Stu says: Five observations following Town's 2-1 loss at Accrington
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Ipswich Town returned to losing ways with a 2-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Paul Cook said afterwards that he ‘didn’t see this coming’. Neither did I.
It’s true, the Wham Stadium has proved a very difficult place to go for Ipswich Town in recent years.
First there was that FA Cup loss as a Championship side in January 2019. Then, later that year, a 2-0 loss in Lancashire proved to be the start of a downward spiral in League One. Even last season, despite winning 2-1, the Blues had been left hanging on against 10 men.
This time, however, things should have been different.
Accrington, following a decent start to the season, had leaked 12 goals in three games coming into this one.
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Ever-present centre-back Ross Sykes was suspended, while wantaway striker Dion Charles – who scored 20 goals last season - was out the picture.
John Coleman's men had just travelled to Morecambe and Oxford in the space of four days.
Town, by contrast, looked to be coming good following a slow start. They’d claimed seven points from a possible nine. They’d tightened up at the back. They’d just put Doncaster to the sword 6-0 on home turf in midweek. Most players were available. They prepared with a two-night hotel stay up north.
Most importantly, this is meant to be a team that not only has increased quality, but increased character and physicality too. The days of being bullied in League One should be over.
So, in short, no excuses. Go and get back-to-back wins boys! Show no mercy! Build some powerful momentum!
Instead, we were brought crashing back down to earth with a bump. Crushing false dawns and one step forwards being followed by two big ones back is the Ipswich trademark after all.
The first half was an instantly forgettable affair.
Out of possession, Accrington sat behind the ball in numbers. In possession, they got the ball forwards quickly to striker Colby Bishop and then looked to pick up the bits and pieces.
Cameron Burgess’ long balls under pressure were wayward. The Blues’ front four didn’t press particularly well as a unit. It was all very stop-start and scrappy.
And yet Town still managed to go into the break in front thanks to one moment of real quality.
After Scott Fraser’s interception, the ball broke kindly from an Accrington tackle and Bersant Celina produced a perfectly-weighted reverse pass assist.
When Macauley Bonne raced through one-on-one you never doubted he would slot home. That’s eight goals in 10 appearances for him now, including seven in his last six.
Town had done the hard work.
Stanley now needed to come at them a bit more. It was all set up nicely for fresh legs off the bench and a counter-attacking killer second.
All the Blues had to do was battle their way through the opening 10-15 minutes of the second period...
Stanley’s equaliser came within five minutes of the restart.
The Blues were slow to react to a throw-in down their left, Yeboah Amankwah had time to cross from deep and, following Harry Pell’s inventive back-heel in a crowded spot, Bishop was able to force the ball home on the angle.
Then came the really worrying stuff.
Accrington’s small but vocal crowd gained a confidence boost from the goal and that transmitted to the players. Ipswich, very quickly, were rocking.
Matt Butcher's cross from the left was hacked away by George Edmundson. Janoi Donacien had to make a big block on Pell in the box. Vaclav Hladky tipped a well-struck Bishop strike over the bar.
Coleman’s men upped the tempo of a frantic, second ball, fight game in the rain. And Ipswich had no answer to it.
There was a sense of inevitability about the home side scoring another. It duly arrived in the 79th minute. And it neatly encapsulated Town’s performance.
Matt Penney didn’t stop the cross, Evans lost the first aerial challenge, then Pell got across Donacien to lash home on the volley.
Accrington, very simply, just wanted this more. Ipswich never earnt the right to play. I didn't see a lot of 'running towards adversity'.
Complacency? Arrogance? Or just a collective bad day at the office? Only they will be able to tell you that.
No-one can question Paul Cook naming an unchanged side. But could/should he have done more to change this storyline as it unfolded?
His first substitutions were in the 64th minute when the score was 1-1. Kyles Edwards, a player who excited before injury, and Rekeem Harper, who has twice made a real impact off the bench, replaced Scott Fraser and Bersant Celina respectfully. It was like-for-like. Town stayed 4-2-3-1.
His final change was in the 80th minute straight after Accrington had gone in front. James Norwood replaced Evans. Alex Mathie, on co-commentary duties for BBC Radio Suffolk, suggested that move came 10 minutes too late.
I can certainly see that logic. This was a fight game and Norwood is a fight player. Another body up front might have given Ipswich the option to start doing to Accrington what they were doing to them.
To debate the minutiae of formations, timing of substitutions and whether Cook did enough to motivate, for me, rather lets the players off the hook though. It can't always be on the manager.
MIND THE GAP
Yes, there is still a lot of football to be played. But there is also now a lot of damage to be undone.
Having started the season with a very clear aim of gunning for the title, the Blues are already a sizeable 12 points adrift of the top-two.
There’s also a not insignificant nine points gap to the play-off places with plenty of traffic to navigate.
Around 75 points is normally what’s required for a top-six finish.
Town, having claimed one point per game from their opening 10, now need to average close to two points per game for the remaining 36.