The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 1 Preston NE 1

Still no win then. On the plus side, Town were up against one of the form teams around at the moment, but Preston really did offer every courtesy by giving away a silly penalty and obligingly spending the next 45 minutes with ten men. The result was one way traffic in the second half, but that only served to highlight the lack of creativity in Town’s midfield and the failure of any of the four forwards used to remotely trouble the opposing defence. In all honesty, although a case could be made for this being an improved overall performance, the ideas and the execution going forward were those of a team which is going to have to make massive strides forward if it’s to start moving up the table, never mind challenge for promotion.

Before and after Keane’s early triple substitution, Town played a highly conventional 4-4-2, with centre-backs in both full-back positions, and Gareth McAuley making a slightly awkward reappearance alongside the man who’s just replaced him as club captain. The defence looked nervous at times, and made some silly mistakes, but the biggest problems were ahead of them. Trotter and Colback in the centre both did decent jobs in making themselves available and keeping the game flowing, but that’s only a part of the central midfield’s job, and neither seemed to have any idea how to set up the four attacking players. Of those, only Jon Walters’ industry stood out, and when Wickham and Stead replaced Counago and Priskin, it was just exchanging one blunt instrument for another.

I think Town need to find a settled eleven and give them a decent run – no surprise there – but the players also need to be disciplined into keeping their position; Counago (if he retains his place) and Martin, for example, regularly go wandering around to no great advantage, but leaving huge gaps and ruining the team’s shape. Proper attacking full-backs and a more fully-formed central midfield wouldn’t go amiss either.

Overall Town performance:
5/10 – Made the bulk of the running, but were allowed to do so, and no cutting edge whatsoever

Opposition quality:
7/10 – Decent with 11 men, intelligent when down to 10

6/10 – Would have had a nightmare if his assistants hadn’t got him out of jail several times with some gentle advice that he’d missed something or was completely wrong

Match excitement:
5/10 – Plenty to talk about, but mainly about where Town were going astray

Opposition supporters:
6/10 – Not that many, but made a bit of noise

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

WRIGHT 7 (3/4) looked like he was going to have as busy an afternoon as at West Brom, with one great one-on-one save at the start, but things quietened down, fortunately

BRUCE 6 (4/2) gave it his all, but has never looked like a proper full-back, and nothing has changed; McAULEY 6 (4/2) also looked up for it, but sections of the crowd didn’t react well to some poor distribution, and he looked as if it was getting to him; BALKESTEIN 5 (3/2) has presence, but at times is looking like the most agricultural defender we’ve had since Comedy Titus; and SMITH 5 (3/2) was too easily caught out of position and beaten on too many occasions.

WALTERS 6 (4/2) showed the sort of commitment and attitude you’d imagine Keane would thoroughly approve of, without really being that incisive; his penalty was awful, but he was lucky with the rebound; TROTTER 5 (3/2) looked as if he’d been given one job – to provide a fallback option when things dried up in any moves ahead of him – and he did that well, but we need far more creativity from the central midfield; COLBACK 6 (3/3) was lively and showed a nice can-do attitude, but didn’t have any presence and it was notable that one of the weakest areas of the pitch for Town was immediately in front of the midfield area which he was presumably supposed to cover. I’m really not sure what to make of MARTIN 6 (3/3), who without doubt provided most of the team’s attacking threat, but only by playing his own game and drifting all over the place. He frequently showed his displeasure with his team-mates, possibly with justification, and seems to be a bit of a maverick but without the brilliance which would allow you to forgive his idiosyncrasies.

COUNAGO 4 (2/2) once again had an extraordinary level of support and encouragement from the crowd (well, the North Stand), but achieved almost nothing apart from that thing he does where he swivels around 360 degrees with the ball, ending up in the same place as he started and getting wild applause. Was presented with two decent chances by mistakes from Preston defenders, and fluffed them both, but was certainly no worse than PRISKIN 4 (2/2), who didn’t seem to pose any threat whatsoever, and was a huge disappointment.

From the bench, QUINN was lively but wasted a couple of reasonable opportunities, although his direct wide running was something Town had certainly been missing; STEAD didn’t show any of the movement which is really the only decent part of his game; and WICKHAM still looks to be a bit out of his depth, despite having almost inexhaustible reserves of goodwill in the stands.

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