Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 0-0 draw with Northampton Town
- Credit: Photo: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town drew 0-0 at home to relegation-fighting Northampton Town last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
We’ll move on to the game in a moment, but let’s start with what followed.
The heavily under-pressure Paul Lambert, who has dodged several interviews of late, fronted up afterwards.
Thankfully, there were few attempts to dress up another muddled and toothless display (though he did, again, insist he can’t ask for any more from the players).
Gone were the confrontational quips about ‘unbelievable negativity’ not helping (though there was reference to the previous day’s training ground protests possibly not helping).
Instead, we saw someone who, quite honestly, looked a broken man.
No excuses, not good enough and hasn't been for some time was his honest assessment.
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I might be wrong, but it feels like the Scot is just waiting to be put out of his misery.
He’s right when he says there are far bigger and deeper issues running through the club than him.
Owner Marcus Evans has been the one constant throughout this drawn out decline. Forget how much money he has put in, it’s about the bad decisions which have always been compounded by another.
But any sympathy for Lambert has to be severely limited.
When the Blues boss says he’s tried to change the structures at the club, what does he mean? Bringing back the Community Trust? The wheels for that were already in motion. Persuading Evans to smarten up the training ground? I’d argue that spending £100k on a fence wasn’t really the best use of funds.
Don’t buy too much into all that talk. It was all part of the PR drive.
This isn’t a manager who has taken the club to a glass ceiling under heavy constraints.
This isn’t Ipswich Town battling the odds in the Championship anymore.
This is Ipswich Town beginning to tread water in League One.
This is just four league wins in 14 (two against Burton). This is 23 points claimed from the last 20 (prolonged relegation fighting form).
Can Paul Lambert really look himself in the mirror and say, regardless of any off-field issues, he’s getting the best out of the tools at his disposal?
It’s a big budget (by third-tier standards), it’s a big squad and it’s better than this.
That’s on the manager.
A NEW LOW
Not for the first time, we’re talking about Ipswich not producing a shot on target until the dying embers of the game.
This time, a passive, lifeless, disjointed display came against Northampton.
That’s Northampton – a team Ipswich had not faced in the league since 1967.
That’s Northampton – a team second-bottom and without a permanent manager.
That’s Northampton – a team who came into this match having lost eight of their previous 12 (failing to score in nine of them).
The Cobblers, following a lengthy pre-match huddle, looked bang up for this though. Ipswich did not.
So many players in this squad just seem to wait for a team-mate to make something happen rather than taking responsibility themselves.
A visiting team that hasn’t scored now in almost 550 minutes of football spent the majority of the match on the front foot.
Luke Woolfenden was nut-megged, but Sam Hoskins fired straight at Tomas Holy.
Troy Parrott gave the ball away and Holy had to race off his line to deny Mark Marshall.
Ipswich won a few corners and free-kicks after briefly waking up but spurned them all.
Luke Matheson had to make a lunging block in the box, Holy pushed a fierce Peter Kioso shot onto the woodwork, then Marshall dragged a shot across the face of goal...
It was a truly embarrassing half of football. Had fans been inside Portman Road there would have been a cacophony of boos.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
Lambert waited for the game to drift until almost the hour mark before making some changes.
And it wasn’t until the 71st minute that striker James Norwood was introduced.
Alan Judge was told to play wide left. The Irishman took it upon himself to go and play centrally anyway, following his impressive display in that role against Blackpool, and made a difference with some clever passes.
Norwood, with some smart movement off the shoulder, also breathed a little life into the Blues.
Judge saw a couple of shots from outside the box smash into defenders, Norwood saw an angled one-on-one kept out by the keeper’s legs, then Judge had decent late shouts for a penalty controversially waved away.
It was all too little, too late though.
I never thought I’d see the day where a referee squared up to a player.
I opined on Twitter, midway through the second half, that the most entertaining thing about the match was the showmanship of referee Darren Drysdale.
The 49-year-old had more than a touch of the Mike Deans about him as he flamboyantly posed and pointed his way through the action.
The best (worst) was yet to come.
Judge may or may not have had his feet swept out from under him as he turned in the box in the last minute of the game. It was hard to tell.
Drysdale took his time before eventually deciding Judge had dived. Judge marched over to voice his displeasure. Drysdale, remarkably, responded by turning and butting his head towards the midfielder with gritted teeth.
He was the aggressor. There will surely be consequences.
Flynn Downes appeared to be booked for (gently) pushing Drysdale back following the referee’s moment of madness. Or that yellow may have been flashed at Judge. Who knows?
Seconds later, a frustrated Downes tangled with a Northampton player in midfield. A foul was given and the Town midfielder gave Drysdale some verbals.
Another yellow card was seemingly flashed. Then a red. Downes was off.
That’s Ipswich third dismissal in five games following Kayden Jackson’s straight red against Sunderland and Teddy Bishop’s sending off at Crewe.
Downes was perhaps fortunate not to see red for a wild lunge at Peterborough recently too.
Altogether, it’s 11 sending offs in 110 games under Lambert’s management.
Yes, there was provocation in this instance, and many won’t blame Downes for losing his cool, but ill-discipline is becoming a real issue.
Lambert and Stuart Taylor are constantly in the officials’ ears (the latter in particular). And for two games in succession now, the Blues have conceded 20 or more fouls. That's not good.