Stu says: Eight observations following Fleetwood win
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Ipswich Town won 2-0 at Fleetwood Town yesterday to move a point closer to the League One play-off places. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
CHANGING THE NARRATIVE
As the hour mark came and went, it was beginning to feel like the previous two games all over again.
Town had dominated the first half, gone into the break goalless and, after a slightly sloppy start to the second, it was looking like things could drift towards another frustrating draw.
But playing on another pig of a pitch on the Lancashire coast, the Blues stuck to their passing principles. And this time they got their reward through a couple of moments of quality.
In truth, the performances against both Cheltenham and Morecambe had been better. This time, however, there was damage to go with the dominance.
Beating Fleetwood is no mean feat. They may be in a relegation-battle, but this is a team who have doubled Rotherham this season, had lost just one of their previous seven home games and, since the turn of the year, put three goals past both Plymouth and Portsmouth.
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This is a big away win.
PIGOTT AND THE POST
Joe Pigott's yet to ignite debut campaign with the Blues was summed up in first half stoppage-time.
The striker, back in the team as part of the latest forward rotation, suddenly found himself with an opportunity in the box after Fleetwood had made a hash of clearing their lines.
His shot across goal looked destined for the net in front of an expectant away end, only to hit the post and spin away for a throw. Replays suggest that keeper Alex Cairns may have got a vital fingertip touch.
It's the fourth time in recent memory that Pigott has been denied by the woodwork. There was a chance against Barrow, a well-saved spot-kick against Arsenal's U21s, a turn and shot against Burton and now this. Such are the fine margins in football.
The 28-year-old was subbed with the score 0-0, but nevertheless can be pleased with his contribution.
“I thought Joe had a very good game - I thought that was his best game in my time here," said McKenna.
“I thought his back to goal play was really good, he was braver, he got turned more, he played forward more and did things that we wanted from him."
Will it be enough for him to get the nod again for Tuesday night's visit of Lincoln? We'll see. It would be the first time Pigott has started successive games since the middle of last August.
What game plan will McKenna come up with this time? The answer this week was starting Bersant Celina as a central midfielder.
“He’s played as a deeper midfielder in his time at Swansea, he played it quite a lot last year for Dijon and he’s played it for Kosovo, so we know that he can do it,” said McKenna.
“We wanted to get another goalscorer on the pitch. We thought he could affect it from deep with some of his passing in behind and he did that at times in the first half."
It was a 66th minute reshuffle that ultimately led to Town unlocking the door though.
Tyreeq Bakinson replacing Pigott not only saw Celina move to the left side of the attack, but also took the shackles off of Sam Morsy in midfield.
Celina's run and pass preceded Wes Burns picking out Morsy for the all-important opener. And it was him who provided the perfectly-weighted reverse pass for Kayden Jackson's clincher.
“We took a striker off for a deep midfielder, so it shows that it's not always about how many forwards you have on the pitch," explained McKenna.
“We felt like we needed that extra little link through the middle of the pitch with Santi and Conor in those pockets. And also we wanted to get Sam a little bit higher and make the box.
“It's good to be able to change our balance and our attacking structure within games. I thought the players showed really good understanding by the way they adapted to that change so quickly.”
Sam Morsy is playing with the steely-eyed focus of a man on a mission.
The Blues skipper's drive and determination on the pitch sets an example to everyone around him.
It's felt like his first goal for the club has been coming for several weeks. Now it's arrived, courtesy of a well-held run into the box, you sense more could quickly follow.
ANOTHER SHUT OUT
Luke Woolfenden, at the heart of the back three, was once again calmness personified.
During a slightly sticky start to the second period, Christian Walton produced a superb full-stretch save to keep Tom Clarke's crisp shot out the bottom corner.
Then, when the score was 1-0, Janoi Donacien was there to make a crowd-pleasing big block on Dan Butterworth in the box.
Town have now kept nine clean sheets in 13 games under McKenna's management. That's a remarkable stat.
Conor Chaplin's set-piece deliveries were vastly improved. He whipped in some really dangerous corners under the crossbar, while his quickly taken free-kick led to the opener.
Burns has lashed at some crosses in recent weeks, but went for precision over power when picking out Morsy for his goal. The way the players rushed to celebrate with him suggests that was a move straight off the training pitch.
A GOOD LUCK CHARM
Michael Carrick was in attendance again as a show of support to his former Manchester United colleague McKenna.
Just like at Doncaster, the ex-England international saw a rare Blues win up north.
Asked if he could persuade Carrick to get to Portman Road for the next two games, McKenna quipped: “I’ll see if he can play in midfield for us, that would be nice!
"He’s a good friend, it’s good to have him here supporting the team and he’s been at two wins, so hopefully we’ll get him to a few more games.”
10 TO GO...
Ipswich are back to within five points of the play-off spots.
To finish in the top six, the Blues will need to win at least five, probably six, possibly even seven of their final 10.
It's a big ask, but given that the record under McKenna now reads P13 W8 D3 L2 you've got to believe there's a chance.
Up next is the visit of Lincoln on Tuesday night. They were a side in freefall until a surprise 3-1 win against in-form Sheffield Wednesday yesterday.
Let's hope for a special night under the lights for part three of #PackOutPortmanRoad.