” seemed the be where Rowett and Stoke fans converged on their phone in after the game. You can only say that of men still in the fight. Contrastingly, they were bored, they wanted a star player who didn’t get a game, they should be higher in the table, the manager isn’t right for a club of their stature. These were the threads that wove around their perspective on a game where they entered the top ten, whilst Town edged to nine points from safety.

Bart dropped, who knows how it was done, or how gently the news and his fall from the side was broken before the game, but he walked off clapping his ungloved hands, his eyes as twitchy and unconvincing as his stopping of late. Chambers broke from animated conversation with Roberts to beat his chest, to beat our badge and salute the few hundred of the thousand left to chant “one fcuking Chambers” as they, like him were the last to walk away from today.

Sometimes you have to start at the end to really understand a story, and if the last half an hour of “Ipswich ‘til I die” doesn’t tell us the moral, then the meaning is clear. Even if this is Ipswich’s time, Ipswich’s turn, if the pitch is a scaffold and the mob in the stands baying and trying to engulf themselves in the theatre are as involved as they want to believe, then this must be what it’s like to watch a loved one executed. Whatever they’ve done or not, whether they were merely hanging around too long in the wrong place or not, there is a sense that without severe intervention a deathly drop is coming.

The Stoke ground is one of those you always think of as new, but it is as weathered and obsolete as any of the 90’s Prem-money megastructures now littering retail parks just off of motorways out of reach between 5pm and 6pm. Whipping wind drove rain in from the sides, as the seats given were not taken by the sensible in many areas near the front. Driven back into the height of a stand stood triple figures of Suffolk support. It was not a day for football, and that probably suited us.

Gerken was behind the same back four. Chalobah deputised for the injured Skuse with Nolan right and Downes left, in a tighter than usual triangle. Sears on the left wing, Lankester on the right and Jackson dropped right out of the squad for Roberts once more. If Lambert was shuffling his deck, or merely picking on merit whose to say? But it was an improved opening.

Stoke were another team just down from the big time, still full of big names, old names and familiar names in slightly different orders and places as to where they might be known to most of us. Huddersfield’ Tom Ince was back at this level, whilst Woods seems to have stood still figuratively and literally thanks to the woes of his former side. They were indicative of a team as unbalanced as ours for all the wrong reasons.

Town barely saw their central midfield get a meaningful touch for fifteen minutes. Only Chalobah in his part of the pass the parcel style approach out of the back really got on the ball long enough to move it to centre back or keeper and receive it again. Both Gerken and Butland slipped in the rain, such was the oddity of trying to do that in conditions so unsuited and in our case a side so unsuitable for precision and poise.

When Afobe tried for an early penalty at the charge down of our dithering keeper he was rightly jeered and wrongly not booked. It was a recurring theme that would soundtrack a game with little entertainment value.

Ipswich worked their concertina passing game with less rhythm and found that the slowness of Shawcross allowed him to receive long balls hesitantly. Diving his hands over Roberts’ shoulders like they were pockets every time, we got little charity from either him or officials who again saw Roberts’ lower league aggression, as lacking class.

There was a much brighter period from the Blues around 20minutes. Chalobah and Downes had benefitted from Nolan coming into the game more. The older, but less experienced head of red and his luminous boots looked to warm up proceedings just a little. Whether his weeks with Lambert have meant he has been reprogrammed in the privacy of the training ground or, were just seeing him emerge from the shell of a team his former boss left who knows. But we clapped appreciatively in the latter part of the half when he drilled a shot at the near post.

It was Chalobah who again showed the light and dark duality of his follicles and his football as he chested a ball down and found a great threaded pass with the outside of his boot to set Town away, but when the defending was done, he stepped over his own trick part-way through and landed in a heap allowing the Potters to skip past him, thanks to Allen’s excellence in doing the simple things.

Lankester forced a great save from Butland with Nolan too getting a distant drive onto the gloves, and out for a corner. There was a feeling that the second balls might have been falling kindly for Stoke but either side would improvise cushioned touches, and contorted limbs to distract and disorientate in blowy conditions.

When the youngster then trotted over to the flag and clipped it in moments later, it glanced off Chambers and was too acute to find the far the corner of the goal as it maybe should have done. This was the period where Town were not only matching Stoke, but making it look like either side could have suffered a recent relegation rather than being fearful of one.

