Insipid Town walloped

THE song says the only way is up and so does the under-pressure Ipswich boss Joe Royle. If only that was true.Hopefully, rock bottom was reached at The Hawthorns when insipid Ipswich were walloped by a West Bromwich Albion side who admit they cannot quite understand why they are top.

THE song says the only way is up and so does the under-pressure Ipswich boss Joe Royle. If only that was true.

Hopefully, rock bottom was reached at The Hawthorns when insipid Ipswich were walloped by a West Bromwich Albion side who admit they cannot quite understand why they are top.

Their form of late has not been reflected in results, which are six wins from six games, five in the league, to leave them top.

Frighteningly, they claim they can play even better than they did in beating Ipswich with goals from, inevitably Thomas Gaardsoe, two from Rob Hulse, who could have had a hat-trick, and an own goal from hapless Drissa Diallo.

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Unfortunately, the Blues form of late has been reflected in the results and only the most Campbellesque spin-doctor would suggest Town are not where they deserve to be, on the way they have performed.

If things carry on the way they are relegation is not only a possibility – it is a certainty.

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At one time or another, manager Joe Royle has blamed the defence, or attack, or midfield. He yesterday omitted the midfield from criticism and pointed directly at shoddy defending,and poor finishing. Why the midfield were excused I don't know.

Apart from debutant Alan Mahon, who tried to take players on and show quick feet in trying to pass and looked good with his left-footed set pieces, Town were lack-lustre in the middle.

Royle has often criticised his forwards for thinking defending was not part of their contract – and it doesn't look as if a clause has been put in the two new boys' deals, either.

Certainly, Mahon did little by way of offering teenager Matt Richards any cover. Nor did anyone else, as the left back was left hopelessly exposed and was roasted by wing-back Bernt Haas.

Chris Bart-Williams has only a month to settle in and certainly did not add much to an already struggling midfield, as James O'Connor was allowed to spray passes, Sean Gregan controlled the middle and Jason Koumas was an effective play-maker and deadly from set pieces.

The on-loan Charlton midfielder just about got some passing together later in the game which by then was lost but even then he often played the ball to a striped shirt. He was a decent player in his time but will Town have time to see if he still is? There is an argument for keeping the money and playing one of their own youngsters, Antonio Murray or Matt Bloomfield.

Yes, it is tricky because this is a struggling side, but their enthusiasm and ability would be more use than some tired-looking half-hearted passing, which was shown too often by Bart-Williams.

Skipper Jim Magilton was the base of everything in Town's midfield but neither he nor Jermaine Wright could provide any penetrating balls for the forwards and were outplayed and out-manoeuvred by Gary Megson's well-oiled 3-5-2 pattern.

Royle chose to stick to his preferred 4-4-2 and it did not work. If he considered mirroring Albion and getting more into the midfield and providing width, he never did it and Albion stretched and pulled Town at will.

Pablo Counago, in particular, was marked out of the game and even when he showed a bit of life late in the first half, he was not convincing and it was no surprise to see him replaced by Darren Bent at half-time.

Alun Armstrong struggled to cope all afternoon and went off with a dead leg, which meant Georges Santos, who was given the most hostile of receptions by the home support after his well-documented skirmish with the popular Andy Johnson, went into the back line and Richard Naylor went up front.

Naylor had already scored Town's consolation goal, a terrific leap and header from another well delivered Mahon corner and battled hard against an uncompromising Baggies defence.

The brick wall was superbly marshalled by Gaardsoe, who rose to a Koumas corner in the 11th minute to head in a powerful goal.

He had slipped his marker, Diallo, who was blocked by Larus Sigurdsson, and Bart-Williams failed to react, allowing Gaardsoe time and space to place the header.

At the next corner, Diallo grappled the Dane to the ground but he still managed to hit an overhead volley which crashed against the crossbar.

Former Crewe man Rob Hulse, who Ipswich once considered buying, grabbed the second when he reacted quickest to Kelvin Davis 'dropping a dolly' as Royle put it after he failed to hold a Koumas free-kick.

Hulse flicked in a Koumas corner for Albion's third and his sixth of the season and should have completed his hat-trick when he beat the offside trap but his touch allowed Davis to make a save at his feet.

Diallo compounded a miserable afternoon by heading in a Neil Clement cross past his own keeper, with Scott Dobie pressurising.

Town will be all the better for a Darren Bent goal, which is sure to come, and he will not have believed his bad luck after Swiss defender Haas twice cleared off the line from his shots in quick succession.

There were times when Ipswich showed flashes of class but, and far from the long ball game some people are saying Town are deploying, the passing was pretty but totally ineffective. They had no thrust, no drive and no one who really looked as if they could make the difference.

And to start going up, better performances individually and as a team are required and some inspiration is needed – or the only way will be down.

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