Andy’s Angles: Beauty and The Beast, a changing picture and positives to take - observations from Town’s Wycombe draw
Ipswich Town slipped to fifth in League One following their New Year’s Day draw with Wycombe. ANDY WARREN looks back at the game.
The news prior to kick-off that Paul Lambert had signed a new contract until 2025 came as something of a surprise.
In the week prior to the announcement we'd heard Lambert cast doubt over his own future following the Boxing Day draw with Gillingham and saw him receive a vote of confidence from general manager of football operations, Lee O'Neill. Then there were the unfounded Neil Warnock 'links' thrown around by Ray Parlour, of all people, on national radio.
There had been suggestions of contract talks in October, suggestions Lambert denied at the time, but the Scot confirmed after the game that discussions had been ongoing for several weeks before it was signed at the team hotel in the hours before yesterday's game.
Evans was right when, in his statement, he acknowledged the work Lambert has done to bring supporters back to the club after years of decline and again declared an admirable desire to plan for the future with a stable management team.
But the fact Lambert still had 18 months to run on his original deal and his side being in the thick of a poor run of form ensured the timing of the announcement was surprising, with supporters seemingly split regarding the decision.
It certainly added an extra layer of intrigue to what was already set to be a fascinating game.
Beauty and the Beast
James Norwood's 54th-minute goal was worthy of winning any game. Sadly for the Blues, though, it ultimately only earned a single point.
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A good Kayden Jackson run won a free-kick in a wide position and, as the Wycombe defence trundled into the penalty area, Luke Garbutt's quick-thinking saw the Everton loanee grab the ball and immediately deliver an inch-perfect ball into the home six-yard box.
It was only inch-perfect because of Norwood's clever run, with the two combining, finding each other on the same wavelength and giving the visitors the lead.
There are plenty of similarities between this Ipswich goal and the one scored by Divock Origi and assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold for Liverpool in their Champions League clash with Liverpool last season. Unfortunately that's where the similarities with the European, world and Premier League champions elect end.
Wycombe's response was to throw man-mountain striker Adebayo Akinfenwa into the game, with the introduction of 'The Beast' causing real trouble from the off.
His flick-on supplied David Wheeler's equaliser as the Town defence failed to cope, while his presence alone changed the dimensions of the home attack.
The Blues had enjoyed plenty of good periods during the course of the game but, following the introduction of Akinfenwa the hosts looked the more likely to snatch a late winner before the full-time whistle blew.
Sunday's 5-3 defeat at Lincoln led to an hour-long lock-in in the away dressing room at Sincil Bank, where Lambert and his players looked for answers to arrest their slide.
Not all of the issues were resolved during this game of course. Ipswich still conceded an ugly goal, missed chances and weren't able to capitalise on their big moments and kill opponents off.
But Lambert will be pleased with the increased intensity throughout his side and with the displays of some individuals.
Jackson and Norwood looked sharp in attack, Gwion Edwards had a better afternoon than he has enjoyed of late and the range of passing from Flynn Downes in midfield was another example of the youngster's progression.
Then there's Alan Judge, the pick of the bunch, arguably, who looked comfortable when playing in his preferred No.10 role. The Irishman was up for this game from the beginning and roamed the field looking to get on the ball before using it intelligently.
He will be disappointed not to have taken one of his three chances, though.
Teddy Bishop added another positive note in the final minutes as he made his first appearance of the season following a summer knee injury.
It's just a first step, of course, but the midfielder's return could bring some much needed drive in the middle of the pitch over the coming months.
Extending the runs
This may have been an improved display from Lambert's men but it wasn't enough to bring a number of worrying runs to an end.
Ipswich haven't won in the league since November 5 at Rochdale, an eight game winless run, with that record reading no victory in 11 attempts in all competitions.
They haven't kept a clean sheet and scored in the same game in any of their last 14 matches, dating back to that Rochdale game and they have still only beaten one member of League One's top 10 this season (Fleetwood).
Then there's Town's poor record on TV. This game was shown live on Sky Sports, with the draw marking the 16th successive game in which the Blues have failed to win when in action in front of the nation.
You have to go back to the victory at MK Dons in December 2015 for the last televised success, with the record since reading P16 W0 D6 L10.
It also continued a winless streak in the first game of the new year. The last was the FA Cup win at Blackpool in 2010 for the last time Ipswich won their first match after New Year's Eve, with five draws and five losses coming in the decade since.
Painting a picture
The promotion picture looks very different to how it did two months ago.
Following their last league win at Rochdale, the Blues were top of the table with a game in hand and possessed an eight-point cushion over the team in seventh (Sunderland).
Now, eight games later, they are six points behind table-topping Wycombe (still with a game on hand) and possess just a two-point cushion over Fleetwood in seventh.
Ipswich are 20th in the League One form table for matches played since that Rochdale win. And who's top of it? The side Ipswich face next in League One - Accrington Stanley.