Sunday Snap: Irish eyes smiling, Bree’s best, the ‘look away now’ moment and a Bishop milestone
PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:00 17 February 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Andy Warren takes a snappy look back at the events and talking points surrounding Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City.
For the third successive game, Alan Judge was the stand-out performer for the Blues.
The Irishman has given Paul Lambert’s men a real boost since his arrival from Brentford on an initial deal until the end of the season.
He wants the ball, uses it well and looks to make things happen. He makes his team-mates better, offering them an option to pass whenever they’re on the ball and drives the side forward.
Judge rattled the bar with a free-kick in this game and also provided the delivery which Will Keane nodded home to equalise.
It’s so refreshing to see the Ipswich midfielders demanding the ball and looking to use it positively, after years of asking for more from the Town engine room.
So good have Judge’s performances been that talk has already turned to whether the Blues can tie him down beyond the end of this campaign. There’s an option in his deal to do just that, which both Lambert and Judge have said is ‘largely’ in the club’s favour.
It’s exciting to think what Judge can do as the focal point of this Ipswich side going forward, especially if the worst happens and the Blues drop into League One.
Under the radar
This was James Bree’s best performance in an Ipswich Town shirt.
The Aston Villa loanee has taken a little while to get up to speed since making the switch to Suffolk on January deadline day but, on this evidence, is a great fit for Lambert’s midfield diamond system.
Though James McClean did find the net you would have to say Bree won the battle with the Republic of Ireland international down his right side and managed to contribute well in the final third as well.
It’s likely Ipswich will be in the market for a right-back once again this summer, with Bree seen as a long-term prospect, but a player with his attributes is exactly what Lambert will be looking for.
Could have done more
Without meaning to pick on striker Collin Quaner, this is the third time in his four Ipswich starts that he has been in this section of the Snap.
That’s probably because he’s arrived with such high expectations and a real hope that his goals could lift Ipswich out of their predicament.
We’ve seen the impact the German can have when he opens his legs to run at opposition defences and threatens from deep, but he hasn’t been able to do that regularly enough.
He didn’t manage a shot on goal against the Potters and lacked the zip of Wednesday night’s draw with Derby, despite being full of running and leading the press.
He looks better playing in a front two with Keane than as a lone striker, but the Blues need to see more from the Huddersfield loanee.
The ‘look away now’ moment
Sadly there’s only one contender for this.
Who was at fault for the calamitous goal, conceded just before the break?
For my money Jonas Knudsen and Bartosz Bialkowski need to take an equal share of the blame on this one.
Knudsen’s header was poor, there’s no getting away from that and a player of his calibre/experience should deal with that situation better, but there are mitigating circumstances.
Did Bialkowski need to come charging out to meet a ball that was bouncing on the penalty spot? I’d say not, with the on-rushing Pole putting doubt in the mind of Knudsen as he spotted his goalkeeper out of the corner of his eye.
Credit to James McClean, too. Both Bialkowski and Knudsen surely expected the winger to come in search of the ball, before changing his run at the last second to nip in behind.
The goal brought groans from all four sides of Portman Road but, thankfully, Keane rescued a late point.
You do have to wonder what might have been had the Blues made it to the break level, though.
Moment you may have missed
Not so much a moment from the game, but a story you may have gone under the radar.
The Blues announced, a little more than an hour before kick-off, that Luke Woolfenden, who was out of contract in the summer, has extended his deal with the club until the summer of 2022. That makes him the club’s longest-contracted player, alongside Jack Lankester.
Tying youngster down to long-term deals has been a real focus for the club in recent weeks and securing Woolfenden’s future is a real boost.
We’ve seen how he can play out from the back and how calm he is on the ball during his brief first-team appearances here, but his loan at Swindon Town this season will teach him some of the dark arts of defending.
Both his Swindon managers this season, Phil Brown and then Richie Wellens, has praised the youngster this season and insisted he is set for better things.
He’ll be back in Suffolk in the summer and you would expect he will be pushing for a starting spot in Lambert’s first-team – he certainly fits the bill.
He is a leading part of a young core, along with the likes of Teddy Bishop, Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and Lankester, who make the prospect of relegation that little bit more palatable.
Whoever made the decision for Stoke to wear blue numbers on a red and white striped shirt needs to be questioned.
You simply can’t read them.
Yesterday’s game was the first time Teddy Bishop has started midweek-Saturday games (or, indeed the other way round) since the end of the 2014/15 season.
He started back-to-back games in November 2016, but those were separated by an international break.
It’s so good to see him back on the field, putting his injury worries behind him and showing what he’s all about with driving runs forward into dangerous territory.
I know I certainly feel slightly anxious when I see him thunder into challenges and am relieved when he gets up unscathed, but the fact he is putting his body on the line in such way proves just what a good place he’s in. Both physically and mentally.
Long may it continue.
Former Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy was back at Portman Road this week for the games with Derby and Stoke.
It would be fascinating to know what he really made of what he saw.
On the pitch he witnessed two 1-1 draws, one impressive performance, one less impressive, a hideous goal conceded and a last gasp equaliser.
All from a team bearing very little resemblance to the one he left behind in April.
But he would also have noticed the atmosphere at Portman Road.
As Paul Lambert has said many times, the situation is ‘not normal’ with players, staff and fans united as one despite the perilous league position.
There may be little chance of saving the Blues’ Championship status with just 13 games to go, but bridges have been built, relationships mended and a feeling of togetherness forged.
Whatever happens beyond the end of this season, that will stand the club in good stead as the rebuild begins.
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