The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 1 Southampton 3

Unquestionably a worse performance and worse result than the hammering by
Liverpool, because it puts us right back where we were before Christmas on
every front except league position. Fellow listie Jim, sitting behind me,
commented on the lack of sparkle around the team even as they came out at
the start, and this became apparent from the start of the game. Three weeks
off has not done us any favours. The individual player marks below don’t
tell the whole story – the real problem was as much an absence of playing as
a team, the same malaise as we suffered for the first half of the season.

The team selection didn’t help. Well, it helped make Southampton, an
ordinary to reasonable team, look quite useful. It doesn’t take Andy Gray’s
draughts pieces on a subbuteo pitch to realise that if you play Finidi and
Reuser in a 4-4-2 (really a 4-2-4, as neither of whom make much of an effort
to track back), the two central midfield players are going to get dragged
out wide and leave huge gaps in the centre, or else they’ll stick to their
ground and leave the opposition’s wide men with plenty of space to run at us
– which is what happened again and again all afternoon with Chris Marsden,
who eventually got so confident he went all the way.

Where now? It’s a team morale-building job, for sure, but if a trip to the
Med can’t do much on that front, I don’t hold out much hope for improvement.
Three away matches on the trot coming up, two of them against top-six sides
and the other a must-not-lose clash with Blackburn, our best hope of
creating daylight between ourselves and the relegation zone. Burley stuck
with his players to get us off the bottom, and I expect he’ll do the same
again, but whatever they put in the Christmas pudding is urgently required

Some ratings:
(1-5 for effort, 1-5 for achievement)

MARSHALL 5 (2/3) had his poorest game since coming into the side, and if
Sereni doesn’t get a chance during the week, we’ll have to assume the
Italian’s done his bit and is going to be on his way at the end of the
season. Flapped at too many, but more importantly, just didn’t have the
presence in the box he was beginning to develop. McGreal’s calming influence
on the whole defence was most acutely missed in the keeper’s performance.

MAKIN 5 (3/2) was struggling to keep up from early on, and was presumably
quite unfit. All the more bizarre then that Burley should choose to name no
defenders on the bench other than Clapham, who plays the other side and
hasn’t been a full-back for years. When Chris eventually went off, the smart
money around us was for Clapham (or perhaps Sereni) to be brought on as
centre forward and Marcus Bent to be moved to right-back, that’d be
consistent with Burley’s normal substitution policy, but in fact we went to
3-5-2 with poor Jermaininho being asked to play wing-back today. A chance
for Jermaininho to wear the number one shirt is surely inevitable. BRAMBLE 5
(3/2) was disappointing, and although he only had a couple of Comedy
Moments, both had calamitous results and one led to a goal. Steadier in the
air, but it’s really not happening at the moment for Titus. VENUS 6 (3/3)
was steady, and provided a level head at times when it was needed.
HREIDARSSON 7 (4/3) worked really hard, right to the end when, brought into
the centre of the by-then 3-man defence, he was being asked to cover an
enormous area of pitch.

MAGILTON 5 (2/3) was a weak link, but only because this formation asks too
much of him – with only two players to hold the midfield, two Matt Hollands
are required, and that’s just not Jim’s game. HOLLAND 8 (4/4) was easily my
MotM, covering every inch of the pitch, and single-handedly keeping
Southampton’s share of the possession down to, ooh, about 60% I’d guess. I
can totally forgive him two dreadful goal attempts, because in both cases
he’d come from nowhere to do the strikers’ job.

FINIDI 6 (3/3) was reasonable, and provided most of what little excitement
we generated with a couple of sublime moments of skill. But never really
worried Southampton’s tight defence, and although he made some efforts to
track back, it was a little half-hearted. BENT 7 (4/3) had a fine game,
never giving up, and making his presence felt throughout. Limited to a
couple of goal attempts though, which isn’t really good enough. STEWART 4
(2/2) was utterly awful, off the pace, totally unaware of what was going on
around him, and seems to have lost all of his sharpness and control. I’m
beginning to think that we ought to be grateful for all that he did for us
for less than three million quid, and move on. Sad to see. REUSER 4 (2/2)
had a dreadful game, with his only real contributions coming when he was
presented it on a plate. We needed creativity, and we got none. We needed
effort, and he just didn’t seem up to it.

Subs: WRIGHT, as has already been mentioned, was asked to play in yet
another odd position, right-wing-back, and was OK, although the game was so
stretched by then that Jermaininho was always going to be similarly
stretched. CLAPHAM had a much better game (not difficult after most of the
recent efforts) but this was purely down to being told to keep it simple –
stay wide, make space, and get the crosses in. He did just that, buoyed by
the knowledge that Venus could cover behind him (compare and contrast to
Wright who was having to worry about Titus). COUNAGO was given what I hope
was his one last chance to show that Burley hadn’t made one of his overseas
signing mistakes. He blew it, with loads of scurrying around, but no
control, no creativity, nothing. He really is third-team material, and the
sooner Darren Bent gets a go, the better. I can only assume that given
Clapham was brought on to get some crosses in (which he did), leaving Alun
Armstrong on the bench throughout was a question of Armstrong’s fitness.

THE REF Rob Halsey was a little pedantic and irritating, but restrained with
the yellow cards, which was good to see. THE CROWD were patient and made
plenty of noise throughout, but the masses who left before the end made me
ashamed of them – particularly the upper South Stand, which must have been
two-thirds empty by the final whistle. Matty ran round at the end to huge
areas of empty seats and he deserved much better. BURLEY’S TACTICS were
questionable again. And as for SOUTHAMPTON, good luck to them, they’re a
neat, clean side who played effective football (with some of their big names
missing). I’d like to see them do well. Williams and Bridge were
particularly good.

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