Winners and Losers: Making a point, feeling threatened and a broken record
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Ipswich Town drew 2-2 with Cambridge United on Saturday. Andy Warren looks at the winners and losers from another weekend of action.
The obvious winner this weekend was Sone Aluko.
When he left the game on 68 minutes, he must surely have felt his two goals were going to be enough to serve up a victory for his side, given how comfortable Ipswich were for long spells of the game.
And you have to feel the Blues would have seen this one out with ease, had they been able to make it to the break with their clean sheet intact in the wake of the winger’s brace. They didn’t, of course.
Aluko took his first goal excellently, maintaining composure to lob home after Cambridge keeper Dimitar Mitov had slipped as he rushed out to meet the on-running Town man. Yes, the keeper’s misfortune made Aluko’s job easier, but he still needed to keep his cool and not slash at the ball. He did it well.
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Slash at the ball is exactly what was required of him for his second, as he bundled home Scott Fraser’s corner. His contribution away from the goals was positive, too, with some neat touches, clever movement and hard work.
Food for thought for manager Paul Cook at a time when Bersant Celina and Kyle Edwards were both sat on the bench.
The Town boss has options galore for the three attacking midfield positions behind Macauley Bonne.
But which three are the best combination? It doesn’t feel like we’re very close to knowing the answer to that question.
Making a mark
With Lee Evans absent as his wife gave birth, Cook needed to make a change to his engine room.
So for Idris El Mizouni to get the nod ahead of Rekeem Harper showed just how well the youngster has done to force his way into Cook’s thinking of late.
It’s probably safe to say the one-cap Tunisian international wasn’t a piece of the jigsaw the Town boss had anticipated using, as the Ipswich squad was built from the ground up during the busiest of summers. But he’s impressed whenever he’s taken to the field and deserves his chance in the absence of Evans, Tom Carroll and Jon Nolan.
El Mizouni had an up-and-down afternoon, like many of the Ipswich players, but he certainly doesn’t look out of place.
There was absolutely no need for Ipswich to move away from their blue shirts, white shorts colour scheme for this game.
Cambridge wear yellow and black shirts with black shorts, yet Town still switched things up to go with their ‘clash’ option of all blue in the shirt, shorts and socks department.
Town played the entire season in all-blue a year ago, as part of the UEFA Cup anniversary celebrations. But while the return to white shorts this season was a welcome one and the switch in this game unnecessary, it did look good as a one off.
Vaclav Hladky’s pink goalkeeping kit looked good, too.
The first-team may have let their lead slip away this weekend, but Town’s Under 18s did the business in their Professional Development League Cup clash with Peterborough.
Ash Boatswain scored all three goals for the young Blues,
It’s pretty clear Ipswich boss Paul Cook has not yet landed on a preferred starting XI.
Maybe that’s a good thing, given the depth available to the Town boss and the constant competition for places which could potentially drive the Ipswich players to produce their best.
Maybe by this stage he might have wanted a few more players to nail down positions.
Either way, there are a few players who may be looking over their shoulders a little after this game.
Hladky has done well to steady himself after coming back into the side in the wake of Christian Walton’s hip injury. But with the Brighton loanee heading back into the fold and Hladky having a tough second half in this game, as he looked shaky under high balls into the box, it may just be Cook will want to get his former Wigan keeper back in the side.
Cameron Burgess had a few issues in this game, too, losing headers in the build-up to both Cambridge goals and having a few difficulties with big forward Joe Ironside. Toto Nsiala is waiting in the wings here, following a good display in the EFL Trophy win at Gillingham – it's clear Cook likes the former Shrewsbury man.
Then there’s Scott Fraser. Nobody who plays in the attacking midfield roles behind Macauley Bonne can get too comfortable, given the strength of competition there. But with Celina and Edwards both on the outside looking in at the Abbey Stadium, Fraser may just be the man in the danger zone.
We’ll find out at Portsmouth tomorrow night.
We all know Ipswich’s start to the season hasn’t been what any of us hoped for, given an extremely positive summer.
But two little stats highlight how tough things have been.
A draw at Cambridge means Ipswich have now faced all four newly-promoted sides this season, losing at home to Bolton and away at Cheltenham and sharing 2-2 draws with the U’s and Morecambe. Two points from 12 against sides playing in League Two last season isn’t enough.
Cook’s men still only have three wins to their name this season (Lincoln, Shrewsbury, Doncaster). All of those sides are in the bottom half of the league table, with Lincoln 13th, Shrewsbury 21st and Doncaster rock bottom. That’s an average position of 19th.
That’s a little daunting, given Ipswich now embark on a run of games which includes clashes with promotion chasers such as Portsmouth, Sunderland, Wycombe and Plymouth.
Cambridge attacker Jack Lankester will be disappointed to have missed out on a game against his former club this weekend.
The youngster, allowed to depart in the summer, has had a tough start to life at his new home, with injury restricting him to just a single start in the league. It kept him out of this one, too.
And while he will have been delighted to see his new side grab a late leveller against the club he grew up at, he will no doubt have been gutted not to have been involved himself.
He’ll have his sights set on the game between the teams at Portman Road in April.