Winners and Losers: The boss, two commendations, absent friends and remaining winless wonders
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town beat Lincoln City 1-0 this weekend. Andy Warren looks at the winners and losers from a good weekend for the Blues.
You could see the relief in the Ipswich Town boss’s face as he clenched his fists and punched the air at the full-time whistle. This meant a lot.
This win has been a long time coming for the Ipswich boss, with the prolonged wait for victory and the manner in which the Blues have let results slip away raising plenty of questions, despite his excellent CV and previous successes.
Cook has admitted those questions are valid and has no issue with them being asked, but the fact he and his side were able to answer a few of them at Sincil Bank will bring him joy during what has been a tough 10 days for the Town boss.
He lost his father 48 hours prior to his team’s loss to Bolton and continued to maintain a steely focus through that game, the loss to West Ham Under 21s and then into the clash with Lincoln.
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So being able to head home to his family in the North West for the first time since they suffered a loss, which has naturally hit Cook hard, with three points in his pocket, will offer some comfort at a difficult time.
The case for the defence
The Blues’ backline shipped five goals at home just a week ago.
So this turnaround, resulting in a hard-fought clean-sheet, is hugely impressive.
There were changes of course, as Vaclav Hladky and Janoi Donacien replaced Christian Walton and Kane Vincent-Young, but they functioned superbly as a unit and appeared to all know their jobs.
This was a display packed with blocks, headers and clearances, as well as structure, solid positioning and a heavy dose of team work.
George Edmundson and Cameron Burgess looked completely different players to the men who crumbled in the second half of the 5-2 loss to Bolton while Luke Woolfenden, replacing the also excellent Hayden Coulson when he limped off injured, continued the theme as he joined the party in the second period.
Much has been made of Town’s attacking options, but their defensive ones are just as important as Cook’s men bid for promotion.
Defences win championships, the old saying goes.
A couple of members of Town’s backline deserve special mention. We’ll start with Hladky.
He started the season as No.1 but a difficult start to the season and the arrival of Walton looked to have combined to condemn the Czech stopper to the bench. But an injury to Walton on Friday changed the game.
All of a sudden, Hladky was in but you had to fear where the goalkeeper was at given the double blow he had suffered in the recent past.
We needn’t have worried.
He responded superbly, looking calm and composed in everything he did, overseeing a backline which bent on a few occasions but never really looked like breaking.
Will he keep his place when Walton returns? He has a chance.
Highly commended part two
I’ll never stop marvelling at just how bizarre Janoi Donacien’s Ipswich Town career continues to be.
Signed on loan from Accrington by Paul Hurst but immediately frozen out following Paul Lambert’s arrival, then being loaned back to Accrington just a matter of hours after his move became permanent in January 2019. Then Lambert brought him back into the fold, seemingly grudgingly, before freezing and then loaning him out again. This time to Fleetwood.
And this all happened without him really letting his side down when he was allowed on the field. He’s as humble as they come and is easy to root for.
Only one member of this Ipswich Town XI was at the club last season – you would have found very long odds on that man being Donacien, as player after player departed Portman Road during a hectic summer. Yet here he is, one of the last men standing.
We know he isn’t a marauding full-back. We accept that. But he is a very good one-on-one defender at this level and he showed it once again in this game, keeping Anthony Scully at bay at a time when he already had nine goals to his name this season. He also got his head on the end of some dangerous balls into the box.
At a time when Ipswich have been leaving dangerous gaps in behind their full-backs, Donacien might be exactly what Town need right now.
So much talk of the Ipswich Town defence means we’re only now getting round to discussing the Blues’ match-winner.
Macauley Bonne’s thumping header was the difference in the end, moving the striker onto five for the season as he further cemented his status as the Blues’ leading man.
The ball from Coulson was perfect and Bonne’s header brave, powerful and accurate. But was it a little controversial?
Lincoln certainly thought so and the Town striker did get a little ‘handsy’ when battling TJ Eyoma in the air, but the Lincoln defender won’t look back at this goal and think he did all he could to stop the Ipswich striker. He could certainly have been stronger, with Bonne's run clever, catching his man flat-footed before delivering a superb header into the net.
In real time, I'll be honest, I thought there might have been a foul. But watching replays back it's clear the Ipswich striker was simply too good for the Imps defender.
Anyway, even if it was a foul, who cares? (Apart from Michael Appleton and Lincoln, of course).
Across the pond
The scenes at the full-time whistle were brilliant, as the 1,800 supporters let out a roar befitting of a big cup win, rather than a September victory at Lincoln.
Then there was Mark Ashton who, fully suited, took a run towards the away support in his own show of to celebrate with supporters.
But, thousands of miles away, there will have been similar levels of relief.
Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay, Mark Detmer, Ed Schwartz and Mark Steed haven’t had an awful lot to shout about since the Blues’ takeover was completed in April but, after funding such an extensive rebuild, they will have enjoyed this one.
Hopefully they can witness their team in person, sooner rather than later.
The slightest mention of Sincil Bank will have brought on the cold sweats with many associated with Ipswich Town in recent years.
First there was the televised FA Cup humbling in 2017, as Mick McCarthy’s side were embarrassed in front of the nation. Then there was the 5-3 thrashing in December 2019 which, despite the grave concerns it raised, was followed just a few days later by a new five-year contract for boss Paul Lambert. All very puzzling.
Another defeat followed last season as Toto Nsiala gave away the decisive penalty as Town’s season fell off the rails and never recovered.
But after this game, surely a trip to the home of the Imps has no reason to intimidate the Blues any longer.
It will always be a difficult place to go, but it’s lost its aura.
The stage looked set for Teddy Bishop to make his mark against the club he spent 18 years with.
But, in reality, the former Town man was anonymous for long spells of this game, struggling to get on the ball and run at the Ipswich backline for the vast majority of his time on the pitch. Bishop’s biggest threat was nullified.
His biggest contribution saw him booked for a late foul on Tom Carroll, before being replaced to a small chorus of boos from fans of his former club.
He’ll be hoping for better when Lincoln visit Portman Road on the first day of 2022.
This weekend’s results mean all 72 EFL sides have finally secured their first wins of the season.
Town won at Lincoln, of course, while Doncaster (1-0 v Morecambe) and Crewe (2-0 v Burton) both broke their ducks elsewhere in League One. Had Town lost, they would have been bottom of the table.
Everyone was off the mark in League Two prior to this weekend while, in the Championship, winless and managerless Nottingham Forest enjoyed a 2-0 success at Huddersfield, in the wake of Chris Hughton’s departure.
But, up in the Premier League, there are five sides without victories, five games into the season.
Southampton, Leeds, Newcastle and Burnley are all still waiting, while the fifth of those sides, Norwich City, have lost every game, conceding 14 goals and scoring just two in the process.
Sort it out
One: The black numbers on the back of Lincoln’s shirts are impossible to read.
It’s not hugely attractive on replica shirts for fans, but this scenario really requires a solid panel on the rear of the jerseys to showcase the numbers properly.
Sort it out, Imps.
Two: The fourth official’s board on show in this game needs sending to the EFL’s Fourth Official Board Repair Shop as soon as possible.
It simply didn’t work, with lights missing to ensure the substitutes’ numbers and amount of stoppage time being played were impossible to decipher.
Sort it out, EFL.