Ipswich Town drew 2-2 with West Brom in a Championship match at Portman Road yesterday. Stuart Watson reflects on the action.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kieffer Moore goes down under the attentions of Kyle Bartley.Kieffer Moore goes down under the attentions of Kyle Bartley. (Image: Steve Waller)


"Show desire to be quickest to first and second balls. Be stronger in 50/50 duels. Make sure the first touch is clean. Collectively, Ipswich players didn't do enough of that."

That's what I wrote when reflecting on Town's poor first half performance after the 3-2 defeat at Preston. Unfortunately, the same happened again in the opening stages of this one.

Just like at Deepdale, there was a let-off inside the opening minute. Wes Burns' pass inside was intercepted, Okay Yokuslu danced his way past a couple of challenges before Tom Fellows cut inside to bend a shot narrowly wide.

Then, in the eighth minute, Yokuslu shook off Massimo Luongo to start an attack that finished with Jed Wallace's teasing low cross just evading the stretching leg of Brandon Thomas-Asante on the edge of the six-yard box. 

“I didn’t think we won enough challenges at the start of the game," admitted Kieran McKenna afterwards. “We spoke about it beforehand, but despite that West Brom still came out on top of all the 50/50 balls."

East Anglian Daily Times: Tom Fellows celebrates after giving West Brom the lead.Tom Fellows celebrates after giving West Brom the lead. (Image: PA)


Having got through that tricky opening 10 minutes, Town settled and began to get a few combinations going. They had West Brom pinned back for a spell. 

Frustratingly, it was one of those promising attacks that ultimately led to the Baggies taking an 18th minute lead. After Kieffer Moore nodded down a Leif Davis cross into the box, Kyle Bartley cleared ahead of Conor Chaplin and Andres Weimann's fine forward pass quickly got the visitors down the other end of the field.

Luke Woolfenden was favourite to clean up the danger. He could have put the ball into touch under pressure, but didn't. After being outmuscled by Tom Fellows, he should have committed a foul to stop the attack developing, but didn't. Once the tricky winger had got the wrong side in the box, there was little that could be done. Fellows did superbly to dart inside and reverse a low shot into the bottom corner.

It was the 18th time this season that Town have conceded the first goal in a game. It was the fifth game in a row where they found themselves behind before the break.

By contrast, Ipswich weren't clinical enough when their first big chance to score arrived five minutes later.

Following Nathan Broadhead's low cross, Moore did well to stab the ball back into a dangerous area when surrounded by two defenders. If there was one man you wanted to see arriving on the scene it was Chaplin... but he lifted a golden opportunity over the bar.

East Anglian Daily Times: Nathan Broadhead gets Ipswich Town level less than a minute after the restart.Nathan Broadhead gets Ipswich Town level less than a minute after the restart. (Image: Steve Waller)


West Brom went into this game with the third-best defensive record in the Championship (27 goals conceded in 29 games) and the best clean sheet record (13).

We'd seen in the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns, which they comfortably won 2-0 last November, how well Carlos Corberan's experienced and well-coached side can manage games when in front.

Those qualities were again on show in the latter stages of the first half. Town had plenty of final third possession, but continually had the door slammed in their face whenever the ball entered the box.

Kyle Bartley and Cedric Kipre showed they could mix it with man mountain Moore physically. Full-backs Darnell Furlong and Conor Townsend won headers and made blocks too. Time-wasting tactics were deployed quite early on.

Breaking down such an organised, resolute and wily side looked like it was going to be a tough task. The Baggies were dealt a major blow, however, when they discovered Bartley had picked up an injury and wouldn't be able to continue in the second half.

Nathan Chalobah replaced him and went into midfield. Yokuslu, who had been excellent in the middle, dropped into centre-half. That reshuffle significantly weakened the visitors in two key areas of the pitch.

