The View From Churchmans

Ipswich Town home match reports from just another season-ticket holder

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 2 Southampton 1

Only one decent performance separates us from the awful early-season
displays and this afternoon, but that one performance against QPR
meant the whole squad, as well as the home crowd, seemed to begin the
afternoon feeling as if we really could be challengers this year,
rather than relegation fodder. It doesn’t take much, does it? However,
it took about two minutes for the defence to be exposed as the same
old shambles it’s been for the past three years, and hardly any longer
before the comically inept defending left Lewis picking the ball out
of the back of the net.

At this stage, it could really have gone pear-shaped, but let’s not
forget we were up against a George Burley side, so whilst there was
always going to be a succession of scares in our goalmouth, there
would equally likely be slack finishing on an industrial scale, and so
it proved. In addition, if the luck of the Irish seemed to have
deserted Jim in the first few games, he found his secret stash again
this afternoon, with Southampton hitting the woodwork on more than one
occasion, having two “goals” flagged offside, and seeing the ball
cleared off the line twice. One of these looked suspiciously over the
line to us, too.

Although we survived the first half, it was a surprise to see no
changes being made at half-time. The front two had been static, the
midfield over-run and the central defence horribly exposed, but Jim
gave them more time. He shouldn’t have done. Two changes later, along
with a kind decision from the ref, and things were transformed. Just
as Danny Haynes has regularly revitalised an aimless Town side over
the past year with the introduction of nothing more complicated than
running, so Billy Clarke did the same today. Why we always have to
wait so long for this simple but always effective tactic, I have no
idea. It’s almost as if managers seem to regard adding youthful
excitement to the team as a sign of weakness.

Even after Town had got two goals back, Southampton refused to go
away, and for the last 15 minutes it was a total
backs-against-the-wall performance, which we got through with no
little spirit and determination. So whilst the visitors can feel they
were robbed, in many ways we deserved something too.

What can we learn from this? Despite the squad being quite large now,
it’s still thin; Wilnis being injured apparently meant we had to go
back to a defensive lineup we know doesn’t work, and without Clarke or
Haynes in the starting eleven, we had no movement up front. There’s
still a lot of work for Jim to do, but for now, let’s be grateful we
got the breaks.

Overall Town Performance: 6 (3 for effort/3 for achievement)

Player Ratings

PRICE 8 (4/4): a couple of fabulous saves, particularly one from
point-blank range after the defence had allowed Southampton another
one-on-one. Confident patrolling of the area, although distribution
was ordinary as usual.

BRUCE 6 (3/3), NAYLOR 5 (2/3), DE VOS 6 (3/3), HARDING 5 (3/2): Messy,
to say the least. Dan Harding found himself one against two or three
for most of the afternoon, and I felt sorry for him, but it’s fair to
say too many of Southampton’s chances came on his watch. Not that the
central defence looked like they could confidently handle the
resulting crosses. Alex Bruce looked more than ever like a centre-back
being asked to play out of position. I even preferred him in midfield.

WILLIAMS 7 (4/3), NOBLE 5 (3/2), WALTON 5 (2/3), RICHARDS 3 (2/1):
Matt Richards has long been one of my favourite players, but this
afternoon he had a stinker. Nothing, but nothing went right, but just
as importantly, his relationship with the left-back behind him, and
his ability to make an impact in his own area of the pitch, were
seriously in question. Curiously, he’d started to recover from an
awful first half when he was substituted, but the crowd’s relief at
the change said it all. Mark Noble again made less of an impact than
we’d have expected, and I’m still not sure about Simon Walton’s
attitude: he looks like he cares, but doesn’t seem to back it up with
quite enough action. Poor Gavin as usual just has to fill in wherever
we need him: we so desperately need to build a midfield around him, in
a consistent position.

MACKEN 5 (3/2), LEE 4 (2/2): Two relatively experienced guys with a
bit of weight behind them up front isn’t something we’re used to at
Ipswich is it? And after this, I’m rather glad. There was so little
movement for the midfield to work with, it was embarrassing. Either
could have been taken off on the hour, all that mattered was that we
replaced one of them with someone who would actually cause the
Southampton defence to at least break into a jog. Jon Macken may turn
out to be better than Alan Lee, but he looks a similar player, and I’m
not sure why we need someone else in that role on a temporary basis.
We certainly don’t need both of them together.

Subs: LEGWINSKI looked solid, although following Matt wasn’t a tough
act to follow. He had presence in the middle of the park, did the
simple things effectively, which was definitely something we needed.
CLARKE changed the face of the game, and it was wonderful for him to
get a winner too. He surely must start on Tuesday night. BOWDITCH got
a short run-out to waste some time at the end.

The CROWD were quiet in the first half, rather reserving judgement on
the poor display in front of them, but of course everyone got caught
up in the excitement of the last 25 minutes. The REFEREE might have
showed red cards to Southampton players on two occasions, but the lid
stayed on the game and he didn’t have to regret that. The more
questionable display was from the linesman on the Britannia Stand
side.

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