Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s goalless home draw with Bolton
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town played out a goalless home draw with Bolton Wanderers today. STUART WATSON gives his snap verdict.
Another home draw. The fifth in a row. Town may remain undefeated at Portman Road, but if the 10-man stalemate against Aston Villa felt like a win then this goalless affair against 10-man Bolton very much felt like a defeat.
Before a ball was kicked, this already had seemed like a major opportunity. Bolton’s good start had stalled and they came into this game having claimed one point from their previous four. They’d had one less day of rest too, having travelled back from Middlesbrough on Wednesday night before facing the long journey down to Suffolk.
Yes, after a gutsy second half display in Tuesday night’s comeback draw against Brentford, this felt like it could be ‘the game’ which really kick-started the new era.
Then, in the 41st minute, the Trotters were reduced to 10 men when centre-back Marc Wilson was shown his marching orders for preventing Kayden Jackson racing clear. Now it definitely felt like ‘the game’.
The Blues weren’t able to make all their advantages count though. Phil Parkinson’s men parked two organised banks of four behind the ball. You see this scenario time and time again in football. Town, sadly, lacked the tempo, confidence and quality to break them down. And I’d put the greatest emphasis on the word ‘confidence’ there.
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The longer this wait for a win goes on, the more it’s becoming a mental block.
No goal threat
Never in this match did you ever really sense Town would score.
For the 44 minutes of the game when it was 11 v 10, the Blues failed to muster a single shot on target from open play.
Kayden Jackson looked lively enough in the first half, but once Bolton sat deep then his weaponry – pace – became blunted. There was no space to run in behind.
The emphasis then became on using the extra man in midfield to drag people out of position and open the gaps. That didn’t happen enough. No-one seemed to want to really lead by example by constantly demanding the ball and dictating the tempo.
There were moments when Cole Skuse strode out from deep. There were moments Jon Nolan got into some good positions. There were moments of neat interchange. Ultimately, however, it all fell flat at the vital moment. The final shot, cross or pass lacking is becoming a recurring theme.
When Town did finally test the keeper, in the 86th minute, Ben Alnwick produced a wonder save to keep out Luke Chambers’ glancing header from a Jordan Graham free-kick. The only other shot on target was a tame Grant Ward free-kick which went straight into the keeper’s arms.
Luck not on Town’s side? You have to make your own luck in this game.
Jon Walters missed the midweek game against Brentford with an Achilles problem and had been rated as a major doubt for this one.
He declared himself fit and was named on the bench. Hurst, sensing the crowd and his team needed a lift, elected to bring him on in the 71st minute.
The Irishman – who turned 35 this week – sadly lasted just seven minutes before pulling up sharply when chasing a ball into the box. The fear was that his Achilles had gone. The sight of him being able to hobble back towards the tunnel raised hope it wasn’t too bad. The early prognosis is that it’s a calf issue.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. This was a calculated risk which back-fired.
And with all three subs having been used, it meant the final 15 minutes of this game was 10 v 10.
There was a call for change, a change occurred and, as a result, there has been a fair bit of goodwill and patience shown during this winless start.
You sense that goodwill may be just starting to dissipate slightly though. The honeymoon period is over. Worry is kicking in.
There were a smattering of boos at half-time on Tuesday night. And the noise of that discontent went up a notch ever so slightly at full-time today.
Portman Road is hardly a pressure cooker environment for home players to perform though.
Hurst now has to decide what route to take with his players – tough love or massage the egos? If the mood of the fans is on a knife’s edge, the same may well be said of the players.
Clutching at straws
Town are off the bottom. That’s thanks to a certain David McGoldrick scoring a late winner for Sheffield United against Preston today.
And Town, as previously mentioned, remain undefeated at home (albeit five draws).
This was the first clean sheet of the season too. And Dean Gerken didn’t have a save to make.
The problem is, Ipswich have scored just seven goals in 10 games. They’ve led in games for a grand total of 29 minutes.
The Blues are the only side left in the division yet to record a win after Birmingham secured an unlikely 2-1 victory at Leeds. And it’s St Andrew’s where Town head next...