The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 1 Sheffield Utd 1

What is it with Sheffield Utd matches? There always seems to be plenty to talk about after them, that’s for sure. Just as their style seems to remain constant even as management comes and goes, so we also saw the best and worst of what we’ve come to expect from Ipswich over the years: some nice passing, a strong performance lacking only the final cutting edge, and… a complete inability to build on a lead.

Where this one might prove problematic for the management is that the causes of our capitulation were plain to see, and more tactical than performance-related. As Sheffield began to push for an equaliser, we failed to make the traditional change on the hour, in a game which was crying out for us to inject some pace up front and keep up the pressure. Instead, as the pressure increased the other way, Jim left it until the last 15 minutes to a single – fairly pointless – substitution, and whilst he wasn’t to know Quinn was going to have such a nightmare, it just reinforced the impression that we weren’t going to defend our slim lead positively.

A case can be made to support Jim bringing on a third central defender at the end to counteract a third opposition striker, but to surrender the midfield in doing so was another tactical blunder, and it wasn’t surprising that the equaliser came from an attack through the middle. Whilst it wasn’t one of those “you could see it coming” equalisers, like Charlton’s, it wasn’t undeserved either.

Overall Town performance:
7/10 – Fine for the most part, but when we started to feel the pressure, the support just wasn’t there

Opposition quality:
6/10 – Every bit as tough and persistent as you’d expect

2/10 – Just about the worst refereeing performance I can remember in the past few years. He got decision after decision wrong, warned (and booked) players quite inconsistently, and – can I say it because nobody else seems to – made the biggest blunder of all with our penalty. Now, by the time anyone reads this it may have been on the telly and I may be completely wrong, but surely the guy who handballed it was miles outside the penalty area? The ref let play continue for so long, however, presumably waiting for an advantage, that by the time he blew, I think he and his linesman had almost forgotten what the offence had been.

Match excitement:
9/10 – To me, this is what live matches are all about – some pretty decent football, controversial refereeing, irritating opposition, loads to talk about …just a shame we didn’t have three points to go home with.

Opposition supporters:
7/10 – Lots of them, and they made a fair bit of noise, although there was no humour and – whisper it – they were actually a bit dull

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

WRIGHT 8 (4/4) was protected well by his defenders and wasn’t exactly under siege, but he commanded the area and seemed to communicate well with his team-mates; and then, on the hour, he pulled off a quite astonishing save. So much so that everyone around us went quiet for a moment, thinking “did he really just do what I think he did?”

WRIGHT 6 (3/3) rarely seems to let us down, and despite being shunted back to the left, put in another honest, solid display; McAULEY 8 (4/4) and BRUCE 8 (4/4) however were, for me, the stars of the match, forming in an intriguingly promising partnership and coping superbly with a strong aerial threat. Whilst we haven’t exactly let in many goals this season, as the table shows, there’s always been the feeling we could do better, and this display filled me with a lot more confidence. VOLZ 6 (3/3) was decent enough, and had a cracking shot in the second half.

NORRIS 7 (3/4) put in another impressive effort, and I think most of us are beginning to realise what made him worth so much money, although he seemed a little out of sync with the rest of the team, finding himself further ahead of them than he thought he was; MILLER 6 (3/3) did the basics right, and thank goodness we had him on when we got a penalty, but we missed Garvan’s creativity and movement; SHUMULIKOSKI 6 (3/3) had a reasonable game, although he struggled to find much going on ahead of him to work with; however, AMBROSE 5 (2/3) was a disappointment, as much due to his not being given the ball, much as I understand happed at Birmingham midweek – he does get into some space though, so I’m not sure why this is.

STEAD 4 (3/1) had an afternoon to forget, although he did put in the miles and helped out well in defence – it’s just that every time he came to do the striking bit, everything went wrong; COUNAGO 7 (4/3) was much better – indeed if he could have kept up his first-half display he’d have been a Man of the Match contender. Sadly, as our game got more defensive, Pablo started to look more like a spare part.

From the bench, QUINN was brought on presumably on the absurd basis that it was Sheffield United, so he’s bound to score against them. Instead he got booked and gave away a penalty – brilliant. Late on NAYLOR was introduced to man-mark the horrible Darius Henderson, a player so objectionable that Jim probably has him pencilled in on his “start making us really hated” target list now that he’s ticked off Bywater and Thatcher and seems frustrated in his attempt to sign N*gent. Oh, and LISBIE was this afternoon’s “ninety-second-runout” fall guy.

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