Goals, entertainment, game-time for kids – Ipswich Town have ticked plenty of boxes at start of new season
Ipswich Town have won six and lost four of their opening 10 Championship games. STUART WATSON looks at the pros and cons of the season so far.
Only Hull City (22) have scored more Championship goals than Ipswich Town (20) so far, and you have to bear in mind the Blues have played one game less than most other teams.
Summer signings Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn and Bersant Celina have added some much needed potency to a side that averaged little more than a goal a game during a drab 2016/17 campaign. Having David McGoldrick fit and firing again has also made a huge difference.
The Blues scored four at Millwall and put five past Sunderland. Such scorelines had previously seemed unthinkable.
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To put things into context, it took the Blues until December 17 – that’s 22 league games – to reach that tally last season. And remember four of those goals had come in the opening day 4-2 win against Barnsley. There was that horrible run of five blanks in a row during September/October.
You can’t envisage that sort of dry spell happening again. Town have failed to score just once in 17/18 (the 2-0 home defeat to Fulham). It’s meant that even when not playing great they stand a chance – as shown when they almost snatched an unlikely point at QPR.
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Balanced and bold
Mick McCarthy has picked bolder and more balanced line-ups.
There’s been less talk about how great the opposition is in the build and less evidence of matching up formations. Instead, the Blues boss and his players have spoken about ‘stamping their authority’ on matches and ‘concentrating on what we do’.
Two proper full-backs is refreshing after years of Luke Chambers playing out of position at right-back. Tom Adeyemi and Cole Skuse looks a far more balanced midfield, while there’s still Emyr Huws and Teddy Bishop to come into the equation. The shackles seem to have been loosened on whoever the front four are.
It’s brought some much-needed entertainment value back to Portman Road.
On the flip side of that, 16 goals have been conceded. Only Nottingham Forest (13th), Hull (17th) and the bottom four have let in more.
Perhaps it’s inevitable when you play more open and attractive football. Plus some of the goals shipped have been bad luck (take Bristol City’s two heavily deflected strikes). However, many have undoubtedly been avoidable.
Town backed off at QPR, one straight ball through the middle undid them at Leeds, while they conceded at a corner against Sunderland. There are further examples.
Jordan Spence has filled in admirably at the heart of an injury-hit defence, but the Blues will be better for having senior centre-backs Adam Webster and Tommy Smith fit again.
Tougher tests ahead?
You can’t ignore where the teams Town have beaten are in the table – Millwall (14th), Barnsley (18th), Brentford (19th), Birmingham (22nd), Sunderland (23rd) and Bolton (24th). They’ve come up short against Fulham (10th), QPR (16th), Leeds (5th) and Bristol City (4th). Then again, one of their most impressive halves of football was at Elland Road.
October looks a tough month on paper, with a trip to third-place Sheffield United followed by the visit of rivals Norwich City, a side starting to find form under new German boss Daniel Farke.
Then it’s a Saturday-Tuesday away double header against Burton (21st) and Neil Warnock’s rejuvenated Cardiff (1st) respectively.
Town are finding ways to beat sides out-of-form, something they struggled to do last season. It remains to be seen if they can edge games against the leading lights. This ever-unpredictable league does look more open than ever before.
Kids are alright
Andre Dozzell started the opener and impressed before a cruciate knee injury cruelly ended his season before it had even started.
Fellow academy midfield graduates Flynn Downes (18) and Tristan Nydam (17) have subsequently taken their chances with both hands, adding some youthful fearlessness and exuberance to the side.
Blues fans certainly love ‘one of our own’ and it’s great to see the Playford Road production line working again.
The youngest team in the club’s history produced a performance to be proud of at Crystal Palace in the second round of the Carabao Cup, pushing their Premier League hosts all the way in a 2-1 defeat. It’s another big tick in one of the boxes of things we all wanted to see this season.