Both he and the diminutive Woods looked a central midfield that at times was either two too small to really combine or when they did, they were like some sort of midfielder-squared when they clicked. But when Lankester bypassed them all and got in behind Williams to fire off target, you sensed he wasted a golden opportunity. With Roberts leading the pile of bodies in a wet and crowded area, a low driven shot could have gone anywhere.

Town might have looked at the change of referee after an unseen injury as a chance for a fresh start, but really, they didn’t want or need one for once. We’d played well enough to be in it, and you have to be in it to win it. But with a new ref and oddly a new flag for the far side linesman came change.

Stoke moved the ball cleanly, Allen and Woods left it to their advanced midfield colleague Clucas. Stood off he picked out the run of Ince who snuck behind a straight blue line. It was a simple finish in injury time, and all Pennington could do was appeal for an offside that wasn’t there. It was harsh on Town but might not be harsh to suggest that once again, he was watching the wrong thing at the wrong time and a goal was conceded.

As the fans all slumped and rounded their shoulders in all too familiar fashion the players trudged off. Town’s response between the restart and the half time whistle, was in keeping with their season. Easily dismissed and ultimately not enough, no matter your perception of luck and entitlement.

The second half started better than the first. Ipswich were out early with their heads up and their march from the tunnel saw them restart with Lankester halted on the intersection of the 18 yard box. Clipped down as he drifted into a crowd of Potters, he was spun and flung for a free kick, again no card came when it was persistently presented to both refs and not by either.

The teenager rifled a shot on goal with the arrogance that is so lovely to see and so needed right now. A defender intercepted it, as many blue shirts raised their arm in sympathetic protest that he had done the same. It was frustrating more that Butland was not tested, than a spot kick not given but the corner was nodded away and so were Town again.

The home fans were not exactly jubilant at their lead and simple moves were broken up by both sides’ obstinate approach to dispossession. When Sears had the temerity to chase down a loose ball in the Stoke box, the ref ran as fast as he could in preparation to give a foul as soon as he made an attempt to win the ball. Such was the inconsistency as Downes twice disarmed his foe with a shoulder barge that clearly a league up would have merited more than a wave of play on.

Pieters had trotted past Lambert and high fived him in the first half with genuine affection when the officials were being changed. No such niceties, when he somehow found Allen with an exchange that saw the Welshman double their lead upon the hour. Either it was a sublime finish, or he just ran into the cross and it shinned its way at high velocity past Gerken, but he like his team mates were left with almost no chance.

Edwards was brought back in from the bench as Lankester’s impressive game was over. The Welshman’s first action was to pick up a cheap booking. The second goal’s provider Pieters got a taste of Blue studs almost instantly.

The Welshman would keep Town’s shape exactly the same but offer a very different off the ball outlet. Roaming inside to an already narrow midfield and try to compress Stoke enough before arcing runs to the corner flag and get a cross off.

It is something that has become a feature of us under Lambert, but both wingers found the corner flag marked the bottom of a cul-de-sac all too often. When Edwards and Sears didn’t have the excellent overlaps from either wingback, their crosses were going to no one as Roberts went to meet the man no his cross too often.

This is the sort of thing that Hurst has to work with too many times in his half a dozen games. He might have a handle on the tools left by Hurst, but we have no cutting edge at all. All we can do is jab and bruise teams with repetitive thwacks and thuds of eager wing play and committed set pieces.

Town’s best chance from open play saw some good passing link Chalobah to Roberts. Once of Crawley but now haring through just off centre, and just off target his low shot completely missed by Butland, and just the wrong side of the post. Comically the referee gave us a corner and the chance to introduce Andre.

The youngster was clearly given instructions to change the shape of the midfield, and Chambers double checked and relied it via a complex set of finger puppetry and shouting. Whether it was foreign to our players too was of little consequence, on we ploughed with perhaps Dozzell as the no.10 withdrawn to being almost on the toes of Downes and Chalobah.

He took a good chance to pull one back when Spence won a free kick. Running forward again like an escaped goat, he humped the gaps ahead of him to bring four opponents upon him and was adjudged to have been neutered outside of the box despite tumbling well inside it. A penalty shout of substance, but it was never going to be given for logical and superstitious reasons you can choose yourself.

