Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-0 home loss to Portsmouth
- Credit: Steve Waller
A 2-0 defeat that could easily have been double that. The file for 'comfortably beaten by a so-called promotion rival' is getting rather full now.
From the opening exchanges you could tell this game was only going one way.
Aside from the odd Kayden Jackson sprint in behind, the Blues were creating nothing.
At the other end, they were forced into a series of clearing headers and recovery tackles.
The ball was allowed to bounce in the box. Armando Dobra raced out to block the resultant cross.
John Marquis was afforded space in the area. His snapshot was turned away by the full stretch David Cornell.
Cornell's pass out the back was risky, then Jon Nolan gave the ball away. Alan Judge was there to make an important intervention.
Portsmouth had men over on a dangerous counter. Mark McGuinness was there to make a slide tackle on halfway.
Marcus Harness beat McGuinness to a bouncing ball in the box. Ronan Curtis sliced over from a golden position.
Yes, Dobra spurned a good chance when firing too close to the keeper in the 24th minute, but to focus on that as a 'turning point' would ignore the fact that Town had been living dangerously.
Portsmouth's opener, in the 29th minute, was slick. But the marking was also slack.
A one-touch move saw Harness cross low from the right. Marquis deftly lay the ball off and Andy Williams fired home.
Town conceded in similar fashion at Plymouth the previous weekend. Sadly, it's the type of goal you just can't see them scoring at the minute.
Another sharp one-touch move by Pompey, this time down the left, ended with Tom Naylor side-footing just wide before the visitors got their killer second a minute before the break.
It came in route one fashion this time. A high ball into the box, Curtis beat Luke Chambers in the air and Williams was there to poke home the knock down.
Boos at the break. Town, ponderous and predictable in possession, already looked a beaten side.
Pompey could and should have made the scoreline more emphatic after the restart.
Marquis headed a deep free-kick onto the crossbar, Curtis sent a dipping shot from the edge of the box onto the crossbar, then Cornell made a fine reaction top to deny Sean Raggett after another deep dead ball caused panic.
It was, sadly, a familiar tale of Town coming up short against one of the division's better sides.
Paul Lambert says he needs some injured players back for the midfield 'engine room'. It feels like that part of the side has blown a head gasket.
Andre Dozzell, back from suspension, tried to provide some forward thrust with the odd driving run from deep or attempted through balls. The lively Dobra, out on the right, was also a bright spark.
This side is lacking in muscle though. It's lacking in pace too.
Jon Nolan (the latest player to limp off in the first half through injury), Alan Judge, Brett McGavin and Jack Lankester are all technical players.
Kayden Jackson did okay with his back to goal, but that's hardly his forte. And whenever he runs the channels it leaves no focal point.
Ipswich lost too many 50/50s. They looked vulnerable at set-pieces. They lost too many foot races.
Without the likes of Kane Vincent-Young, Flynn Downes, Cole Skuse, Teddy Bishop, Gwion Edwards and James Norwood it's an unbalanced side.
NO PLAN B
After waiting a year for a clear Plan A, there is now no Plan B.
In the previous two games - at Oxford and Plymouth - Ipswich posed a far bigger threat in the final stages after Lambert switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2.
Hawkins won so many flick-ons for Jackson to chase at the the Kassam Stadium. He then combined well with Jackson for the winner at Home Park.
It should have been the obvious go to move as Town, once again, were left chasing a game.
Instead, in the 62nd minute, there was a like-for-like change as Aaron Drinan replaced Jackson.
MORE: Ipswich Town 0 Portsmouth 2 - Match report
Lambert explained afterwards that he needs to carefully manage Jackson's game-time due to the striker's lack of minutes this season.
Okay, fair enough. But there was still the option to go two up top. Indeed, he did eventually switch to that in the 70th minute when Hawkins finally came on.
The latter, no doubt, would have been chomping at the bit to get on against the club that released him in the summer. Lambert insists, however, that he doesn't want his players being tempted to play long ball football.
Having a philosophy is great. Right now though, with the team lacking physicality and perhaps a little sort on confidence, it might just be time for a little bit of pragmatism.
FANS ARE BACK (AND SO ARE THE BOOS)
For the first time in nine long months, supporters were back inside Portman Road.
Thank goodness for that. Football has been a pale imitation of the game we know and love without them.
The chosen 2,000 in attendance, selected by ballot, greeted the players - and Lambert - with hearty cheers and warm applause prior to kick-off. As always, the team starts off with plenty of goodwill. The fans are desperate for something to get behind.
A constant cycle of disappointment is wearing though. The half-time whistle was greeted by significant boos. The aforementioned double sub brought more shouts of discontent.
Many left the ground before the 85th minute in order to avoid the staggered exit procedure. Plenty out of those that stayed let their frustrations be known and the first few 'Lambert out' shouts prompted many others to follow suit.
The fact each was an isolated cry, rather than a chant in unison, somehow gave it more impact.
Town have dropped to sixth in a congested table.
Yes, a good run could quickly lift them into the top two. But a bad run could quickly see them drop into the bottom half too.
The latter, sadly, looks the more likely scenario at present.
It's now eight defeats in the last 13 games across all competitions.
It's 13 points claimed from the last 11 league matches (relegation form).
It's yet another defeat against one of the division's leading lights too. That abysmal record really does need spelling out again.
Last season, Town claimed 14 points from a possible 54 against teams that finished in the top 10 (W2 D8 L8).
This season, Town have claimed three points from a possible 21 against teams currently in the top 10 (W1 L6).
Combined, that's three wins in 25 games (Gillingham and Fleetwood away last September/October and Accrington Stanley at home this season). It's 17 points from a possible 75.
Yes, injuries are not helping right now. But Town weren't winning these games last season either.