The View From Churchmans

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

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 1 Crystal Palace 1

Well, I’ll say one thing for Jim, his recruitment policy, team selection and tactics are currently provoking more post-match discussion than I can recall having had for years. The simple and occasionally stylish display against Reading, and the semblance of a settled lineup over the past few league games, seemed to have arrested the declining support for his stewardship in the stands. But unfortunately, today’s managerial display opened the floodgates for the critics again, and their numbers have swelled. At this rate, those (like me) who suggested back in August that Jim would be replaced by a so-called “big name” manager by Christmas might find their predictions coming true. I think the owners will want promotion to be a comfortable possibility by then to leave things as they are, and it’s not looking likely.

Firstly, the recruitment policy. I think Jim has done an admirable job here. With money to spend, he’s targeted a certain level of player, and built a squad with real depth at that level. Sure, compared to what we’re used to, that means there’s an uncomfortable amount of “quality” on the bench, in the stands or out on loan, but surely that’s better than a second-rate second string? As for the argument that he should have tried to sign fewer but better players, I just don’t think attracting them was realistic, as we discovered by their attitude to the Championship whenever certain Premiership names were mentioned. Almost to a man, his signings have been welcomed; even those who aren’t really setting the crowd alight, like Lisbie and McCauley, had good track records and were generally welcomed when their arrival was announced.

But that’s the only smiley face on Jim’s school report at present. What he’s doing with this squad is causing consternation and bemusement amongst the supporters, as well as quite a lot of frustration. He seems to be trying to shoehorn players into a formation which doesn’t really suit them, resulting in far too many playing out of position (and it’s no good saying “at this level they ought to be able to cope with that” – we want to see them at their best). Worse, the team selection and the substitutions today (not for the first time) just baffled those of us who care; it’s almost as if it’s being done by the same random number generator they use to decide how many minutes to add on at the end of each half.

We have no wingers, except for the in-and-out-of-favour Danny Haynes. We have no left-sided midfield player. We have a central defence which cannot do anything creative with the ball. Surely we have to accept these limitations and choose a formation and tactics which play on our strengths and paper over the obvious cracks? Instead we have more than 20 decent players but insist on deploying a 4-4-2 where at least two of the positions have no strong candidate. Several players today gave the impression they didn’t want to be playing where they’d been told to; others at times looked confused. That’s surely unforgivable nearly a fifth of the way through the season.

So, are there any positives we can take away from today’s display? Not from what I can see. The fact that Richard Naylor is probably the pick of the squad at the moment says it all, because he wasn’t expected to play a major role this season and isn’t playing much differently from a couple of years ago when our central defence was considered to be the weak point of the team. It was awful to see us resorting again and again to hopeless punts up into the arms of the grateful opposition defence. A point was probably just about deserved, but we couldn’t have complained much if one of Palace’s many wayward shots had gone in and we’d suffered a third home defeat. And this against a team which could generously be described as unremarkable.

I think we have a right to expect better. More worryingly for Jim Magilton, so does Marcus Evans.

Overall Town performance:
4/10 – a backward step in all respects

Opposition quality:
4/10 – desperately ordinary

Referee:
4/10 – another officious one, although he gave fewer cards than usual, and I thought they were all deserved, except for the Palace player who got done for diving when he was simply barged off the ball

Match excitement:
3/10 – awful

Opposition supporters:
4/10 – well, we can hardly expect 2,000 when it’s on Sky and the matchday ticket prices are so high

Player ratings as ever 1 to 5 for each of effort/achievement…

WRIGHT 5 (2/3) made a couple of good stops, but then – once again – made a big mistake which ws punished. Of the nine goals conceded in the league now, he can probably be held accountable for at least four.

BRUCE 7 (4/3) didn’t look any more comfortable at full-back than he has done in the past, but certainly looked like he had a point to prove, and relished the rare opportunity to get forward; NAYLOR 6 (3/3) put in another solid if unspectacular display; but McCAULEY 5 (2/3) still doesn’t inspire confidence, and worse, he’s being expected far too often to be a playmaker from the back which he clearly isn’t; WRIGHT 6 (3/3) just concentrated on his defensive duties, and wasn’t as involved as he usually is when playing on the right.

NORRIS 4 (2/2) started brightly, but seemed to be wandering all over the place, leaving gaps, and then just drifted out of the game completely; MILLER 5 (3/2) once again didn’t let anyone down, but didn’t impose himself on proceedings either, and you feel there must be something better in this massively overstaffed central midfield; SHUMULIKOSKI 4 (2/2) simply seemed confused about his role and seemed to have no relationship with anyone around him; and although WALTERS 5 (3/2) put in the miles for much of the match, playing as much as a full-back as a striker at times, he had a disappointingly small impact on proceedings and looked to be barely fit enough to continue towards the end.

LISBIE 3 (2/1) had a dreadful game, although we’re clearly not playing to his strengths, asking him to play more of a Counago role; even so, he really should have scored at the end; and STEAD 5 (2/3) was another disappointment, although another goal probably forgives most things.

From the bench, GARVAN and COUNAGO provided the expected improvements, although they should have been on from the start, and Owen was wasted when wide left; and in his few minutes, CAMPO seemed to get a little frustrated with the shambles around him.

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