Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-0 loss at Fleetwood
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Ipswich Town slipped back out of the League One play-off places following last night's 2-0 defeat at Fleetwood. STUART WATSON reports.
NO GUTS, NO GLORY
This was a painful watch.
Fleetwood ended up winning 2-0, but it could easily have been more. Ipswich could have played all night and not scored.
It was a performance utterly devoid of quality, composure and, most worryingly of all, character.
When the going gets tough, the Blues often just seem to shrink.
The body language is so poor. Hardly anyone leads – either vocally or by example. Everyone just seems to be waiting for a team-mate to do something.
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Confidence and belief just instantly evaporates. Unforced errors snowball. The team gets deeper and deeper.
Sadly, it’s been that way for some time.
Yes, Fleetwood are six-unbeaten now. But they weren’t anything special. Man-for-man they just wanted it more.
These Ipswich players have a new manager to impress, contracts to earn and a promotion to aim for at the business end of the season. If they can’t raise themselves now, then there’s a big problem.
It spoke volumes that, not for the first time in recent months, not a single player would do an interview afterwards.
For the third successive away game, the Blues found themselves behind inside 10 minutes.
James Hill launched a long throw from the right into the box and Callum Connolly flicked the ball in with a deft backwards header.
It was an inventive finish from the ex Ipswich loanee, but why was he able to jump unopposed? He’s surrounded by four players in blue shirts who don’t even get off the floor. Giant keeper Tomas Holy remained rooted to the spot. And why is no-one on the post?
When you struggle to score goals, you can’t concede ones as soft as that.
SECOND BEST ALL OVER
You’d never have thought Ipswich had wide overloads against Fleetwood’s wing-backs.
Myles Kenlock was given a torrid time by Wes Burns and eventually hooked just after the hour.
Gwion Edwards was arguably lucky not to see red for a wild lunge on Jordan Rossiter just before half-time. It did end his game through injury though.
Cole Skuse looked very ring-rusty in what was his first competitive start in more than a year. Him tripping on the ball to set up a Fleetwood attack rather summed up Town's night.
Andre Dozzell was too deep and gave the ball away cheaply, though he certainly wasn’t the only one to be guilty of that.
To be honest, you could go through the whole team. No-one really came away with much credit from this one.
Only one team looked like scoring throughout.
Ged Garner fired just wide from outside the box, Daniel Batty’s dangerous cross bounced through the area, a dangerous delivery just avoided Hill at the back stick and Tomas Holy just about kept out a Garner effort with his feet before the break.
After the restart, Vassell looped a header onto the roof of the net and fired another good chance over before Dozzell went close to slicing the ball into his own net.
Eventually, Fleetwood's killer second did arrive...
There was still more than half an hour to go when Ged Garner expertly found the bottom to make it 2-0, but it felt all the world like game, set and match.
That’s because it’s hard to see Ipswich scoring once at the moment, let alone twice.
Fleetwood’s second goal was a good example of two centre forwards linking up well. Garner and the lively Kyle Vassell had worked as a pair all night.
Meanwhile, Cook had continually urged Kayden Jackson and Troy Parrott to ‘work together’ more before withdrawing them both just after the hour.
The new Blues boss wants to see partnerships flourish all over the pitch, but it’s hard to see any semblance of a well-oiled machine so deep into a campaign.
Very rarely do you see a certain pattern of play or combination work a few times in a row and think ‘that’s going to lead to a goal any moment now’.
Ipswich didn’t test the keeper until the 72nd minute of this game. It says a lot that it was substitute left-back Stephen Ward who did that.
And it was only at the very death that they threatened again, when Dozzell’s shot stung the keeper’s hands and Toto Nsiala got his head on a corner.
Eight of the last 13 goals Town have scored have come from set-pieces, while defensive errors led to the goals scored against Crewe and Plymouth.
That leaves Myles Kenlock’s raking assist for James Norwood’s goal at Hull, Alan Judge’s skidding finish against Blackpool (following another fine Kenlock pass from deep), and Norwood’s smart finish at Peterborough (after Tomas Holy’s long kick led to a defensive mix-up).
So that’s just two really well-worked goals from open play in 15 games. That’s not a consistent winning formula.
Looking at the fixtures ahead, Ipswich may well sneak into the play-offs. But right now it’s hard to see them outscoring someone over a two-legged play-off semi-final.
TIME FOR COOK TO HIT THE KITCHEN
Football is a team sport. It’s not always about who has the best players, but often about who’s got the best chemistry.
Ipswich’s alchemy is just not right. The balance is all wrong.
Why does the squad contain so many technical No.10s - the likes of Troy Parrott, Teddy Bishop, Alan Judge, Josh Harrop, Jack Lankester and Armando Dobra – but remain light in so many other departments?
We shouldn’t be at a stage where Luke Chambers, at 35, is playing right-back every week.
We shouldn’t be at a stage where Kayden Jackson, a player we all know is best in a front two, is playing as the lone striker because there are so few other options.
We shouldn’t be at the stage where all the goalscoring hopes are pinned on James Norwood, a player who has struggled with injuries for some time now.
We shouldn’t be at a stage where Cole Skuse, just back after a long-term injury, is being asked to step up and fill the Flynn Downes void because there are no other fit and firing midfielders of that type.
We shouldn’t be at the stage where Alan Judge is still being asked to play wide because no other wingers have proven they can consistently deliver.
These really shouldn’t be issues when you’ve got a squad of 53 professionally contracted players. It’s a damning indictment of the muddled recruitment and previous lack of forward planning that’s led us to this point.
The good news is that Cook, while being very careful about how he words things, has made it clear to both the players and supporters that he sees all of this.
His squads have always been tightknit. His sides have always had balance. Sorting out some flying full-backs and midfield solidity will be high on his list of priorities this summer no doubt. Adding some strong personalities to the mix is likely to be very much on the agenda too.