Stu says: Seven observations following 1-1 draw at Crewe

Disappointed Town players head for the changing rooms after the draw at Crewe Alexandra.

Ipswich Town have finished 11th in League One again following a rollercoaster season. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town drew 1-1 at Crewe Alexandra yesterday. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.

Town players after the home side equalises at Crewe Alexandra.

Town players after the home side equalises at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

NOT AGAIN...

Oxford, Shrewsbury, Wigan and now Crewe...For the fourth time in 30 days, Ipswich Town conceded an equaliser beyond the 85th minute mark.

The Blues aren't learning from experience.

If you don't deliver a knockout blow when your opponent is on the ropes then you leave yourself open to catching a late suckerpunch.

Ipswich players celebrate Conor ChaplinÕs goal at Crewe Alexandra.

Ipswich players celebrate Conor ChaplinÕs goal at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Remarkably, that's now 28 points dropped from winning positions this season (four defeats and eight draws).

And that doesn't take into account other performances that really should have seen more points posted (Sunderland away, Cheltenham at home and Morecambe away to name just three).


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SET-PIECE SARCASM

So bad is Ipswich Town's record at set-pieces that supporters have now taken to sarcastically chanting about it.

'Score from a corner, we're gunna score from a corner' is the sung as soon as the Blues force the opposition into putting the ball behind their own goal.

Town did that six times in the first half of this game. Cameron Burgess heading a high Conor Chaplin delivery wide under pressure was as close as any of them came to a goal.

It's now 36 games since the Blues have scored from a corner (George Edmundson at Plymouth way back October 30). 

Substitute Bersant Celina slamming a well positioned free-kick low into the wall towards the end rather summed up the Blues' dead ball woes.

As McKenna himself admitted at a recent Fans' Forum, it's 'borderline impossible to get out of this division with that record'.

Conor Chaplin tries to get a shot off at Crewe Alexandra

Conor Chaplin tries to get a shot off at Crewe Alexandra - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

FOX IN THE BOX

It was windy, the pitch was poor and there was a distinct dead rubber feel about things.

But at the very end of an instantly forgettable half of football the Blues were able to snatch a goal.

Luke Woolfenden's raking pass led to Kane Vincent-Young's low cut-back and, not for the first time this season, Conor Chaplin he was in the right place, at the right time in the box. His finish was scruffy but unerring. 

That's two in two for the 25-year-old. He's on 11 for the season in all competitions, level with Wes Burns and just one behind leading marksman Macauley Bonne. It's an impressive return given he's only started 27 games.

You always get energy from Chaplin. In these last couple of games he's started to channel that more effectively in that inside right No.10 role.

Christian Walton at Crewe Alexandra.

Christian Walton at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

WHAT A STOP!

As Mikael Mandron met a cross from the left with his head everyone in the ground expected the net to bulge.

The unmarked striker should have done better from six yards out at the end of a slick counter, but take nothing away from Christian Walton's breathtaking stop to his left. He showed cat like reactions.

Town, without doubt, have the best goalkeeper in the league. He's only 26 too.

That 58th minute save should have acted as a wake-up call regarding the fragility of the lead. Town didn't heed the warning though.

James Norwood shoots during the second half but cannot convert the chance at Crewe Alexandra

James Norwood shoots during the second half but cannot convert the chance at Crewe Alexandra - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

LOSING FOCUS

Crewe, keen to finish their home campaign on a high, started to commit more and more men forwards. It made for an increasingly open and end-to-end finish.

James Norwood, who had seen a first half one-on-one chance smothered, latched onto a clever Chaplin pass in the box but saw a low angled effort kept out by the keeper's legs. That proved costly.

There was always a sense that one of the home side's balls into the box could lead to something - and so it proved.

After a Walton goalkick got held up in the wind, the Railwaymen pumped the ball back towards the danger zone and Burgess got himself in a bit of a muddle. Woolfenden's covering tackle was good, but the ball span out nicely to Tom Lowery and he arrowed a superb 25-yard shot beyond Walton's despairing dive.

"The goals we've conceded in the last two games are not acceptable," fumed McKenna.

Having kept 12 clean sheets in the Northern Irishman's first 17 games at the helm, the Blues have now conceded five games in a row.

"We know we need to score more goals," added McKenna. "But we also need to get back to the mindset of defending well and seeing the game out with more determination and resilience."

KIDS STAY ON BENCH


A quartet of Under-23s players were named on the bench.

Joining Elkan Baggott, who made his league debut at Rotherham recently, was keeper Nick Hayes plus midfield duo Cameron Humphreys and Tawanda Chirewa.

None of them got on the field though as McKenna opted to bring on Idris El Mizouni, Celina and Macauley Bonne.

"That was a shame," said McKenna. "With the position we had at half-time we hoped we could get them on at some stage. Obviously they are trusted to play with a narrow lead, but having not got that second goal we always felt there was going to be a few balls coming into our box late on. It probably wasn't the right game for them to come on and flourish.

"They (Humphreys and Chirewa) are two talented young players we believe in though and they've both got a big part to play going forward."


Time to start: Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Crewe Alexandra.

Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna at Crewe Alexandra. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

FLAT FINISH

For context, rock-bottom Crewe had lost 18 of their previous 20 games. 

Ipswich have now won just one of their last nine. They sit 11th in the table. Heading into next Saturday's final match, at home to Charlton, the highest they can finish is ninth.

There's no dressing it up - that's an unmitigated disaster given the squad that was assembled by Paul Cook last summer.

For all the talk about the slow start, it's not that much worse - points wise at least - than the flat finish.

Joe Pigott with a strong header during the second half at Crewe Alexandra

Joe Pigott with a strong header during the second half at Crewe Alexandra - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich took 14 points from their opening 12 matches (W3 D5 L4) and they've taken 16 from their most recent 12 (W3 D7 L2).


It won't get any easier next season either. Derby, Barnsley and Peterborough are coming down from the Championship. Only three of a very strong top half in this division will depart.

Without question, big progress has been made under McKenna. But there is also undoubtedly still plenty of work to be done over the summer to turn this squad into a third-tier winning machine.

'Next year will be our year'... How often have we said that heading off into the summer? These constant false dawns have to stop. No excuses. It's time for the club to deliver.