Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 1-0 home loss to Sunderland
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com
Just like in the earlier reverse fixture against Sunderland, an Ipswich player saw red.
However, unlike with Andre Dozzell’s instant dismissal at the Stadium of Light last November, there could be no arguments over Kayden Jackson’s early bath here.
After nicking the ball just over the halfway line, the Blues front man careered into a hefty head-on collision with Bailey Wright.
Replays showed he’d turned his back going into the 50/50, planting his studs just below the knee of the Black Cats defender.
It left his team-mates facing an uphill battle in the pouring rain at Portman Road. And it’s also left a squad already short of strikers down another one for the next three games - against Crewe (a), Blackpool (h) and Peterborough (a).
With Oli Hawkins facing six weeks out following knee surgery and James Norwood managing a hamstring problem, Town now only have Aaron Drinan and Freddie Sears as forward options.
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Jackson took to social media to apologise afterwards, saying he ‘cost the boys three points in a massive game’.
This is not the first time in his Ipswich Town career, the 26-year-old has managed to pick up a three-game ban at the worst possible time though.
His silly, frustrated stamp at Rob Dickie in the late stages of a 1-0 home loss to Oxford last season saw him suspended for crucial matches against Blackpool, Fleetwood and Coventry.
Back then, with fit strikers also at a premium, homegrown teenager Tyreece Simpson came into the first team picture.
This time, with the transfer window open, Blues boss Paul Lambert may just look to recruit. If he does, it will have to be a young one from a Premier League or Championship club given the constraints of the salary cap.
Lambert left the team as it was after the red card, opting to play with no central striker.
Town were organised and spirited. Sunderland, who looked bang average throughout, struggled to find a way through.
Had the Blues got to half-time with the score still at 0-0, this might have been a different story.
They didn’t though. And it was no surprise from which area of the field the stoppage-time goal originated from.
The left side had always looked Town’s weak spot. Stephen Ward got caught high, Mark McGuinness got dragged out of position and Max Power was able to pick out Charlie Wyke with a cross that was converted on the stretch.
It was a real sucker punch.
Town rode their luck at the start of the second period. First Luke Chambers got away with a horrible slice at the near post when defending a corner, then Elliot Embleton saw a shot deflected just wide off McGuinness after being given too much time and space to shoot.
That proved the cue for Lambert to make a change as midfielder Nolan was sacrificed for striker Drinan.
The Irishman immediately gave Town something different, occupying centre-halves, preventing the ball coming back so quickly and getting the team 10 yards higher up the field.
Ipswich, despite their numerical disadvantage, were very much still in this game. Sadly, when the big goalscoring chance arrived it couldn’t be taken.
First, Dozzell did well to intercept high and swerve a pass into the path of Luke Thomas. The latter, who had been lively on his full debut, then did the hard part when taking the ball superbly on his chest before working himself half a yard of space with some neat footwork. However, with the goal gaping, he fired too close to keeper Lee Burge.
You feared that Town wouldn’t get another opportunity like that. And so proved to be the case.
Ipswich are capable of working good positions in the final third, it’s just that so often the final bit – be it decision-making or purely execution – lets them down.
That was the case once again in evidence.
When Gwion Edwards drove inside across the edge of the box, he failed to spot Ward in acres of space to his left and instead ran into traffic.
There was another instance where Drinan failed to read a good ball inside from Dozzell.
There was also a moment, after pressure had stayed on following a deep free-kick delivery, where Luke Woolfenden couldn’t find a team-mate on the edge of the area.
Be it with 10 or 11 men on the field, it’s just not happening for Ipswich in attack.
STATS DON’T LIE
Ultimately, the outcome was yet another defeat to a ‘promotion rival’ that didn’t exactly have to pull up any trees.
In their eight games against the current top seven, the Blues have picked up not a single point and managed to score just twice.
Home matches against Hull, Charlton, Portsmouth, Peterborough and Sunderland have been lost by an aggregate scoreline of 9-0.
That’s six losses in the last seven outings at Portman Road.
It’s now a club-record 19 successive matches in which Town have failed to lead at half-time.
It's 20 defeats from the last 33 live televised games (W3 D10 L20).
It’s 19 points claimed from the last 16 games.
And it’s seen Ipswich drop to 10th in the table (albeit with games in hand on several of the teams above them).
They remain 10 points off the top two, but are now five points adrift of the play-off places.
Next up is a trip to ninth-place Crewe on Saturday, a slick footballing team that Ipswich were fortunate to beat 1-0 at Portman Road back in late October.
It's all very well saying there are still being 'plenty of points to play for', but if things don't pick up soon then there's a very real danger that promotion could quickly drift out of reach again.