Rowett made late changes bringing in the old heads of Fletcher and Crouch just because he could. Lambert has no such luxury or resource afforded to him. Whatever today cost in terms of points and cementing our place at the foot of the table once more, it only crystallised the defiant diamonds stood behind the goal. Rowett suggested that whoever he brought on he’d be criticised, you simply can’t imagine the same for Lambert from us. Stoke fans were left bored and bemused today, Town fans must now be left wondering how many of us believe this is not just another step from the security of a Championship cell each year onto a long road.
Your
Report
Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town Your Report added at 21:29:27
By a river the colour of lead, Town fans nursed a sense of dread. From County to Forest the walk between stadia of different teams and different levels, had the traveling blues traversing an asphalt tightrope as they chatted over Lambert’s first changes of his reign.

Bart, Spence, Chambers, Pennington and Knudsen understandably familiar. Skuse was the link between the defensive bank of four and middle bank of Ward, Bishop, Lankester and Sears as Jackson spearheaded what was a 4-1-4-1 in practice against Forest’s 4-2-3-1.

Town started well, and both goalmouths were stalked, as either side felt out the other.
Jackson was sent forward to see what 35 year old Dawson and his partner Hefele had in their locker. But it was Ward coming in from the left after a set piece who was felled cheaply for an early penalty shout. We’ve all seen them given, but the referee only rolled his eyes as the ball did the same off Colback’s clatter.

Any stench of unjustness from struggling Town fans could be masked by the accompanying desperation that such moments might be pivotal when you’re this rotten. The game turned a slow tide against the Blues as our defenders split, and Bart pushed the ball between them around the back looking for a gap in the Tricky Trees to exploit.

When facing Bart our back line cut diagonal passes in, when facing up the pitch the pushed them out to Ward or Sears via the full backs. This concertina possession did little to squeeze the life out of the home side, wary of making a mistake, waiting for us to inevitably do so.

It didn’t long, and it didn’t need much. Whilst the full backs had come under much scrutiny in recent weeks, every man had their equivalent for Town as the throw came in. Chambers nodded up and out, but Lankester clearly forgetting his position and the fact there was a lot of turf and Forest’s right back between him and the touch line, left the only man near the ball to collect it.

Unchallenged he drilled it at Bart, it seemed reasonable from behind the Pole for it to ricochet, but all the venom dripped from his gloves as Grabban took just nine minutes to be the Canary in the goalmouth and leave the home fans singing.
There was silence among the 1500.

It was back to more of the same from Town, careful play and static intent in our own backyard meant the lengthier pass and movements off the ball were needed. When Jackson unlocked the defence in what has become a hallmark of his ability, he brought down Lankester’s through ball with his standing foot. The one swinging for a shot arced through fresh air as the rest of the City ground filled with laughter and a rendition of “that’s why you’re going down”.

The game had little drama as the division between the strugglers and top six side only told in the subtlest of motions. Skuse ripped through challenges in uncharacteristic fashion. Leaving Lolley gagging and spluttering his shin in hand as he writhed, Cole merely trotted away as the game continued. Clearly many felt he deserved a card, but he’ll be off many lists in this shire despite winning the ball fairly.

Town grew into their role as underdog and slipped away from the team in the lead with a scintillating Ward cross. The build up and deeper play making Bishop via Spence fed the man in from the cold. His ball in from the right landed on the head of Jackson who should have been in the right place at the right time. But he could only glance it askew when a leveller looked easy.

There was a sense that everything the Blues tried was not going to come off. Corners and free kicks looked a good route back into the game. But all were blocked without too much manoeuvre from the home side.

It was Darikwa who would overlap again and find a deep cross with more whip than
Ward’s. The Forest playmaker danced into space but could only crash his effort against the post as all watched on holding their breath. It was not just as easy as Jackson’s, but similar, and despite the same result, like a lot of what other teams do in games; better.
It would not be long before Town would have their deficit smashed into the ground.

Again, all danger was designed and directed by the Reds’ right hand side, Darikwa allowed to get away from Sears when all others were marked. As he drilled it into the box, Grabban was now afforded time and space to despatch from point blank. If Town fans had felt like hostages in this 17 years of 2nd tier football, the Gods of football had clearly heard their pleas and were storming the building.

There were seven more minutes before the half came to an end.

Bart made his second decent save, as he tipped over again from arguably the man of match Darikwa, and then the corner was intricate enough that former loanee Colback slammed a drive over the bar. It was a game where it felt like nothing really happened, but either side had claim to more than one goal, perhaps two. Only the hosts had actually made theirs though.

