The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 3 Walsall 2

A Question for stattos: when was the last time we did the “double” over
three teams before new year? It seems this season there are teams we can
beat (Watford, Leicester and Walsall), and teams we can’t (er – most
others). Walsall, it has to be said, were one of the poorest sides we’ve
seen at Portman Road this season; not terrible, but just completely
unremarkable. Of course we should have had the whole thing wrapped up with a
nice bow and a festive snowman by half-time, but that’s not the Ipswich Way,
is it now? How the team managed to keep the supporters on edge right to the
end is the real story.

Joe’s standard 3-5-2 took the field, with Bam-Bam replacing Marcus Bent and
the two Darrens on the bench. We created plenty of chances, but most of them
were wasted, with the Walsall keeper having to make few, if any, saves in
the first 45 minutes. In fact, had it not been for an awful refereeing
display, it would have gone down as one of the most boring halves of the
season. We chuckled when the ref booked first one, then two, then three of
their players for bugger all, but you know when a ref does that sort of
thing your own side is just as liable to get mugged, and sure enough, into
the book went Pablo and then Chrissy Makin, equally nonsensically.

The ref let things go a little more in the second half, and the game picked
up, although that wasn’t the reason for there being four more goals: poor
defending on both sides accounted for that. It’s all very well us having a
defence which can be commended for giving the opposition few chances (and
that certainly seems to be the case at the moment) but they only need to
switch off for a moment and the softest of goals can go in. Two more today,
and with our finishing not exactly lethal, we can’t keep on letting in goals
like this. Twelve home league matches, and not a single clean sheet, as far
as I can remember. There’s another one for the stattos: when did we last
have a sequence like that? And we’ve conceded two goals a game in the last
three home fixtures, so it’s getting worse, not better.

Still, there’s a renewed confidence amongst the fans, and, I think, in the
team itself. As a unit, the team is definitely vastly improved from the one
when Royle took over, and I genuinely believe we can go into 2003 with the
worst behind us. Another game with no 3s or 4s on the scorecard (below),
which is good, but another one without an 8 or a 9, and we do need a few of
those in all areas of the park if we’re to make the playoffs.

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

MARSHALL 5 (2/3): Can’t really be faulted for the goals, and made a
wonderful save at the end, but still shaky at almost everything except
reaction stops.

HOLLAND 7 (4/3), GAARDSOE 7 (3/4), MAKIN 5 (2/3): It seems like a lifetime
ago that I described Gaardsoe as having put in “one of the worst central
defensive performances I’ve seen in years” …it was ten weeks ago, against
Sheffield Wednesday, that’s all. Now he looks like he was born to command a
defence from the centre, even with the captain immediately to his right. And
how much have those three goals been worth? Holland looked much more settled
than he did at first in this new defensive role, although his distribution
was a little tentative. Makin was involved in the first half, but seemed to
lose his way (and his touch) as the game wore on.

WILNIS 5 (3/2), MAGILTON 6 (3/3), MILLER 5 (3/2), CLAPHAM 6 (3/3),
HREIDARSSON 6 (3/3): A fairly undistinguished afternoon for the sprawling
midfield. Hermann charged up and down, and did well in his own way, although
his best asset as a winger seems to be the fact he can control huge floated
50m passes onto his head. What happens next isn’t exactly Clive Woods
though. Wilnis doesn’t even have the aerial ability on his side, and
consistently fails to get crosses in; defenders seem to be able to block
almost every attempt. Miller wasn’t as involved as he has been recently, but
Clapham, in quite a free role, was more impressive. Magilton played in his
new advanced role again, and was usually involved in the better moves,
although much of his play was overambitious.

NAYLOR 5 (3/2), COUNAGO 7 (3/4): Bam-Bam huffed and puffed, but achieved
very little. Counago was the right man in the right spot again, but if he’d
have been taken off instead of Bam-Bam in the second half, there’d have been
a case for it. However, thank goodness he wasn’t, because he then came
alive, and really took the game to Walsall.

Subs: WRIGHT worked hard, and despite a couple of misplaced balls which got
his detractors whinging again, had a positive effect on the game, keeping
things flowing nicely. He also read the game better than Miller, which
enabled him to break up several Walsall moves well. Marcus BENT did his
usual thing, languidly expecting everything to be served up on a plate for
him, at which point he’d conjure a goal out of nothing, trot off, and
collect his large pay cheque. Only when the goal doesn’t come, it takes a
die-hard supporter to not get just a little cheesed off with him.

The REFEREE was terrible. But the CROWD 7 (4/3) were better than of late,
with the full (right to the top corners!) North Stand leading the way.

Let’s hope it’s a much happier New Year! 2002 has been an eventful one, but
one which a lot of supporters will want to see the back of. Roll on a
12-month-unbeaten 2003.

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