Ipswich Town talking points – Toxic atmosphere, the Douglas debate and relegation picture

David McGoldrick goes for a spectacular overhead kick but was beaten to the ball by Paul Robinson du

David McGoldrick goes for a spectacular overhead kick but was beaten to the ball by Paul Robinson during the first half of the Ipswich Town v Birmingham City (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 01 April 2017. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Grant Ward’s fluke equaliser – a 72nd minute cross that sailed into the net – cancelled out Jonathan Grounds’ rebound finish (48) as Ipswich Town drew 1-1 with Birmingham City at Portman Road on Saturday.

Grant Ward (18) is congratulated by teammates Dominic Samuel (left) and Jonas Knudsen after scoring

Grant Ward (18) is congratulated by teammates Dominic Samuel (left) and Jonas Knudsen after scoring to level the scores at 1-1-in the Ipswich Town v Birmingham City (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 01 April 2017. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

‘No lose game’

This writer expressed his concerned pre-match that a fear of defeat would be the controlling emotion and such pessimism, unfortunately, proved founded.

Both sets of players looked desperately short of confidence. It was edgy and error-strewn throughout.

Instead of seeing this as a ‘must-win’ game, both managers felt it was more a ‘no-lose’ scenario. They said so afterwards and both expressed their satisfaction at a draw (Town’s ninth in 12).

Birmingham City keeper Tomasz Kuszczak can only watch as Grant Ward's effort rivals into the back of

Birmingham City keeper Tomasz Kuszczak can only watch as Grant Ward's effort rivals into the back of the net to level the score at 1-1 in the Ipswich Town v Birmingham City (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 01 April 2017. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

On walking off with his arm around Birmingham City counterpart Gianfranco Zola, Blues boss Mick McCarthy added: “I told him ‘this will make a lovely picture, two beleaguered managers together, come on let’s smile for the cameras’.”

Mick doesn’t help himself

Town’s 15th successive season in the Championship has been overwhelmingly disappointing – both in terms of results, a lack of entertainment and a lack of spending in the January transfer window.

The club’s announcement to increase season ticket prices only served to add heat to the bubbling pot of discontent and McCarthy, sensibly, urged supporters to leave all their frustrations at the turnstile and really get behind his players for a crunch game.

Cole Skuse is helped up after taking a knock late on in the first first half of the Ipswich Town v B

Cole Skuse is helped up after taking a knock late on in the first first half of the Ipswich Town v Birmingham City (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 01 April 2017. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

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So what does he then do? Pick a team that he knows full well will go down like a lead balloon. The decision to recall veteran midfielder Jonathan Douglas to the starting line-up for the first time since that ignominious FA Cup defeat at Lincoln was interpreted by many as some kind of two-fingered gesture.

McCarthy and the players have got it so wrong when they criticise fans for ‘hating’ Douglas. They don’t boo him personally (and I didn’t see or hear any kind of reaction that goes anywhere near to warranting McCarthy’s use of the word ‘disgrace’), but are rather voicing their frustration at what his inclusion represents.

McCarthy’s default setting is to pack his team with ‘proper blokes’ and battlers. He doesn’t fully trust in youth and creativity – not in central midfield anyway.

What were the other options?

Grant Ward celebrates his goal for the home side to level the score at 1-1 in the Ipswich Town v Bir

Grant Ward celebrates his goal for the home side to level the score at 1-1 in the Ipswich Town v Birmingham City (Sky Bet Championship) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 01 April 2017. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Tom Lawrence is injured, Emyr Huws wasn’t fully fit, Jonny Williams was ill, while Kevin Bru had only just got back from international duty with Mauritius. Fair enough.

Why was Toumani Diagouraga – whose forward-passing made such an impact in that positive spell at the start of February – left as an unused sub though?

Youngsters Andre Dozzell, Adam McDonnell and James Blanchfield aren’t in the picture either, while Kundai Benyu continues to shine on loan at National League side Aldershot.

It’s turning toxic

When the Blues went behind a significant number of fans, primarily in the North Stand, went through a full rendition of angry chants.

It started with ‘Mick McCarthy, your football is ****’, continued with ‘Marcus Evans, you’re killing our club’ and ended with ‘we want our Ipswich back’.

Grant Ward’s fluke equaliser kept a lid on it, but the full-time whistle was still met with boos.

Town supporters are among the most patient and fair in the country, but they’ve had enough.

Relegation picture

Thankfully, results elsewhere were pretty kind. Out of the seven teams battling to avoid finishing 22nd, only two managed to win – Burton courtesy of a 96th minute goal at Huddersfield, while Wolves beat Cardiff 3-1 at home.

Town are averaging less than a point-per-game (12 from the last 13 games). Keep that up and they should limp over the line.

With games against Wigan (home), Burton, Rotherham and Nottingham Forest (all away) they are the masters of their own destiny or downfall with the club’s 60-year stay in the top two divisions on the line.

Up next

Wigan, at Portman Road, tomorrow night (7.45pm ko).

The Latics are now seven points adrift of safety and look doomed, but they made league-leaders Newcastle sweat during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at St James Park – interim manager Graham Barrow’s first game in charge.

Nothing but a win will prevent the fractious and nervy mood from gathering pace.