Analysis: If only Ipswich Town had played this positively in more winnable home games

Freddie Sears with a early second half effort which went just wide at Fulham. Photo: PAGEPIX

Freddie Sears with a early second half effort which went just wide at Fulham. Photo: PAGEPIX

Ipswich Town’s highly-frustrating season continued with a 3-1 defeat at Fulham on Saturday. Here are a few key points.

Christophe Berra heads home a consolation goal against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Photo: PAGEPIX

Christophe Berra heads home a consolation goal against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Photo: PAGEPIX

‘Bogey club’ status lost

Town went into the start of this season off the back of a 13-game unbeaten run against Fulham which stretched back to an infamous 10-1 thrashing at Craven Cottage in 1963.

The Blues have been thoroughly outclassed by the Cottagers twice now this season though.

That went well...

Freddie Sears fires wide of goal in the first half. Photo: PAGEPIX

Freddie Sears fires wide of goal in the first half. Photo: PAGEPIX


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Mick McCarthy admitted his team had been hopeless in their 2-0 home defeat to the West London side on Boxing Day and insisted pre-match that they wouldn’t allow Slavisa Jokanovic’s pass-masters to play with so much freedom this time around.

It was a quote which came back to haunt him as the slick and fluid hosts carved through Town’s defence like a hot knife through butter during a dominant 20 minute spell in the first half. Tricky winger Floyd Ayite gobbled up a rebound in the 17th minute and Scott Malone caressed a side-footed shot into the bottom corner after getting the back from a short-throw on the half-hour mark. On both occasions Town were statuesque.

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And yet...

As easy on the eye Fulham were going forwards, they were very vulnerable at the back too. You can see why they have the leakiest home defence out of the teams in the top-half of the Championship table.

Jordan Spence tussles with Sone Aluko at Fulham. Photo: PAGEPIX

Jordan Spence tussles with Sone Aluko at Fulham. Photo: PAGEPIX

Town had three golden chances to halve the deficit either side of the break. David McGoldrick stabbed a shot against the outside of the post after a loose ball fell kindly to him in the box. Freddie Sears had the freedom of the box and time to set himself, but fired his shot straight at Marcus Bettinelli. Then McGoldrick’s well-struck shot through the crowd was well-saved by Bettinelli. At least one of those opportunities should have been taken. Had one gone in it could have been a different story.

Fulham counter-attacked on the hour mark and wrapped up victory through Stefan Johansen’s finish.

Tactics

The Blues boss was in a bit of a lose-lose situation really. Many had called upon him to stick with the attack-minded team which had beaten Wigan 3-0 at Portman Road in midweek. He did – Tommy Smith for the injured Steven Taylor aside – but it meant that wing-backs Jordan Spence and Myles Kenlock were over-run in the first half as marauding full-backs Ryan Fredericks and Scott Malone constantly bombed beyond wingers Sone Aluko and Floyd Ayite.

Grant Ward has a second half effort deflected behind for a corner at Fulham. Photo: PAGEPIX

Grant Ward has a second half effort deflected behind for a corner at Fulham. Photo: PAGEPIX

Had he changed his team and tried to stiffen up the midfield with someone like Jonathan Douglas then no doubt he would have faced criticism too. Unfortunately we seem to have reached the stage where he can do no right.

Town certainly improved after the break following a tactical reshuffle. Tom Lawrence replaced Smith and the system switched to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. Lawrence and Grant Ward were the wingers, Toumani Diagoraga sat deep and Emyr Huws was more advanced.

Off-day for Bart

Bartosz Bialkowski has been in outstanding form for 18 months now and so often been the team’s saviour, but – with a lot of talk about a potential Premier League move this summer – he was below-par. Yes, there was a fine fingertip save in the second half, but he was beaten at his near post for the third goal – something Norwich’s Jacob Murphy said he had identified as a weakness in the Pole’s game.

Fulham fans celebrate their team's third goal whilst Bartosz Bialkowski is left demoralised on Satur

Fulham fans celebrate their team's third goal whilst Bartosz Bialkowski is left demoralised on Saturday

A poor kick could and should have been punished too.

A set-piece goal!

Defenders scoring from set-pieces was a major part of Town’s weaponry when they made the play-offs in 2014/15, but those type of goals have dried up badly in recent times. It was good to see Christophe Berra bravely heading home Lawrence’s free-kick delivery for a deserved consolation goal at the death.

Striking up a partnership

Just like against Wigan, McGoldrick and Sears were a constant threat up front with their pressing and movement. Grant Ward is getting better by the game in midfield too. This was a positive display. It’s shame Town haven’t played that way in home games against so-called ‘lesser’ opposition. Just like Berra’s goal, it’s too little, too late.

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