Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 0-0 draw at Charlton

Kayden Jackson chases for the ball during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Kayden Jackson chases for the ball during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town moved a point closer to the play-off places with a 0-0 draw at Charlton Athletic yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.


DROUGHT GOES ON 

Americans don’t do draws.  

The fact Test cricket can go on for five days and still end with the spoils shared blows their minds.  

When the MLS was launched in the 90s, they even went as far as making sure all stalemates had a winner courtesy of a novelty 35-yard shootout (look it up kids). 

So goodness knows what Town’s new owners are making of their club from afar. 

That’s now four goalless draws from six games. 

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It’s been seven hours and 19 minutes (plus stoppage-time) since the Blues scored a goal. 

Only eight teams in the Football League have scored fewer goals than Ipswich this season and six of them are sitting in relegation zones. 

Mind you, this was a better performance.

James Norwood with an early headed chance at Charlton Athletic

James Norwood with an early headed chance at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

BETTER, BUT... 

Paul Cook says in one breath that he won’t throw his players under the bus, then shoves them in front of a proverbial freight train with the next. 

The exasperated Blues boss didn’t mince his words following last Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss at AFC Wimbledon. 

If the aim was to scare a few of them into action then it did the job – to an extent. 

Within less than three minutes on the clock, James Norwood had a glancing header clawed out by the keeper and Keanan Bennetts saw his follow-up attempt smash into a defender on the line.  

Two shots on target within seconds! Sadly, Town wouldn’t produce another. 

Keanan Bennetts holds his head after firing a chance over the bar at Charlton Athletic

Keanan Bennetts holds his head after firing a chance over the bar at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

This was undoubtedly a much better Blues display than anything we’ve seen of late though. 

As a unit, the Blues played 10 yards higher up the pitch. Full-backs got forwards. Midfielders played positive passes. Everyone was calmer in possession. For decent spells, it felt controlled.  

This was another little taster of what Paul Cook 4-2-3-1 front football is meant to be all about. 

Bennetts lashed over after a sharp move, Kane Vincent-Young fired over after dancing inside, while Armando Dobra opted not to shoot from a golden position. 

A lack of composure or quality in the final third is a recurring theme. Another is good starts turning into nervy finishes. 

Charlton, who also had a chance cleared off the line in the first half, finished the stronger and looked the far more likely to win it.  

Ipswich keeper Tomas Holy makes a desperate stop during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Ipswich keeper Tomas Holy makes a desperate stop during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Giant centre-half Ryan Inniss caused havoc at set-pieces. Thankfully, Jake Forster-Caskey, Jayden Stockley, Liam Millar and Alex Gilbey weren’t clinical when it mattered. 

So, in the end, a draw was probably about right. 

Credit where it’s due. With the players’ heads probably all over the place at present, this display against one of the division’s form sides showed some of the character we’ve all been calling for. 

But let’s no go overboard either. Recent history suggests one step forwards tends to be followed by two back. 

Let’s see what happens at Northampton on Tuesday night now. 

Mark McGuinness defends during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Mark McGuinness defends during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

FLYING FULL-BACKS 

Kane Vincent-Young was back in the starting XI just three weeks on from his hamstring set-back at Wigan. 

And this time he lasted the full match, just four days on from playing the majority of an Under-23s game at Playford Road. 

Phew. 

The 25-year-old actually appeared to get stronger as the game went on. 

Kane Vincent-Young plays in a cross during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Kane Vincent-Young plays in a cross during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

In the second period he produced a few of those trademark forward gallops and stepovers that get you out your seat. 

On the other side, Stephen Ward looked like the player we all loved at the start of this season. 

The 35-year-old Irishman got forward on the overlap time and time again, but just wasn’t quite able to pick out team-mates with sweeping low crosses. 

He was withdrawn on 70 minutes having left everything on the pitch. 

Attack-minded full-backs are certainly going to be crucial for Cook-ball. 

Kayden Jackson chases for the ball during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Kayden Jackson chases for the ball during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

NORWOOD INJURED AGAIN 

James Norwood is the best striker at Ipswich Town. The problem is, he just can’t stay fit. 

For the third time this season he was forced off early, this time clutching his hamstring in the 25th minute. 

He arrived at Portman Road in the summer of 2019 with a reputation of being robust and ultra fit. 

Groin and adductor surgery limited him to just 22 league starts in his debut campaign with the Blues though.  

And now a combination of hamstring, back and thigh problems could see him restricted to just 16 league starts this time around. 

Teddy Bishop bursts into the box at Charlton Athletic

Teddy Bishop bursts into the box at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Kayden Jackson replaced Norwood at The Valley and, in fairness, produced one of his brightest displays in some time. His pace turns and mis-shapes defences, but he doesn’t quite possess the same goal threat though. 

Norwood’s attributes really suit Cook’s preferred set-up. It was a 4-2-3-1 system in which he thrived at Tranmere.  

Having still managed to score 17 goals for an underperforming Ipswich during an injury disrupted two years, you wonder what he might be able to do with better service. 

Sadly, injuries dictate that Cook can’t be hanging his hat on him as the main man heading into next season. 

Ipswich Manager Paul Cook during the second half at Charlton Athletic

Ipswich Manager Paul Cook during the second half at Charlton Athletic - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

THE CHASM TO CLOSE 

Ridiculously, despite the lack of goals and wins, Town find themselves just four points adrift of the play-off places. 

Forget it though. Don’t do it to yourself. The damage has been done. 

The points gap we should really be focussing on is the one to the top-two. 

Ipswich finished 10 points short of the automatic promotion places last season.  

Currently, they are 18 points adrift of second-place Peterborough. 

That’s nowhere near good enough for a club that has started both League One campaigns with the stated aim of gunning for the title. 

That’s the size of the turnaround task ahead. 

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