Within less than a minute of the restart, Town were level. Harry Clarke's long throw into the box (a weapon throughout) was cleared back to him, he headed back into danger, George Edmundson glanced on and Broadhead adjusted expertly to side-foot home at the far post.

Is that a goal West Brom would have conceded with Bartley still on the field? I'm not so sure. 

It was certainly great to see Broadhead net for the first time since that 2-2 draw against Norwich back in mid-December. He's looked much more like his old self in the last two games.

East Anglian Daily Times: John Swift's long-range shot put West Brom back in front.John Swift's long-range shot put West Brom back in front. (Image: Steve Waller)


West Brom had the ball in the net in the 56th minute. Sub Daryl Dike flicked on a long throw and Weimann converted with a Maradonna-esque hand-disguised-as-a-header at the far post. Referee David Coote may have made some strange decisions in this game, but he did well to spot that infringement and chalk that one off.

Poor Dike was stretchered off in tears in the 65th minute. The Baggies striker, who has hurt his Achilles again, just hasn't been able to stay fit over the last two years.

As the game wore on, it felt like Ipswich were the more likely to score next. But then West Brom retook the lead with a complete bolt from the blue.

It was great long-range strike by John Swift, a crisp shot skipping off the turf to beat the despairing dive of Vaclav Hladky, but Town will look back on how Edmundon's pass out the back was intercepted and the way, collectively, players didn't react quick enough to that.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town have now claimed 22 points from losing positions this season.Ipswich Town have now claimed 22 points from losing positions this season. (Image: Stephen Waller)


Marcus Harness and Omari Hutchinson had replaced Chaplin and Burns just before that second West Brom goal. Then, in the 83rd minute, Ali Al-Hamadi and Jeremy Sarmiento came on for Broadhead and Luongo. Ipswich now had four fresh forward players on the field against a tiring defence...

Signs of West Brom fatigue began to show as the clock ticked down. When the fourth official indicated there would be eight minutes of stoppage-time, an almighty roar of encouragement went up inside Portman Road.

A big save denied Moore from close-range. The subsequent Sarmiento corner wasn't cleared and Hutchinson, at the second attempt, rifled an angled shot though the crowd and into the net.

That set up an incredible grandstand finish. There was an almighty penalty box scramble when the ball landed at Moore's feet. West Brom just about survived. Then, in 90+7, Al-Hamadi - who produced another lively cameo display - saw a low shot from the edge of the box pushed away by Palmer.

Sixteen of Town's 67 goals this season (24%) have been scored by subs. Twenty-two of their 60 points have been secured from losing positions (W5 D7). Seven vital goals have now been scored beyond the 85th minute mark. 

East Anglian Daily Times: January signing Ali Al-Hamadi produced another lively cameo display.January signing Ali Al-Hamadi produced another lively cameo display. (Image: Stephen Waller)


Town were top and 10 points clear of third following a 2-1 win at Watford on December 12. Now, following one win in the subsequent nine league games, they're down to fourth and four points adrift of the automatic promotion places. They've crashed out of the FA Cup to Maidtsone United too.

From the outside looking in, it must look like the wheels are falling off. I don't think that's the case at all.

In the last three games, Ipswich have faced 17 shots (seven on target) and conceded seven goals. By contrast, they've produced 84 shots (29 on target) and scored five. Earlier in the season, the Blues were winning fine margin games by being ultra clinical in both boxes. Now they're going through a spell where that's tipped the other way. General performance levels haven't suddenly dropped off a cliff though.

A very tricky set of winter fixtures has been negotiated. Town have only one game left against the current top-five now and that's Southampton at home on Easter Monday. The nine matches between now and then - starting with Wednesday night's trip to Millwall - are all against teams in the bottom half. January recruits can make a difference once fully bedded in.

Entertainment is consistently being delivered. Lessons have no doubt been learned. Momentum can be regained. What will be, will be. Keep enjoying the ride.

Take a look at that table. Newly-promoted Ipswich Town have reached the 30-game mark averaging two points-per-game. That's remarkable.