North Stander: 'Slow, ponderous and utterly predictable'... You can count on Town to fluff their lines
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com
Actor David Niven famously said about his friend and notorious hell-raiser Errol Flynn: “You can count on Errol - he’ll always let you down.”
Sadly, in recent years, I have felt the same about Ipswich Town. They invariably fluff their lines at crucial times. It happened again on Saturday.
Everything was set for our team to bring a bit of cheer to a pretty miserable time.
They were playing their first game in 25 days, at home, against second from bottom Swindon, who will be delighted if they manage to regain their League One place at the end of the season. It was also on national TV...
Of course, our heroes let us down. Let’s not fool ourselves - this was no unlucky, fluke result. We were beaten by the better team on the day. Swindon were sharper, more inventive, moved the ball quicker, and could have scored more goals.
In the first half at least, we were slow, ponderous and utterly predictable. So easy to defend against. We give opposition defences so much time to settle with our tedious obsession with possession. Having the ball is fine, but you have to do something with it!
We also managed to concede three goals. Two came from failing to stop crosses - I’ll come back to the full-backs - and the other was a wonder strike, probably the best at Portman Road since Leighton Baines’ “worldie” for Wigan all those years ago.
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All credit to Scott Twine for a great goal. But why was he allowed the freedom of Portman Road to bring the ball under control, look up, set himself, read War and Peace, and have a cup of tea before shooting? I exaggerate, of course - but not much.
We look so laboured. The full-backs are worrying me now. At the start of the season, when we were flying, Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward, both 35, were lively, and added a real attacking threat.
Now, they look every day of their combined 70 years. Against Swindon, they were both pretty much non-existent when it came to the attacking part of their roles.
Emyr Huws is also a big concern. When he first came here, before his big injury, he was a dynamic, powerful, goalscoring midfielder. He is a mere shadow of that player now. On the rare occasions when he gets the ball, his first thought is always backwards. I really do fear for his career.
The defeat against Swindon leaves our fading promotion challenge in a precarious position. As I’ve said before, this season is make or break for Paul Lambert and it’s not looking good.
Having said all that, there were some positives on Saturday, believe it or not. The introduction at half-time of the returning James Norwood and Flynn Downes made a difference.
Norwood’s clever running, engagement with defenders, and link-up play add so much. It gives our defenders and midfielders many more options when it comes to building attacks.
In his 45 minutes, Norwood got his name on the scoresheet - slightly luckily - and also sublimely set up Alan Judge for his late consolation goal.
We really do need Norwood to stay fit for the rest of the season. He is without doubt the best striker at the club, but we haven’t yet seen him at his best yet because of a series of niggling injuries.
It was great to see Downes back on the pitch. I have to admit I smiled when he was shown a yellow card within ten minutes of coming on. He was a fraction of a second late with a challenge.
I know we shouldn’t be pleased with fouls, but it was so good seeing one of our players showing real passion and commitment, really wanting to win the ball. Surely Downes will be the first name on the team sheet from now on.
We are told that others are close to coming back as well. The one I want to see is Gwion Edwards, if he can recapture his dynamic goalscoring form of early season, between them, Norwood, Downes and Edwards could well transform our fortunes.
Another positive on Saturday was Alan Judge. It was his best performance for the club during what has mostly been a frustrating time for him. He was full of intelligent runs, and was denied by the keeper and hit a post before finally netting. Let’s hope he manages to maintain those levels.
In contrast, playing Kayden Jackson wide isn’t working. He doesn’t go past his man, and he doesn’t deliver quality crosses. He remains a player in search of a role. How about playing him up front alongside Norwood? Oh no...we don’t do that, do we?
Bottom club Burton next. It’s all set up for us...isn’t it? Let’s hope we remember our lines this time.