Northstander: Will the real Ipswich Town please stand up?

Bersant Celina pictured at the final whistle.

Bersant Celina pictured following Ipswich's 1-1 draw with Oldham in the FA Cup. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Journalist and Ipswich Town fan Terry Hunt gives his thoughts on the Blues after yesterday's 1-1 home draw with Oldham in the FA Cup.

Oldham players celebrate with Davis Keillor-Dunn (10) after he had scored to level the game at 1-1.

Oldham players celebrate after Davis Keillor-Dunn's equaliser at Portman Road. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Will the real Ipswich Town please stand up? Is it the exhilarating, thrilling side which rampaged past high-flying Wycombe? Or the stuttering, sloppy team which was so underwhelming against League Two strugglers Oldham?

As Paul Cook so wisely said after the hugely disappointing FA Cup draw against Oldham: “Our inconsistency is our consistency.” But why can we not string impressive performances together?

At Wycombe, as everyone knows, we were absolutely brilliant. We blew a very good home side away. Bersant Celina’s breakaway goal in added time ranks right up there with my favourite Town moments of recent years.

So we were all thinking that this newly-assembled side has finally gelled (apologies for using the word) and we could look forward to bulldozing teams with slick, exciting football.

To be fair, Paul Cook played his part and picked a virtually unchanged team for the cup game. When was the last time an Ipswich manager did that, for goodness sake?

We all sat back and confidently expected a hatful of goals against Oldham, who are really struggling in the bottom division. We got one early on through Wes Burns, and then...well, pretty much nothing, really.

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We were, as I’ve already said, so sloppy. Even the usually ultra-reliable Sam Morsy was giving the ball away. We created very few chances and, in the end, had to rely on an excellent penalty save from Christian Walton to keep our name in the hat for the second round.

Was it over-confidence? Was it our old Achilles heel of sitting back when we take the lead? After last Tuesday’s thrilling comeback victory, I was very much hoping we had kicked that weakness into touch. Maybe not.

Someone else suggested that we find it difficult to lift ourselves for the so-called “easy” games. Ok to go to places like Portsmouth and Wycombe and put in a performance, but Oldham at home?

Wes Burns celebrates his early goal.

Wes Burns celebrates his early goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Anyway, whatever the reason for this maddening inconsistency, the end result is that we now face an unwanted trip north next Tuesday for the replay, just a few days before heading off to the north-east for a really big game against Sunderland.

It’s the last thing Paul Cook wanted, and you can understand him being less than pleased with his players after that big let down of a performance.

Of course, the FA Cup is certainly not our priority this season. But, as I’ve said so many times, a cup run instils a winning habit, and creates momentum. But you have to have a long memory to recall our last cup success – reaching the League Cup semi way back in 2011. Shameful, isn’t it?

Let’s talk about the big positive from the last week – that brilliant victory at Wycombe. When we went behind, after being under non-stop pressure from the start, I feared the worst. I bet I wasn’t the only one.

But then, magically, something changed. Did Wycombe, as some have suggested, “do an Ipswich” and sit back? Or was it down to us upping our game? Or maybe a bit of both?

Whatever it was, for the last hour of that game we were simply irresistible. If we can reach that kind of level on anything approaching a consistent basis, then the rest of League One really will have something to fear. But...I refer you to Paul Cook’s sage-like comment after the Oldham letdown. We really must find some consistency.

A word of praise for our keeper, Christian Walton. Since the sad departure of the much-missed Bart, we have struggled to find a decent replacement. I think we’ve got one now.

I know Walton let in five on his debut, but none of those were his fault, and since coming back into the team he’s been rock-solid, one of the reasons why we’ve stopped shipping so many goals.

Christian Walton applauds fans after the game.

Christian Walton applauds fans after the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

If you ignore the waste of space EFL Trophy, our next proper, meaningful game is home to Oxford next Saturday. Another big one against a top six side. If the theory is correct, then we should be able to look forward to a compelling performance against one of the better teams in the division.

Finally, a glance at our neighbours over the border. My only interest in them is that I hope they come down, and we go up, so we can restore derby days. But what strange goings-on. Wait until your 11th game for your first win... and then sack your manager? Only in football.

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