The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 0 Sheffield Utd 3

And so – on a portentiously wet and windy afternoon – one of the least exciting seasons I can recall in 35 years of regularly watching Town spluttered to a quite pathetic ending. A two year plan to get promotion, said Messrs Evans, Clegg and Keane, but halfway through that time everyone (including the club itself) is talking about big clearouts and starting all over again.

And well it should, because 2009-2010 will go down as Town’s joint-lowest league placing since Sir Alf brought the club out of the old second division 50 years ago. The Jackie Milburn years, the John Duncan years, even the much-derided Jim Magilton years …none ever ended up with the club finishing lower than 15th in this division. And with the fewest goals an Ipswich side has ever scored at this level, into the bargain.

For the first part of the match, Town played like a very ordinary, unimaginative mid-table side. It was, well …OK. There must have been players in the side whose future at the club is questionable (at least I hope there were), yet nobody over the age of 17 seemed prepared to put in any extra effort. But that was the best part. After an hour, most of the supporters would have been quite happy if Andy D’Urso had ended proceedings there and then.

Town lined up 4-5-1, which put a lot of responsibility on Connor Wickham, and his willingness to keep trying was a rare bright spot in the afternoon. But 4-5-1 is fine if a team has Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard steaming forward from midfield, rather than five players who had managed 16 goals in 140 combined starts this season. Leadbitter looked like a fish out of water trying to support Wickham at the start, and soon dropped back to leave a huge gap behind the front man which could only be filled by long balls.

Town’s main efforts predictably came from set pieces, but despite having a decent aerial threat, few were put in with any height until Garvan was eventually allowed to have a go. Oddly though, Town’s closest effort came when Garvan himself got his head to a floated cross and hit the woodwork. It was a rare moment of excitement. Most of the afternoon’s entertainment came from watching the Sheffield supporters’ delight at the goalscoring exploits of a couple of Town old boys at Hillsborough. The team (although not the manager) came out to “thank the fans” ten minutes after the end, as is usual on the last day, but there were only a few hundred in each stand left to see them. After all, there hasn’t been much to thank the team for in return.

Overall Town performance:
3/10 – Unimaginative, unconcerned and un-, oh, everything

Opposition quality
6/10 – Will never, ever get such an impressive away win from such an ordinary performance

4/10 – Total bully. Brings out irrational hatred in me every time

Match excitement:
4/10 – Well, we had a sending-off, three goals and a helicopter, I guess

Opposition supporters:
7/10 – Party time in the Cobbold

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

MURPHY 5 (3/2) probably can’t be personally blamed for the goals, but no keeper will be happy to have let three in at home.

PETERS 4 (2/2) had a really poor game, and looked devoid not only of confidence, but – remarkably – enthusiasm; McAULEY 5 (3/2) couldn’t carry a defence which had hardly any experience; EASTMAN 4 (3/1) was nervous and eventually caught out by his own inexperience (and of course a referee desperate to ensure we all noticed him); and SMITH 4 (2/2) looked disappointingly shaky.

WALTERS 5 (3/2) just looks like a player who’s lost his way and needs a new start somewhere else – I’d wish him well if he left, but I can’t say I’d miss him; GARVAN 5 (2/3) frustratingly failed to rise to the occasion, given a wonderful opportunity to show how he can control a game; LEADBITTER 4 (2/2) didn’t seem interested; NORRIS 4 (2/2) didn’t seem to have any ideas; and COLBACK 5 (3/2) had one of his most forgettable performances of the season.

WICKHAM 6 (4/2) was probably the only Town player who looked like he wanted to be there, but it was quite clear he was becoming more and more frustrated as the match wore on with having no colleagues anywhere near him, even after he’d held the ball up to give them a chance. It’s just absurd for a schoolboy with 8 starts to his name to be expected to cope with three defenders at a time for 90 minutes.

From the bench, O’CONNOR looked much more like a full-back than Tommy Smith had; CLARK didn’t really get involved; but BROWN looked very interesting – I watched him closely and his positional sense, distribution and communication seemed first-class.

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