The suffering and silence did not diverge until the whistle. It signalled to a fraction of the massive away support, who booed their side off. The frisson that can only come from verbal dissection echoing in the concourse, or the reflected warmth of a busy urinal, merely spiriting the rest of us away to our rituals and refreshments.

“What can he say at half time?” Said someone behind us. Hopefully it involved simple instructions and a reminder of pride and duty.

Ipswich came back out refreshed and undeterred. The game seemed lost to many, and to a few so did our chances of survival. Not just on what they had seen today, but against Bristol, West Brom and a lineage stretching back to August. Beyond that, the last time we were here, McCarthy had gone and Forest were heading down, all until a makeshift Town delivered 2 late goals and a sense of restoration.

Short months, become light years in fortunes, as no such ground was given by Forest.
Ipswich needed to do something within the hour, and neatly moved and played the ball around. Skuse and Bishop looked like the four years since their last regular dance together might help step up our fortunes. But it was only really half chances that had Suffolk eyes half racing to scoreboards, clocks and other results around the division all afternoon.

When Spence put a delightful Knudsen effort just wide, you sensed the chance for two players vilified in midweek to redeem themselves had gone begging. Sears too had not seemed to find a directness to his play that had yielded so many goals and so few points under Lambert.

Ipswich were going to have to dig deep if they were to fell Forest. Their lack of cutting edge again was becoming apparent. Sears looped a lovely dinked volley from distance over the giant Pantillimon, but a glove kissed it over. The bloke looks like a fluorescent crane, but even a decent corner was enough to have him punching it straight up like he was playing street fighter and it took a dirty block from Hefele to allow him to gather it unconvincingly.

Forest had their chances to add a third, and Skuse and the defence did well to ensure they didn’t with some industrious blocks and ball and chain defending when Forest had the upper hand. Lambert opted to put in Chalobah and Roberts, who had played in all of his matches so far and the rest seemed to do them good.

Chasing and careering through space and any one in their way, it added a verve to Town when they needed it most. But it also exposed how thin and weathered the squad is. Brittle like dried paper and stained by the events that brought them here, this is a side that can not take too much inspection from the rest of the league.

The 4-1-4-1 had not really worked, even if its parts had. Bart was lucky to see the woodwork save him once more when Grabban went hunting for a third, he probably deserved less than the man of the match award he was lazily given. It summed up his performance though.

Bishop was finding that like Spence and Ward, when he had the ball anywhere near 30 yards from goal he was shepherded by 3 to 4 players. As he bore down on the box, he was again fouled in a game where Town seemed dirtier and nigglier than they have more many years. I guess that’s inevitable when you’re up to your neck’s in sh1t.

Several players were leaving a foot in, a word in the ear of the ref and their opponent after the afters. It emanated a sense that if the draw was not to be today or ever from such positions, their leadless pencils might take an eye out of the odd team that looked on for too long, at least before the race is run.

Nolan joined the game and like Ward, raised little more than eyebrows with his announcement but soon had the odd sign of something. His bow for the Bish saw him almost like-for-like in more than just follicles and footwork. When he placed a cute pass behind Chalobah, it was the Chelsea man who had moved due to poor anticipation not the substitute. The home side broke through, and the neat and tidy aspects of our play were again swept aside by simple counter attack.

Karanka cycled through his bench, and there was little to delineate if they really made a difference, or just collected appearance fees and a chance to start more often in the busy festive period. The striker that replaced Grabban really should have scored when he laced a shot wide from what looked a reasonable distance.

There were seven long minutes of injury time. All it did was confirm and compound what had come in normal time. Whilst making us all late home as the traffic piled up with all the other woes and misgivings which we find ourselves in.

The one bright spot in all of this is the little bit of Blue Action we got at the back of the stand. When the player showed us something, they were given it back for 20 minutes or more. That anthem has become the soundtrack to our defiance “up or down”.

When you are cut adrift, you cannot control the waves that hit you. You can hold your breath, you can pray, you can kick and gasp and fight. Some of them will sweep clean the deck, some will engulf, some will break you and some will drown you. Every hole Lambert plugs in the line up seems to send the pressure elsewhere and splits open a new leak. Today the full backs were solidified, it was those beyond them that ultimately left us spitting and waving at the shore.

Perhaps in the distance a Yorkshireman sits upon a deckchair, watching on.
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