The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 0 Liverpool 6

If it’d been three or four, we might be holding a big inquest now like Leeds
are. But six? You just have to hold your hands up in despair, hope the
cringe-making embarrassment will give the players enough impetus to retain
the recent form to the end of the season, and put it down to history.

Ever since we got promoted, I think we’ve all realised that the gap between
the Premiership and the First Division – in footballing terms – is not just
less than the perceived wisdom, it’s actually non-existent. The real gap is
between the top three, four or five clubs and the rest of the country. In
this game, we were shown up for what we are: a bunch of average to good
players whose whole is – usually – better than the sum of its parts, thanks
to astute management, fine leadership and good team spirit. That’s why
players who leave normally get found out straight away. It’s quite possible
that we don’t have a single player in our first team who Liverpool would
exchange for anyone in theirs. And that’s the real gap.

When things go wrong, and the team’s whole is no more than the sum of its
parts, like the first half of this season, we struggle. When it happens and
we come up against one of those top teams on top form, it’s demolition time.

Because let’s admit it, for the first half at least yesterday, whilst we
weren’t good, we weren’t nearly as bad as on many occasions this season.
It’s just that we came up against the best team we’ve seen since being back
in the Premiership, and that means (although it’s hard to believe) we were
quite probably up against the best team many of us have seen in our
lifetimes. To limit them to a (not unfair) two-nil scoreline was not that
bad. The second half was a different story, heads dropped, Liverpool toyed
with us, and the supporters didn’t know where to look. It was horrible.

Liverpool were totally in control in every area of the field. Every other
pass we made was intercepted. They were faster, stronger and sharper. And
they knew exactly how to exploit our
usually-smart-enough-to-make-up-for-its-slowness defence, slicing through
the gaps between the central defenders and their respective fullbacks.

We didn’t help ourselves. Whilst Liverpool knew exactly what they were
doing, we seemed to have no game plan from the start. And it got worse.
Sorry if this sounds like the record’s stuck, but here we go again. Let’s
play “You Are The Manager”…

You’re a goal down. The midfield probably needs shoring up a bit. But uh-oh:
one of your players, Jermaine Wright, has been on the receiving end of a
horror tackle, and clearly needs to go off. Fortunately, you have a
defensively-minded, experienced midfielder on the bench in the form of Jim
Magilton. What do you do?

Yes, that’s right, you bring on Marcus Stewart up front and make Alun
Armstrong play as a wide midfielder, a position he’s about a suited to as
Matteo Sereni. Then you thank your lucky stars that John-Arne Riise is too
busy laughing for the next half an hour to really make the most of the empty
pitch in front of him. But if I was Chris Makin I’d be really, really p*ssed
off. No defender should be hung out to dry like that. It was criminal. Once
again I have to say: Burley, what WERE you thinking of?

The only other thing I can add is that anyone who’s only seen the highlights
on TV will have got a good idea of how our defence was shown up, but you
won’t have seen how the rest of the side was shown up for speed (of pace and
thought). It was a 90-minute-long footballing lesson.

Some ratings:

MARSHALL 6 (4/2) kept on pulling off decent saves right to the end, bless
him. I can’t bring myself to give more than 2 out of 5 for a keeper who lets
six in, but honestly, numbers don’t tell the whole tale, and he saved us
from rewriting the history books in the worst possible way. I’d still keep
him in the side, even after this, which says everything about what he had to
put up with.

MAKIN 4 (2/2) was asked to achieve the impossible for the middle third of
the match, but was hopelessly exposed. Will want to forget his roles in
*five* of the Liverpool goals. McGREAL 4 (2/2) and VENUS 4 (2/2) were made
to look totally past their sell-by dates. The way in which Owen raced past
McGreal from a standing start in just two strides for the fifth goal showed
the gap in class. HREIDARSSON 3 (2/1) was simply dreadful, seeming as bad as
the rest of them whilst having far less to cope with, and looking ungainly
and slow on the handful of occasions he came forward. One to forget for
possibly our most consistent player of the season to date.

WRIGHT 5 (3/2) seemed to be the most confident of the midfielders until he
received a horror tackle from Wright and eventually limped off. Not helped
though by the fact that he, Peralta and Holland had all been made to swap
places every five minutes until then, confusing them more than the
opposition. PERALTA 5 (3/2) kept on going to the end, trying short dribbles
and little pass and run moves like a kind of Danny Murphy Lite or something.
He actually made a couple of chances for himself, but overall was quite
outclassed. HOLLAND 5 (3/2) also didn’t let his head drop, although for a
spell he was suffering from the same Pass-Telegraphing Disease as most of
his colleagues. Towards the end got a complete blood-rush to the head and
started racing around trying to salvage some pride as if his life depended
on it. CLAPHAM 3 (2/1) was awful. Even in the first period, where we were at
least trying to hang on in there, almost every move was breaking down with
him. Didn’t seem to have any relationship with Hermann at all, often went
wandering all over the place without results, and failed to put in any
creative forward balls all afternoon.

BENT 4 (2/2) achieved nothing of note except on one occasion where he pushed
the ball past the defender, outran him and was then wrestled down. After
that, never threatened, and didn’t really even do much of that frantic
sprinting around to chase down the ball which has endeared him to us so
much. ARMSTRONG 4 (2/2) had been quite anonymous up front even before he was
idiotically moved into a wide midfield position, after which, what on earth
should we expect from him anyway?

STEWART 5 (3/2) showed just a few moments of the sort of intelligence needed
to beat a defence like Liverpool’s, but not nearly enough. I can’t remember
a decent effort on goal though. MAGILTON ? (?/?) just seemed to watch the
game pass him (and the rest of the team) by. I can’t think of anything –
other than a predictable shot into the North Stand – which would allow me to
give him a mark.

The crowd were stoical (“six-five, we’re gonna win six-five” went down well
in all parts of the ground), and Matt got a good reception at the end, which
was good to see. The ref was OK, letting a little too much go for our liking
(especially the challenge on Wright) but better that than the picky refs, I
say. The linesman in front of the Cobbold might have had the sun in his
eyes, but he was hilariously inept. Whilst we could give him the benefit of
the doubt for Heskey’s first, a late (and wrong) flag against Stewart
towards the end was dreadful, and he followed that by flagging on Bent who
was about half a pitch offside.

OWEN and HESKEY will be totally forgiven if – and only if – they do the same
in June.

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