The View From Churchmans

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

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 1 Man Utd 1

Firstly, was it because it was the Premiership back at Portman Road, or was
it because it was Man Utd? Either way it was a pretty special atmosphere.

GB took some big decisions, dropping Scowie for Jermaine Wright, and Croft
for Fab. How much of a part GB played in raising the team to the incredible
heights of commitment and enthusiasm they showed, I don’t know, but all
eleven were up for it in a big way. Man Utd have to face this sort of thing
every week, but even so, I’d imagine Town’s attitude took them by surprise.

We were great value for a draw. United didn’t ever get into gear, but we
didn’t let them. We took them on by playing football against them, by never
letting up, and by keeping our concentration up for 95 minutes, the most
crucial thing of all. Can we do that all season? I doubt it? Will we need
to? Well, possibly not: we’ve still got to find out if Man Utd are the best
the Premiership has to offer.

Fab’s goal was a great example of the way the whole team came forward as a
unit, at speed. Breaking forward over to the left, a nice one-two by Johnno
35 yards out, he turns and sees Fab steaming forward on the right wing in a
space the size of Lincolnshire. A beautifully-weighted pass and Fab thunders
it home on the run from 20m into the far corner.

The equaliser was a fluke. It was exactly the same free-kick as Holdsworth
had in the play-off semi (same time, same place), only on this occasion it
curled in front of the group of players moving across the area to meet it,
rather than behind. The thing which didn’t change was that Richard waited to
see what was going to happen instead of committing himself, nothing did
happen (everyone missed it) and his despairing lunge was far too late as,
again, the free kick went straight in. Some people have suggested that
Ronnie Wallwork cleverly stepped over the ball, but watch the video, he
didn’t, he just got caught up in his own feet and missed it completely.

Right until the end it was anyone’s game. A free-kick to United in the 87th
minute saw them with seven players in our area. They’re not scared, and
that’s why they win things. But we had even more chances. Barthez absolutely
dominated his area though – sheer class – and we can’t be accused of missing
any clear-cut chances: everything we had wasn’t easy.

United’s attitude was everything you’d expect, and worse. Beckham rushing to
gesture to the North Stand when he scored was almost forgivable: the guy is
borderline mentally subnormal. But the constant hands-on-hips glares from
most of the team whenever something didn’t go their way, exemplified by
Giggs, made you want to run on and give the spoiled brats a good slapping.
Giggs is an arrogant, petulant, obnoxious little git I have ever seen on a
football pitch, and you can tell him that. Three bookings for dissent said
it all. Most managers would go mental following that, but I suspect it’s a
consequence of the “we deserve to win because we’re Man Utd” attitude which
Ferguson has drilled into the squad. This belief is one of the factors which
(sadly) makes them so good, and I bet Ferguson is quite happy to accept the
nastier side-effects. You can see why everyone else hates them with a
passion.

But not everyone gets a point off them, and deserves it too.

Richard Wright 7: as usual, we’re enthralled and we despair in quick
succession. Hesitated fatally for the goal. Pulled off two world class
saves. Completely failed to make the area his own on occasions (now that
bald French bloke, he showed how to do it). Still as far from the finished
article as he was two years ago. Wouldn’t swap him for Nicky Weaver though.
Fab 9: yes I know, he was beaten a few times, but he probably had the most
thankless task of any Ipswich player in recent memory, stopping Giggs
(supported by Neville) usually without any support. And he did it. He closed
Giggs down when necessary, matched him for speed, and only once (out of
about 10,000 possible occasions) did he commit himself too early and let
Giggs skip by. And ooh, that goal will be remembered a long time.

Titus 8: the last Town player to go in that hard on tackles was Kevin
Beattie. Again, almost everything went right for Titus on the night. He
doesn’t know his own strength: he makes a challenge, comes away with the
ball, looks up, sees Johnno 50 yards away, can he clear it that far? Oops,
he’s punted it 80 yards instead. Won some beautifully clean challenges in
the air too. Gentlemen, we have another star on our hands.

HH 8: it’s the mark of a class defender when he doesn’t seem to be involved
that much but then again, nor does the opposition centre-forward. Made Yorke
seem anonymous for 15 minutes, then when Yorke had to drop way back in
search of the ball, HH made Solskjaer disappear instead. Yet he hardly
seemed to be involved compared to the other two central defenders. Very
impressive.

Veno 8: never thought I’d be typing that this season (don’t think I’ve ever
typed it before, come to think of it). Veno had a glorious game just by
sticking to his position, not getting too adventurous, and not missing a
tackle all night. Popped forward a couple of times towards the end but only
in support of Jamie C, and put a decent cross in. Otherwise, he did exactly
what it said on the tin.

Jamie C 8: typified the up-for-it attitude of the whole side. Never stopped.
Although marking Beckham was not something you look forward too, did a fair
job, only standing off too far on a couple of occasions. Found time for the
usual overlaps though.

Holland 7: mixed it with the best of them, but was hacked worryingly and
missed 40 minutes, increasing the amount of play Matt’s missed since he
arrived at FPR by about 800%. Until then, went about things in what’s
becoming an increasingly quiet (but nonetheless effective) style.

Magic 8: unsurprisingly not allowed to boss the game like he can do, but
never outclassed and never dropped his concentration or got niggled. Started
to come forward as time went on, and put in the most telling two crosses of
the night – in games when he can do this more, we’ll see results.

Jermaine 7: I may be doing Jermaine an injustice here, perhaps like HH his
influence might have been more than it seemed, after all, the United
midfields were just as anonymous, and that must have been down to somebody.
Solid performance though, if unspectacular, and thoroughly vindicated GB’s
surprise decision to include him instead of Scowie.

Stewart 9: looked the business. I know strikers are judged on goals, and one
decent shot in 90 minutes isn’t going to stop the presses, but his
anticipation of what was going to happen was as good as from anyone I’ve
seen in a blue shirt for years. Whenever a loose ball dropped from a
Stam/Johnno confrontation, Marcus was already there. And invariably he did
something creative and sensible with it from that point.

Johnno 8: tore around like a mad thing all evening. You kept thinking “he’s
going to break through any minute now” but in truth, he wasn’t. However, it
must have taken all of Stam’s concentration to keep it that way. If he can
just keep up the improvement in his relationship with Marcus, the pair of
them, are going to be real Premiership class in a way I don’t think many of
us thought they’d ever be.

(Sub) Reuser 6: wasn’t happy having to fill in for Matt, which meant a far
more withdrawn role than he’d otherwise have liked. Forgot where he was
supposed to be several times, and left a huge hole 20m behind him which
Titus had to rush forward to close down. This also left Fab much more
exposed to Giggs/Neville – you could see at this point how effective Matty
is at protecting the defence.

Ref: 8
Crowd: 8
Burley’s tactics: 9
Giggs: Git

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