North Stander: Here's what needs to change at Town this summer
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I watched two games on Saturday – another frustrating defeat for Ipswich Town, followed by Ipswich Wanderers winning their league with a goal ten seconds from the end. No prizes for guessing which was more enjoyable!
I’m afraid Town’s defeat at Rotherham was yet another example of everything that’s wrong with the team, and a stark reminder of the hard work Kieran McKenna faces to turn them into genuine promotion contenders.
We did well in the first half, playing our attractive football, leaving Rotherham chasing shadows. But when the big chance came, James Norwood messed it up, and that changed the game.
Honestly, how on earth did Norwood miss that? He saw the cross all the way, there was no strange bounce, and yet he managed to scuff it horribly wide. I know we all make mistakes, but he is a professional footballer. It’s his job, for goodness sake!
In the second half, everything changed. Rotherham were on the front foot, playing the horrible kind of football they’re good at – aggressive, strong challenges, lots of stoppages, long balls, crosses. No flow to the game.
We had absolutely no answer. We just wilted pathetically. Yet again, we basically folded in the face of a big, tough, physical League One team. How many times has that happened this season?
McKenna knows it has to change. He knows this group of players cannot adapt. He sounded mightily frustrated after the game, and I don’t blame him. There’s a limit to everyone’s patience.
The weaknesses are glaringly obvious. Firstly, we don’t have a striker who can hit a barn door from three paces. Norwood’s horrific miss exemplifies how our supposed goalscorers have performed since Macauley Bonne lost his shooting boots in the autumn.
I wouldn’t be too upset if all our strikers headed for the exit door in the summer, to be replaced by two or three who know how to find the back of the net at this level.
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In midfield, it looks as though Bersant Celina and Sone Aluko are luxury players in this crash-bang-wallop league. They are talented ball players, no doubt about it, but they simply disappear when the likes of Rotherham play it their way.
We need more muscle in midfield. It’s a shame Lee Evans has missed so much football. I’m not sure about Tyreeq Bakinson. Sometimes he looks good, but in other games – like at Rotherham – he just seems clumsy.
Another big issue is that we are so one-sided. All of our meaningful attacks come from the right, always involving Wes Burns and Janoi Donacien. We offer absolutely nothing down the left, where Dominic Thompson hasn’t impressed.
Basically, we only score one type of goal – release Burns down the right, he puts in a low cross, someone gets on the end of it. How predictable is that? So, if you stop Burns, you stop Ipswich. It’s not rocket science.
We don’t score from corners, or from free kicks, or from aerial crosses in open play, or from shots from outside the box. We don’t even score from messy goalmouth scrambles, which are meat and drink to most teams in this dreadful division.
So, our manager has plenty to do before it all starts again in August. He’s a smart cookie, and he will know exactly what’s needed. I’m really confident that, come the first game of next season, he will have addressed those issues.
There were some bright spots on Saturday. The most pleasing was a very calm and assured debut from Elkan Baggott. He had a baptism of fire, facing a rough, tough centre-forward, and he came through brilliantly. One for the future.
The other highlight was Luke Woolfenden’s mazy, 80-yard run to ultimately set up a chance for Wes Burns. Sadly, it was our only opportunity in the second half.
Let’s finish on a bright spot, and Ipswich Wanderers. Due to a family connection, I’ve watched a few of their games this season. It’s been a real treat, especially as they’ve won their last 22 (or is it 23?) games in the Thurlow Nunn Division One South.
On Saturday, they needed a win to clinch the league title and, after a very tense afternoon, scored an injury time winner. Cue wild celebrations and much spraying of champagne as they got their hands on the trophy.
Good fun, and well deserved for a great bunch of local lads and a very welcoming club. Well played, boys. You certainly cheered up my Saturday afternoon!