The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 1 Arsenal 0

Football, eh? I can’t ever remember a match where, queueing up to get in, I was so certain we’d lose. So of course we were going to win. It just stands to reason. After all, there was nothing in Town’s favour: a temporary manager with the taxi running outside, half a team unavailable, a terrible last few weeks, a record defeat just three days before, and one of the best teams in the world as opponents. But there was one other thing missing too: the huge weight that’s been on the team’s shoulders had suddenly been lifted. Whether it was the prospect of a new manager, or there really being no way things could get any worse, or a full house at Portman Road for the first time in years …something just changed.

I won’t pretend Arsenal were on form. In fact, the way they let Tamas Priskin, an average Championship striker, win one through ball after another in the second half, was criminal for a team with pretensions to be so great. I don’t suppose a single Town supporter cares about Arsenal though.

The match this reminded me of the most was the 1-0 victory over Inter Milan in 2001. We were talking about the similarities at half-time, not knowing that our centre-forward was going to bury the only goal of the game, in front of the North Stand at almost exactly the same time as Alun Armstrong did way back then. Like that game, all Town really wanted was a respectable scoreline to make the away leg something to look forward to. And somehow, against all the odds, the team overdelivered.

There were changes, although rather than being something the backroom staff had been itching to do given the chance, I suspect they were just sensible reactions to the threat. Using the fastest full-back available (Peters) made sense, and someone who could provide some serious support to the defence on the other flank (Wickham) was equally sensible. Similarly, someone in the Luke Hyam role was also a good idea, although few supporters would have thought of Mark Kennedy there, I’m sure.

A truly memorable night, and I hate to say it, but we may have seen the highlight of the year by mid-January. If there’s anything better to come, I can’t wait.

Overall Town performance:
9/10 – Brilliantly accepted that Arsenal were always going to have most of the possession, and didn’t try to compete, but stopped any real creativity from them and restricted their chances to a minimum.

Opposition quality:
7/10 – Obviously they were quality, but they’re a lot better than this.

7/10 – A bit too much benefit of the doubt in Arsenal’s favour, but didn’t do anything daft.

Match excitement:
9/10 – Superb evening, best for years.

Opposition supporters:
5/10 – Plenty of them (four and a half thousand in the Cobbold, and loads more scattered around the place), but we’ve had opponents with a third of the numbers make more noise.

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

FULOP 6 (2/4) pulled off a couple of decent stops, but was well off with his distribution.

PETERS 8 (4/4) may not have the reading of a top-class full-back, but keeps managing to make up for it with concentration and commitment; McAULEY 7 (4/3) and DELANEY 7 (4/3) hardly dropped their guard for a moment all match; and O’DEA 7 (4/3) was once again dependable, and worked well with whoever was supporting him;

KENNEDY 8 (4/4) was by a whisker my man of the match, showing tremendous presence in front of the defence and glueing everything together;

EDWARDS 6 (4/2) worked hard, but didn’t have much impact at all; NORRIS 8 (4/4) was seemingly everywhere, and put in an inspirational ninety minutes, even when looking finished towards the end; HEALY 6 (3/3) didn’t make the mistakes of Sunday and looked a much better prospect; and WICKHAM 8 (4/4) was a revelation in the wide role, keeping his cool and using his presence to fantastic effect.

PRISKIN 7 (4/3) did reasonably well in the first half, but came into his own after the break when Town realised he had the beating of a rather inept defence if given something decent to run on to. If only he was a better finisher, the result could have been even more sensational.

MURRAY got a brief runout at the end.

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