The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 3 Sunderland 1

What a truly great afternoon’s entertainment.

I didn’t feel that confident before the game, although I did expect it to be
an exciting match – and not just because we’ve had several decent encounters
with Sunderland in recent years. They’re obviously under a lot of pressure
to prove themselves, and spurred on with the inevitable large away support,
I thought they’d give us a worthwhile test. But while the game easily
surpassed any expectation we had in terms of excitement, it wasn’t due to
the footballing aspect of a Sunderland side who were hopelessly short on
intelligence. The fact that Dwight Yorke was by far their best player,
whatever position he played in, speaks volumes.

It was astonishing that we found ourselves still facing 11 men at half-time
– it should have been ten and might even have been nine – but I’m going to
venture that Sunderland weren’t a dirty side: they seemed to be more of a
scared one to me. The fouls were mainly of the “I’m less concerned about the
yellow card than I am about what’ll be said if I let this guy go past”
variety. Whatever the case, their, er, robust approach served only to make
us play even more proper football, and that was one of many reasons why this
afternoon was one of the most encouraging games I’ve seen since we came back
down to the Championship.

The afternoon had not started out so promisingly, with the injuries whisking
us back to the Royle era: that tried, tested and failed partnership at the
centre of the defence, Matt Richards and Darren Currie in midfield …it
wasn’t exactly Jim’s brave new world. But maybe there were people in there
with something to prove, maybe Jim’s just better at motivating the same old
group of players; whatever the case, you wouldn’t have seen many of BFJ’s
teams rise to the occasion under intimidation like this, or (best of all)
continue taking the game to the opposition when one or two goals up.

We probably played well for 75 minutes of this game, only losing our way for
the fifteen minutes after half time, and that’s commendably consistent for
any Town side of recent years. There’s terrific enthusiasm out there, and no
lack of competition for places in almost every position. The whole afternoon
was a huge tribute to the new management.

Overall Town Performance: 8 (4 for effort/4 for achievement)

Player Ratings

PRICE 7 (4/3): Very little to do in terms of shot-stopping, with attempted
offside-trap-breaking balls through to Yorke being just about Sunderland’s
only tactic. However, Lewis had to be very sharp off his line on many
occasions and could hardly be faulted. A couple of half-decent headers too.

SITO 8 (4/4), NAYLOR 6 (3/3), DE VOS 6 (3/3), HARDING 7 (3/4): The central
pair weren’t worked that hard and only had a couple of heartstopping
moments: Bam-Bam produced one of his regular fabulous goal-line clearances,
but even he couldn’t see Jason’s bizarre effort coming. Sito completely
nailed his name to the right-back peg in the dressing-room with an
understated but totally committed performance of far greater maturity than
I’ve seen from him in the past. He was rock solid. Dan Harding too had
another involved and encouraging performance, marred only by a tendency to
be torn between the winger and some undefined more central threat later in
the game. Good stuff.

CURRIE 6 (3/3), WILLIAMS 8 (4/4), NOBLE 8 (4/4), RICHARDS 5 (3/2):
The boys in the middle really looked the part, always busy but pacing
themselves well. Neither have the “presence” that some central midfielders
(like Owen Garvan) have, but they’re equally effective in a less apparent
way. Neither was afraid to take the ball on and really keep things moving.
Even dazzling Dazza wasn’t allowed to hold play up too much, and had a tidy
game, albeit with disappointingly few killer centres. Matt took his chance
to improve on his abject display against Southampton, but was lacking in
confidence and only infrequently showed some of the spark we know he’s got
in him. It’s there though.

MACKEN 5 (2/3), LEE 9 (4/5): I still can’t see much in Jon Macken; he keeps
defenders occupied, and makes a few headers, but he’s really not making any
impact on a game, and the substitution for Billy Clarke, to the delight of
home fans, is becoming a bit of a ritual. But Alan Lee showed today that
things can improve if you stick at them. Was it a nine-out-of-ten
performance? Well, maybe only just, but he ran his socks off almost
Shefki-style at times, and as for performance, even Delia couldn’t produce
anything as perfectly poached as his two goals. His attitude was much less
frustrated today too – so much more positive.

Subs: CLARKE didn’t lift the crowd like usual, but only because we were
already up there today. He didn’t disappoint though, and nobody will ever
tire of his approach, looking up, seeing no obvious pass, and instead of
turning round, he thinks: “oh well, I’ll just have to do it on my own”. I
hope he never loses that. BOWDITCH and MOORE just had short run-outs.

The CROWD were good, especially as the match wore on, although by half-time
I’d been screaming at the officials so much I had no voice left to
contribute – and I bet I wasn’t alone. The REFEREE could have shown so many
red and yellow cards to Sunderland in the first half that the match would
never have been the spectacle it ended up as; instead, he decided to let
stuff go that hardly any other ref would …and he almost got away with it,
because by half-time, things had indeed quietened down. Then he ruined it
after the interval by bringing out the card for far less serious offences
(much more like a normal ref) which was totally inconsistent. That looked
rather like Williams’ 5th yellow to me, and if so, we’ll miss him – and for
nothing. The only damper on an otherwise glorious afternoon, and I’m talking
about much more than the weather.

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