|Rotherham United 1 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 11th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
|IpswichToon added 17:10 - Aug 11|
Mullet added 20:15 - Aug 11
Ipswich having made changes all summer, and all week made more to the line-up which began at Portman Rd last Saturday. Bart had new boy Nsiala, with not so new Donacien to his right, Chambers and Knudsen the left side of defence. Midfield was singular Chalobah and a flat four of Edwards out wide, Skuse, Nolan and Ward on the left. Harrison was again the lone striker.
Skuse began proceedings and Town moved the ball forward well, a long splitting pass from Chalobah launched an open flurry which soon saw the hosts countering. Nsiala having to chase down the ball with the massive lone striker, (and a player the Oystons allowed to leave Blackpool) Vassell breathing on him. It was a passage of play which summed up the whole game but not the first half.
To say Town looked like the home side, takes nothing away from Rotherham. Our 4-1-4-1 was matched up by their 4-4-1-1, off of Vassell stood #24 Smith between Chambers, Chalobah and Knudsen as rare play forward from the Reds, was reduced to long throws all too often, or hail Mary crosses to put us on the backfoot and unsettle the aerial aspect of Town’s defence.
Ipswich had a lot of the ball but not a lot of chances to strike at goal. While there was the odd slip by each defender before half time, at the other end Edwards, Nolan and Ward just couldn’t slip in the right ball at the right moment to find Harrison or someone making the run behind him.
Town poured down the flanks and switched play wonderfully thanks to Chalobah’s Hoddle like swagger on the raking passes, but all too often there was a blue vacuum in the middle, and a red brick wall.
Edwards was the real magician again and found himself again able to run at and past Mattock, Vaulks and sometimes in at Wood frequently. But the shots were not forthcoming and the set pieces we had saw Ward float questioning balls above everybody’s heads apart from Ajayi.
Town were much better in the middle with Nolan next to Skuse and the no.8 able to support and supply Hurst’s new arrival thanks to the much calmer demeanour of the holding loanee behind them. Something had been said between the Chelsea lad’s 1st and 2nd professional debut, because the mistakes were less frequent and the confidence hugely improved.
We had fun a long way from the goal we were attacking, and not just the sporadic chanting of well over a thousand fans in the stands. Ward overlapped initially, but once he found the confidence to cut in, he was more incisive. Earning a free kick inside their half towards the end of the first 45, with a run that promised more, eventually.
A lot of the good play Town made, came from the persistence to keep possession and work the channels. Nolan is our midfield Ginja, conspicuous in appearance but he would frequently disappear from view only to spring out on the opposition from their shadows’, demanding the ball and a runner to play it to. He will be a fan favourite, as much as one of Hurst’s if he can bring that element to his game every week.
Where Rotherham kicked for touch rather than taking one, Knudsen benefitted from a young full back and lower league winger facing him when Ward cut inside. Only once did he and Skuse miscalculate who was claiming a bouncing ball and Chambers darted back into the box to see off Taylor and his colleagues.
The skipper was assured for most of the game, while the man next to him looks like the defender we’ve been after. Nsiala is built like a fridge, or at least a man who clears them out regularly. But he is more than just a lump, he can play a bit. If Rotherham stuck Vassell on him rather than Chambers, to exploit his greenness or opening day nerves at this level, it didn’t work very well.
Only once did Bart fail to call a loose ball and the Congolese-Scouse get himself in a muddle, his broad shoulders shrugging off the danger with a turn that put him back in the game. However, generally speaking he found Chalobah, Donacien and Chambers as outlets as Town notably built from the back in triangles which were neat enough without fitting together perfectly.
The quality of our forward moves, and length of passes depended on who could overload the full backs or the empty channels between a dense defensive shape. Edwards, again flicked over his man from deep and ran on to the ball in the second half. Habitually opting to use geometry rather than artillery to find Harrison and later Jackson.
When he did slip in low passes, they were not always to feet and met Rodak’s hands all too easily. Town did however, try and draw in the home side and pop the ball in behind the defence. Nolan seems to weight his passes fantastically with backspin, but when he let Ward and Knudsen go late in the game, their left feet either found a defensive head or foot.
With so much different about Town, the lack of clear-cut chances and ultimately goals meant a week of fans totting up balance sheets, came to nothing. Corners went unmet by attacking headers or fell foul of a referee always going to punish a melee by pointing back towards the centre spot.
What did tell after half time was the first long ball forward, saw Donacien stand his ground and give away a free kick. He couldn’t believe it, and neither could Rotherham as they grew into the game. It’s been 2 games, 2 positions and 2 divisions to jump for the right-back and that decision seemed to knock him back down the pyramid a little too much again.
Bart had his hand stung with a low shot which seemed to be their first real test of him. But that took them 15 or 20 minutes of forcing errors from across the backline.
Chambers was let off when he misjudged the flight of clearance and it bounced over him, Donacien who had looked unsure of his options when there was no space to run at, or he had given too much for Newell and later Williams to run at, meant the game was always in the balance of first goal wins.
When it came in the death, from an innocuous free kick on the byline, it was not a surprise. Smith, like Danny Graham last week, rifled home past Bart, as our defenders let a free kick sail to the back post without customary checks. Neither runners or jumpers were needed as the lead was taken decisively.
Up until then Town had looked great, but not likely to score. Edwards takes a decent free kick and forced a good but not outstanding save. Edun meanwhile swung one in from a similar place to his equaliser last week, that went nowhere near goal or potential goal scorer.
Hurst opted to use all three substitutions to try and change the game. Roberts for Edwards, saw us condense our shape and play. His role as winger seemed to push him up top, and squeeze ourselves into a rough diamond in midfield. Edun drifted in as he sent away runners who often had 3 or 4 opponents closing them out on either flank.
We first saw Jackson first after Harrison again ran himself up, down and across the defence all game, but rarely beyond them. The former Gas’ second best moment came when he floated a header back across goal to Skuse who saw it rising above him and he couldn’t steer it past the keeper. In the first half he plucked a ball out of the ether and ran in on goal, but didn’t get a shot off, walking the ball into waiting cupped hands as Town fans spluttered.
Jackson’s speed was evident, but with deep back line and little space he rarely got a chance to fire anything off. His best effort was a lay off to Nolan, as Rotherham held on.
Before their winner, substitute Roberts was played in perfectly from the now advancing Chalobah. Mattock’s handprints were all over the winger as he pulled him to ground from behind, the referee looked to the linesman, the linesman bottled it. To add insult to injury Roberts was fouled in the next tussle by the sideline and the linesman froze again. Rarely have fouls been so obvious, and the reaction from Roberts made it clear how easy the decisions were.
Town probably didn’t deserve to win, to point to a decision not given isn’t good enough and neither were we. However, Rotherham showed we were far from untouchable with simple football, and simple ideas. They are a team so ill-equipped for this division, they bring a footballing knife to gunfight that is second tier football. To be stabbed in the heart as late on as we were was a cruel lesson amongst many we will have to learn after this week.
We’ve taken 1 point from 6 against two team looking to prove they are Championship quality. It’s clear the improvements need to be quick and Hurst has to mould a team out of the 9 he has brought in to do the same. We have time, we have potential, we have games coming thick and fast in which to make what looked a side more stable, but lacking physical strength and unity.
What’s in a game where we lack goals and set piece delivery? That is a £5m question and rising.
You need to log in to participate in Your Report