Andy's Angles: Five observations from Ipswich Town's 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic
PUBLISHED: 18:55 15 December 2018 | UPDATED: 19:37 15 December 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Andy Warren gives his observations following Ipswich Town's hard-fought 1-0 victory at Portman Road this afternoon.
Welcome to the grind house
To say this was not pretty would be an understatement.
Played in swirling wind and with the added excitement of rain in the second half, conditions made this a near-impossible environment to play in.
Ipswich were not at their best, either, and it took a deflected, scruffy, goal to win it. Those of a Blue persuasion won’t care one bit.
They have played significantly better than this and lost under Paul Lambert’s management and the slice of luck which brought about the winning goal feels as if it’s long overdue.
There was a gasp for air when the fourth official signalled for seven minutes of added time at the end of the second period, with the Blues already living dangerously prior to that.
But they just about survived, despite giving away a string of dubious free-kicks on the edge of their own penalty area, to bring joyous scenes at the final whistle.
This was just the third home win of a miserable 2018 at Portman Road, the Blues first clean sheet since September, the first time they have won without conceding in 23 games.
It was the first time Luke Chambers’ famous fist pumps have been unleashed on the North Stand since January, given the skipper missed April’s victory over Barnsley due to injury.
We’re going to have to see them plenty more times between now and the end of the season if the Blues are to get themselves out of trouble, but this was a very welcome sight indeed.
Oh Freddie, Freddie (again)
It’s five goals in seven games now for the rejuvenated forward, as he turned well and struck towards goal before his effort deflected into the back of the net.
It was the perfect way to celebrate his contract being extended until the summer of 2020 on Thursday, with the 29-year-old’s future now secured.
It was also fitting it was Sears, a player given a new lease of life following Lambert’s arrival, who got the much-anticipated first victory under the Scot’s management.
It’s stating the obvious to say Ipswich are lacking an attacking focal point and this victory did nothing to hide that fact.
Jordan Roberts performed that role admirably in the draws with Preston and Reading but has found the going harder ever since.
He played well enough in this encounter, but his best work came in wide positions. His teasing balls into the box were wasted, given the lack of sizeable players to get on the end of them.
The former Crawley man found it hard to make the ball stick with his feet and had little joy in the air against giant central defender Dan Burn, save one flick-on which set Freddie Sears through.
Ellis Harrison, back in contention after an ankle injury, didn’t make the bench in this encounter. Though it’s unrealistic to expect the former Bristol Rovers to come in and change the fortunes of his struggling side, you have to feel his natural striking tendencies could give the Blues something extra.
Town’s star man
Has Matthew Pennington been Ipswich Town’s most effective summer signing?
He was excellent again this afternoon, winning every header and playing with a calmness at the back despite things becoming ragged as time ticked on.
His movement is good, he’s comfortable on the ball and he has a way of beating players in the air by getting his body in the right position, just as former Ipswich defender Tommy Smith used to.
Midfielder Jon Nolan insisted Ipswich have yet to see anywhere near his best, following his move from Shrewsbury, and this display was another step in the right direction.
Given a second-successive start, Nolan was neat and tidy in midfield as he moved the ball well and looked to link play whenever possible. Sadly, as was the case during his first run in the team at the start of the season under Paul Hurst, the Blues lacked a focal point to make Nolan’s good work stick.
He was a calm head when Ipswich needed it as they looked to see the game out and combined well with Andre Dozzell once the youngster was introduced.
Nolan could still take the game by the scruff of the neck a little more, but the signs were good. He is under pressure to perform, though, with both Dozzell and Teddy Bishop waiting in the wings.
Bridging the gap
At one stage during the afternoon, with Ipswich still toiling at 0-0, the gap to safety had risen to as many as nine points due to results elsewhere.
But, so quickly things change in the Championship, the gap is now five.
Ipswich will know they can’t rely on results elsewhere and will have to do it themselves if they are to dig themselves out of what remains a precarious position. But this result should bring real belief to a side who have regularly insisted they are sure they will get their heads above water by season’s end.
Sheffield United visit next weekend and, unlike when QPR came to Portman Road on the back of Town’s victory at Swansea in October, they have to make it count.