The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 1 Reading 1

In case you missed the last episode, we left our heroes capitulating 1-5 to
Wimbledon, to the strains of the North Stand justifiably singing “You’re not
fit to wear the shirt”. And I wrote afterwards that, with the exception of
Matt Holland and a couple of youngsters, I wouldn’t miss any of them if they
cleared off in the close season. I mention that just to put things into
context, in that anything would be an improvement on our last competitive
home game, three long months ago.

We probably could have had an easier start than the team which are many
people’s dark horses for the title, but we said that last year when
Leicester came to visit, and that turned out to be a bizarre,
never-to-be-repeated start-of-season enigma, so perhaps it’s good to get the
tough ones out of the way early.

In the event, Reading were a little disappointing, we were even more so, and
the match as a spectacle was well below average. Don’t be upset if you were
one of the many supporters who found themselves still stuck on holiday in
the probably cooler climate of Spain, the Sahara, Mercury or wherever. You
didn’t miss much, with the exception of what will most likely be this
season’s only converted penalty.

The Sheepster came on before the game to deliver a pep-talk, only to find
himself met by an increasing barrage of boos. But I think he expected it.
Not once did he pause in his delivery (a sure sign of someone who’s prepared
for a poor reaction) and after saying that we could pin the blame on him if
we liked, he quickly moved on to exhorting everyone to get behind Joe and
the lads, etc etc etc., in a clever enough way that it was difficult not to
give him a good round of applause by the end.

And so to the game, an uninspired affair with only three or four decent
efforts, punctuated by drinks breaks aplenty (almost expected to see
Jermaininho come on with a tray at one point), and some attention-seeking
and inconsistent refereeing, which began with a booking for Diallo after
about three seconds, and continued into the 93rd minute.

Town came out in a 4-3-3 formation, which ought to have meant a lot of
attacking and worryingly thin defence, but as is so often the case, it
turned out to be the other way around. Joe wanted to build a new, strong
back line and the signs are good, although the midfield sat back a lot to
help out. However, there was precious little creativity up front, and no
width, so it wasn’t surprising that we went 4-4-2 for the second half, with
Reuser on for Bent the younger. You get the impression that Joe has chosen
the 11 players first, and is letting the selection dictate the tactics,
which is why we get the unusual sight of three forwards. A formation which
everyone is happier with, even if it means playing your 12th or 13th choice
players, might be a better compromise.

We didn’t have an attempt on goal in the first half. Lots of clever flicks
around the edge of the area, inevitably turning into trouble, and that was
about it. Seen it all before, again and again. Mind you, Reading only had
one or two chances themselves. It was that kind of afternoon.

Little changed in the second half, other than several players visibly
wilting in the merciless sun (I’m in training for a novel here folks), and
the resulting mistakes allowing a few more chances. But neither goalkeeper
had much to worry about until the hour mark, when Reading scored. Inevitably
it was scored by some bloke who clearly should have been sent off after
three bookable offences in ten minutes, but even more tragic was the manner
of the goal. If you’ve got last season’s video, you can see about six
identical goals going in at Portman Road. Fullback gets caught out of
position, wide man goes free, central defender panics and goes out to meet
him, and watches in horror as the ball sails over his head to a completely
unmarked attacker in the middle. It’s schoolboy stuff, but even the poor
teams do it to us again and again (and in Wimbledon’s case, one more time
for luck).

We didn’t really deserve any better. Then just as it looked like the result
was going to be as disappointing as the performance, Jim gets us a 92nd
minute penalty. No question in my mind that it was a penalty, but no
question either that he played for it. Push the ball into just the right
space so that when you make a beeline for it, the defender’s not going to be
able to stop himself from bringing you down. I’d have hated it if I’d have
been a Reading supporter. And then came the biggest shock of all. Miller
stepped up and the ball ended up in the back of the net.

After that, anything can happen.

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

DAVIS 6 (3/3): Probably had more eyes on him amongst the home support than
any other player. Would he measure up? The answer is …it looks like it.
Similar in stature and style to Andy Marshall, for those of you trying to
picture him, but more confident and a better kicker. Had the trust of his
defence, which is great for such an early stage in the rebuilding of the
back line, and pulled off one great save (although it has to be said, of the
kind which Marshall was also rather good at).

WILNIS 5 (3/2), NAYLOR 6 (3/3), DIALLO 6 (3/3), MAKIN 4 (2/2): The central
two were pretty solid, if unspectacular, but the fullbacks were much weaker
links. Most of us have never rated Fab as a fullback (a wingback or even a
wide midfielder, now that’s a different matter), and Chrissy didn’t even
seem to be enjoying playing as a left back (and why should he?), which
became more apparent when he was eventually moved to right back, where he
seemed much happier. Again, for those of you trying to picture him, Drissa
Diallo is surprisingly slight – think Darren Bent rather than Tony Mowbray –
but he’s effective both on the ground and in the air, and looks useful.
Bam-Bam looked quite settled, and made a couple of cracking tackles.

MAGILTON 4 (2/2), SANTOS 5 (3/2), MILLER 5 (3/2): Uninspiring as a unit
despite admittedly tough conditions and opposition. How to describe
Georgie-boy? I think he and Joe would like us to think “Patrick Vieira” in
the sense of him being a towering midfield presence, but he was too often on
the back foot. There’s potential there, but it may take a few games to work
out exactly how to use him best. Tommy worked hard in the first half at
least, but faded, and Jim baffled us all: after all these years of us
complaining about the lip he gives the rest of the team, he gets the
captain’s armband and goes all quiet. Most odd. Looked like it was all a bit
much for him, but made it to the end, which was important in more ways than

Marcus BENT 5 (3/2), COUNAGO 5 (3/2), Darren BENT 4 (2/2): For much of the
match, this was a new model Marcus, who actually seemed interested in what
was going on, but (as with the other two strikers) not a single decent shot
all afternoon is the acid test. The main problem is that the rest of the
team just don’t seem to know what he’s up to. Pablo hustled and jinked, and
even got stuck in a few times, but usually went one defender too far. Darren
was just very, very quiet.

Subs: REUSER 6 (3/3) played almost the entire second half and gave us some
much-needed width, but didn’t really start to produce until he got a more
willing partner in RICHARDS, whose short spell at left back was probably the
highlight of the afternoon (and particularly for Chris Makin, who got to
move to the right side once he came on). BOWDITCH had no time to do much.

The REFEREE was stupid enough to brandish the yellow card in the first
minute, which then meant he’d have to be consistent (and end up booking
every player on the park by the end) or inconsistent (which meant that a
reading player got booked a few minutes later for something innocuous, then
a team-mate got away with attempted murder soon afterwards). Booked their
eventual goalscorer, then let him off an elbow in Jim’s face moments later
because he bottled it as far as the red card goes …yet gave a straight red
when a defender brought Pablo down. Poor.

The decent-sized CROWD were relatively subdued, but in that heat it was hard
to raise much of a noise. And the booing of Sheepy was a little embarrassing, if
you ask me.

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