Andy’s Angles: Five observations from Ipswich Town’s 2-2 draw with Birmingham
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Ipswich Town let a two-goal lead slip this afternoon as they drew 2-2 at Birmingham. ANDY WARREN gives his observations.
It was all looking so good
Two goals to the good at half-time and the home crowd booing – it was all looking so good for Ipswich Town at the break.
Jon Nolan’s superb finish and a strike from Matthew Pennington had given Paul Hurst’s men the advantage, offering real hope that the winless run was about to end.
They hadn’t blown their hosts away, that’s for sure, with Garry Monk’s side perhaps looking the more threatening throughout the first 45 minutes on balance, but it was an impressive, solid, away performance.
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But, just three minutes into the second period, Lukas Jutkiewicz’s strike gave the home crowd real hope and lifted the atmosphere inside St Andrew’s.
It changed the game.
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The striker’s second, following a scramble from a Birmingham corner, left you worried whether the Blues could even escape with a point, especially after Matthew Pennington was shown a second yellow card.
They ultimately did following 20 minutes of sustained home pressure, while the introduction of Freddie Sears ensured the Blues maintained an attacking presence
But, from 2-0 up at the break, this has to feel like two points dropped and a massive opportunity missed.
An old problem rears its ugly head
In recent weeks Hurst’s side had been much more solid from set pieces, having previously conceded seven of their first nine goals from free-kicks or corners.
But Jota’s whipped deliveries were a threat all afternoon, as the defensive trio of Michael Morrison, Harlee Dean and Kristian Pedersen all went forward and caused problems alongside big striker Jutkiewicz.
Toto Nsiala and Trevoh Chalobah were the notable Ipswich players who cleared well from set-pieces throughout the afternoon, with the Blues often scrambling to clear the ball from danger but just about dealing with the threat. But it felt like only a matter of time before they would be made to pay.
It looked for all the world as if Morrison had equalised Nolan’s opener when he towered above Luke Chambers to head past Gerken, only for Jonas Knudsen to fly in and superbly clear the ball off the line. He had no right to make that clearance and the Blues were living dangerously.
Jutkiewicz’s second goal came from a corner which the Blues could not clear as Dean Gerken failed to get a convincing punch as the ball came out of the sun. Multiple defenders were attracted to the same ball, Chambers and then Chalobah made last-ditch clearances before the striker could slam home.
From then on every Jota delivery threatened, with the visitors ultimately managing to navigate them and escape with a point.
The biggest positive of all would have been for the Blues to convert their half-time advantage into three points. It didn’t happen.
However, there were some positives to take from the game at St Andrew’s.
The Blues drew their sixth game of the season, they’re unbeaten in three and scored two goals away from home to take a point on the road for the first time under Hurst.
They’ve moved up a place in the Championship table, to 22nd, and are not cut adrift from the pack despite going 10 games without a win.
Nolan’s first goal for the Blues was a superb finish and saw the midfielder do something his manager highlighted from day one as a key part of how he wants his sides to play, as he arrived in the box late.
Neither he or the rest of the Ipswich midfield have done that anywhere near enough during the opening weeks of the season and must do on a more consistent basis if they are to support the lone striker.
Hurst will be the first to insist these are things not to get overly excited about as they still search for a maiden three points, with big games against Middlesbrough and Swansea to come before the international break.
But progress is progress.
It was a mixed afternoon for Dean Gerken as he made his 100th Ipswich Town appearance.
On the one hand he made three hugely impressive saves to keep the hosts out, including one in the final minutes as he stuck out a hand to push Che Adams’ late effort away.
But on the other his unconvincing punch from Jota’s free-kick allowed Jutkiewicz to ultimately bundle the ball home for the Birmingham equaliser.
Hurst revealed post-match that his goalkeeper had struggled with the sun for the second Birmingham goal but, even taking that into consideration he would expect to do better.
To lose Ellis Harrison for two months in the same week Jon Walters was ruled out for six with an achilles injury is a major blow to Hurst. He could be forgiven for thinking fate is against him at this moment.
Harrison has suffered an ankle ligament problem in training and that, coupled with the loss of Walters, means Hurst is now without his two physical forwards.
Kayden Jackson and Freddie Sears are both of a different mould, meaning Hurst will now have to look to the free agent market to bolster is striking department.
The cupboard is bare in that respect, with former Blue Darren Bent, Victor Anichebe and Gabby Agbonlahor some of the more notable names there.
Ben Morris is on loan at Forest Green, Aaron Drinan is in the National League with Sutton United and Ben Folami is now with a young Australia side for the next month.
Jordan Roberts is a potential option, given he played as a central striker for Crawley last season and has done so for the Ipswich Under 23s this season.