IPSWICH TOWN/POLL: My first five months reporting on the Blues
- Credit: Archant
WITH my track record, I was fearing the worst.
In the nine years prior to beginning my journey with the Blues in January, I had reported on administration with Rotherham United, seen Boston United demoted two divisions in one summer – due to financial problems – and experienced relegation to non-league with Lincoln City.
In the end, the 2012/13 campaign will be looked back on as one where Town famously survived relegation after looking a hopeless case. Indeed, there is no denying Mick McCarthy worked miracles but as far as seasons go for me, everything ran pretty smoothly!
Town were six points clear of the bottom three prior to my first official game as the Star’s Blues reporter but, a recent disappointing home defeat to Brighton aside, seemed to be on the up.
The arrival of Barnsley to Portman Road didn’t exactly strike fear into my heart, especially with the Blues taking 13 points from 18 over the festive period.
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It started well enough with Luke Chambers giving the Blues a lead and just like “New Manager Syndrome”, I thought I would be starting my “tenure” with a win.
But Town hadn’t vouched for the fresh-faced, bright eyed Danny Rose who, at 5ft 8ins, looked more like the visiting mascot than an opposition player. Rose proved size doesn’t matter, stealing a march on the Town back four to nod home a vital equaliser.
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Then, my first away trip loomed and a trip to Bristol City beckoned.
A non-existent Wi-Fi connection, a last-gasp Jon Stead winner and an expletive-fuelled Mick McCarthy post-match rant aside, it was a decent day and the Blues’ sudden defensive deficiencies had certainly given me plenty to write about.
Top-six side Middlesbrough, Kieron Dyer and all, followed but there was the small matter of transfer deadline day to get through before the Teesiders came to Town.
Phone calls, leads, claims, counter-claims, more phone calls. It had it all.
Unfortunately for Town, there was little drama with just Stephen Henderson arriving at the 11th hour, literally, and DJ Campbell, seemingly having priced the Blues out of regaining his services, electing to join the Championship’s most stable club, Blackburn Rovers.
A frustrating 12 hours? Yes. But at least the sports desk was happy. I had never had such a caffeine intake and they were well served throughout the day.
Middlesbrough looked like testing Town’s resolve, but in the end rolled over like a cuddly puppy waiting for some affection, Tommy Smith being given the freedom of Portman Road to power home two headers his manager would have been proud of in a 4-0 romp.
A trip to Ewood Park followed and a meeting with the man who wasn’t considered good enough to play for Town, Jordan Rhodes.
After I’d incurred the wrath of a few Town fans prior to the game for reporting on his post-Suffolk heroics, he didn’t disappoint and his second half goal left manager Michael Appleton as secure as ever in his position under the Venky’s!
The next seven days proved to be an eventful one to say the least with chief executive Simon Clegg abruptly leaving the club and new signing Anthony Wordsworth breaking his back against Blackpool, before, of course, tweeting a picture from the ambulance.
Another sub-plot emerged from the same game when another prolific tweeter, Michael Chopra, took Wordsworth’s place and scored the winning goal.
Hot on the heels of another Twitter faux-pas that did little to boost his popularity with Blues fans, all was good in the world again once Chopra had turned the Tangerines sour.
He couldn’t keep his goalscoring form up in the next game as a classy Watford side left Portman Road with a 2-0 victory but things were looking up ahead of a trip to Huddersield.
As it turned out, the lesser said about the game, the better. The match ended goalless and was 90 minutes of my life I would never get back.
The following week’s game at home to Leicester was not much better but Town managed to put a dent in the Foxes’ top-six aspirations, David McGoldrick grabbing the winner and another forgotten man, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, making a last-minute clearance off the line. Remarkable stuff.
It was truly a dark night at Nottingham the following Tuesday as Forest eked out a 1-0 victory over a nine-man Town team in the mist. But it took a deflection from Lewis McGugan to fend off the Blues, who lost the petulant Lee Martin to sheer stupidity and Richard Stearman, following an attractive swan-dive from Andy Reid.
Things were starting to look a bit nervy for McCarthy’s men, especially given their shocking goal difference, so a chance to gain revenge at Peterborough for that 7-1 defeat, the previous season, was relished.
In the end, Town were desperately unlucky to draw 0-0 with Frank Nouble almost snapping the woodwork in two and goalkeeper Robert Olejnik developing telescopic arms to deny David McGoldrick.
The Blues then took a huge step towards Championship safety with a 3-0 victory over Leeds and a 1-0 win against Bolton, Carlos Edwards grabbing his first goal of the season, with a last-gasp strike, in the latter.
I relished my trip to the New Den on Bank Holiday Monday as I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, considering the Lions’ fans’ fearsome reputation.
The pre-match meal at the nearby chippy ended up being the highlight of the day, before a 0-0 draw,
The aforementioned Edwards then came up trumps with a wonder-strike at Derby just as I was beginning to question my sanity with a sixth away game on the spin without an away goal, looming
Hull then came to Portman Road and took three points before madness struck three days later as Aaron Cresswell’s Josimar-esque rocket (younger readers ask your dad) was sandwiched in between two Frank Nouble strikes as Crystal Palace defeated 3-0.
A trip to Hillsborough followed and Jay Tabb scored in a 1-1 draw, before Ipswich secured their Championship safety with a 3-1 win against a Birmingham side as ropey as their shocking pink shirts, Edwards plundering another stunner.
There was not much to shout about from Town’s final game at Burnley, although an overnight trip means I can now recommend the Holiday Inn Express off junction 10 of the M65, and a lovely little Italian restaurant called Aldo’s.
Unlike myself following a few late-night beers in the hotel bar, Town ended the season running on empty, although youngsters Tyrone Mings and Jack Marriott did give the fans hope.
Others supporters were given McCarthy’s bench jacket, Tabb’s boots and Edwards’ shirt in what proved to be a day of celebration.
The Ipswich Town numbers game (League only)
WINS: 16; DRAWS: 12; DEFEATS: 18; GOALS SCORED: 48; GOALS SCORED BY LOANEES: 24; GOALS CONCEDED: 61; FIRST HALF GOALS SCORED: 22; FIRST HALF GOALS CONCEDED: 21; SECOND HALF GOALS SCORED: 26; SECOND HALF GOALS CONCEDED: 40; AVE TIME OF FIRST GOAL SCORED: 51 MINS; AVE TIME OF FIRST GOAL CONCEDED: 55 MINS; BIGGEST WIN: 4-0; BIGGEST DEFEAT: 6-0 (TWICE); CLEAN SHEETS: 15; MOST APPEARANCES: 46 (AARON CRESSWELL); PLAYERS USED: 39; LOAN PLAYERS: 16; LEAGUE DEBUTS: 24; TOP SCORER: DJ CAMPBELL 10; MOST ASSISTS: CARLOS EDWARDS 5; NATIONALITIES: 9; MICK McCARTHY’S WIN RATE: 48%; PAUL JEWELL’S WIN RATE: 7.6%; YELLOWS: 54 (MOST LEE MARTIN 8); REDS 2 (STEARMAN AND MARTIN)