Andy's Angles: Six observations from Ipswich Town's Colchester draw
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Ipswich Town drew 3-3 with Colchester United last night. Andy Warren gives his thoughts on the pre-season friendly.
We’re being treated to an excellent set of pre-season games this summer.
So often we’ve seen friendly games struggle to capture the imagination, played at a snail’s pace and lacking any kind of intensity. But that’s not the case this year.
The return of supporters after a miserable year of behind-closed-doors football is undoubtedly the main reason behind the high energy football we’re seeing, with players rising to the unusually loud pre-season atmosphere.
The positive energy around Ipswich Town right now - nicely summed up by the roar which went up when CEO Mark Ashton approached the away end before kick-off and the reception given to new signings George Edmundson and Conor Chaplin - is certainly fuelling things on the pitch too.
We saw it at Dartford, we saw it against Crystal Palace and we certainly saw it against Colchester in this game, which of course had the added spice of the heavy Ipswich presence in the U’s side.
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Six goals, teams attacking to the end and a few crunching tackles made this a thoroughly watchable game of football which further whets the appetite for the real stuff beginning.
Can every summer be like this?
Off the mark
Joe Pigott and Macauley Bonne both opened their summer accounts in this game, with what will hopefully be the first of many for the pair in Ipswich shirts.
The duo combined for Pigott’s opener, which saw the former Wimbledon man thump home following Bonne’s cut-back, before the latter angled home a nice header from Scott Fraser’s cross to chalk up Town’s second of the night.
Bonne played on the shoulder of the Colchester defence, tussling with former Ipswich captain Luke Chambers for much of the game, while Pigott dropped a little deeper at times and looked to link play.
Pigott looks to be a very likely starter when the competitive action begins, with Bonne and James Norwood appearing to be fighting it out to join him should Paul Cook opt to play with a second striker.
But with Scott Fraser keen to play most of his football as a No.10 and new recruit Conor Chaplin in the building and likely to be heavily involved from wide areas, it’s really tough to call what the Town boss will do.
It’s a good problem to have.
Another player firmly in the mix in the attacking conversation has to be youngster Armando Dobra.
Coach Francis Jeffers described the Albanian’s performance as ‘special’ after the game and he was undoubtedly the most exciting player on the pitch for long spells of this contest.
He’s positive in what he does, can take clever touches to make space for himself and always looks to run at his man, favouring the driving runs towards the box. It was one of these which saw him win the free-kick which provided Wes Burns’ equaliser late on.
Still only 20, Dobra is also learning how to handle his emotions during games, a skill he needed to show in this one given the referee’s unwillingness to blow his whistle as he was bumped around the pitch by Colchester players who didn’t want to give him the opportunity to get on the ball in dangerous areas. He handled the situation well.
He’s going to have a tough job on his hands to secure regular football this season but he’s more than putting his hand up this summer and is certainly up for the fight.
Work to do
The signs have been promising but things certainly aren’t perfect with one game to go before the start of the season.
Town’s big struggle in this game came from set-pieces, with Tommy Smith given far too much space to head home Colchester’s first equaliser before Frank Nouble was left ridiculously unmarked to beat Tomas Holy to the punch for their second.
Alan Judge’s delivery was excellent, it has to be said, causing trouble on further occasions, but it’s something Town simply must work on.
The signing of Edmundson will surely help in this regard. It remains to be seen who will partner him.
If there’s a time to make mistakes and iron out issues, it’s pre-season.
This was another tough evening for Ipswich Town goalkeeper Tomas Holy at the home of Colchester United.
The Town keeper’s only competitive visit with the Blues ended with him being lobbed from the halfway line by Ryan Clampin, in a 1-0 EFL Trophy loss back in 2019, and this game had similarly tough moments.
There were question marks over his handling of balls into his box, particularly Colchester’s second as Nouble simply beat him to the punch to head home, while his kicking decisions were questionable at times.
But Colchester’s third goal is not one he will look back on fondly at all. A long ball forward from his opposite number ‘Trialist F’ (Taye Ashby-Hammond) forced him to the edge of his box, where he cleared the ball vertically above his head, forcing him to use his upper body to move the ball towards the safety of the touchline. It didn’t make it, though, with former team-mate Alan Judge firing back a pinpoint shot from 40 yards which beat Corrie Ndaba on the line.
Holy’s night had started so well, with a rousing reception from the Ipswich fans for a man who has always enjoyed an excellent relationship with supporters, before some good moments coming off his line to collect through balls before things got that bit tougher.
We already knew the Czech is firmly second-choice behind fellow countryman Vaclav Hladky, with this display surely not helping his cause.
Seven former Blues started this game for Colchester, while Cole Skuse came off the bench in the second half to make it eight, on a night when the past, present and future of Ipswich Town all collided.
Much of the focus fell on Luke Chambers, the former skipper and top-10 appearance maker who has moved south down the A12 this summer, and has already proved himself to be one of Colchester’s leading men this summer.
The respect between the remaining Ipswich players towards their former skipper was clear for all to see as they embraced when coming out to warm up, with Chambers also making a point of speaking to many of Town’s new signings. The veteran was given an excellent reception by the 1,500 traveling supporters before, during and after a game in which he performed well.
There were calls for a trademark fist pump at full-time, with the former skipper resisting the temptation before leaving the field to applause, warm embraces and a brief handshake with Cook.
Skuse too was given a good reception when warming up and entering the field, as was Tommy Smith, but the top performing ex-Blue was undoubtedly Judge.
His goal was the icing on the cake, with the Irishman sweeping past Holy from range, but he ran the show for the hosts from the No.10 position and delivered a succession of dangerous balls from set-pieces, two of which led to goals.
The minds of Ipswich supporters will undoubtedly and rightly move on to the new generation at Portman Road, but this felt like a nice nod to the past as Chambers and Skuse received a portion of the reception they deserved when they ended their long Town careers in front of silent stands against Fleetwood back in May.
The two teams meet again in the EFL Trophy in November.