Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 3-2 home loss to Swindon
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com
THIS WAS COMING
A result like this was coming.
The tale of Ipswich Town’s time in League One has been one of repeatedly coming up short against the better sides but almost always being able to see off the strugglers.
The truth is, the second part of that sentence has looked far more likely to change than the first.
Town have been comfortably beaten by the promotion-chasing quartet of Doncaster, Hull, Charlton and Portsmouth, yet they’ve laboured to wins against the likes of Crewe, Shrewsbury, Plymouth and Burton.
Well finally, that luck ran out.
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Again, the Blues’ possession was ponderous and painfully predictable in the first half. It’s robotic. It’s easy to defend against. And Town always look so vulnerable to the counter.
Yes, Alan Judge spurned a gilt-edged one-on-one chance when firing too close to the keeper, but Swindon were full value for their 1-0 lead at the break.
Dialling Jaiyesimi had headed in a 16th minute opener and would have made it 2-0 had team-mate Brett Pitman not got in the way of a goalbound effort. At times, the visitors cut through with ease.
Ipswich did liven up after the restart thanks to the introduction of Flynn Downes and James Norwood. And they were the team on top after Norwood’s fortuitous leveller.
Some more socially-distanced defending soon allowed long-range specialist Scott Twine the time and space to send a stunning 30-yard effort dipping into the top corner though.
Then Jaiyesimi’s cross crept in at the far post for a killer third, rendering Judge’s late finish a mere consolation.
It's 16 largely unconvincing points from 13 games now.
Yes, Ipswich have a lot of key players out injured. And yes, they’d not played in 25 days due to eight players having tested positive for Covid-19 prior to Christmas.
Are those really valid excuses for such a lethargic display though?
Not really. This wasn’t playing Fleetwood away just hours after self isolation periods had come to an end. The team had a week to prepare.
Swindon came into this game second bottom. They’d picked up one point from their previous six games. Their starting XI included two new signings, two players recalled from loans and another who was making his first league start of the season after a long-term injury. This was a team of strangers.
And the Robins had only played once in 20 days over the festive period themselves.
The big positive to take from this game was the return to action of two key men.
Town were better after the break. And that was thanks to the half-time introductions of Downes and Norwood.
Downes was making his first appearance since sustaining a knee injury at MK Dons on October 3, while Norwood was back for the first time since a hamstring problem forced him off against Charlton on November 28.
Downes was clearly far from fully at it after a lengthy absence, but was still able to inject some energy and fight to the midfield. There was something strangely comforting about seeing him picking up a customary yellow card.
The man he replaced, Emyr Huws, sadly continues to look a shadow of his former self.
It was Norwood who really made the difference. Replacing the ineffectual Aaron Drinan, he produced some clever runs in behind, engaged defenders and linked with team-mates.
There was clearly a big slice of luck for his goal, the striker initially air-kicking at Kayden Jackson’s cross before getting a second chance to bury the ball after it came off defender Caddis, but that was reward for being in the right place at the right time.
Then, late on, he did superbly to get in behind and hold the ball up in the box before picking out Judge for the consolation goal.
The performances of those two, plus the news that Gwion Edwards, Teddy Bishop, Kane Vincent-Young, Jon Nolan and Keanan Bennetts are set to start training on Monday, is what gives hope that better is to come.
The modern day full-back is required to get up and down – especially in a 4-3-3 system.
Ipswich have two 35-year-olds in those positions in Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward. Both started the season superbly, but both have tailed off.
Town didn’t stop crosses from the left for goals one and three, while Swindon also had plenty of joy down the right too.
Swindon, by contrast, had Caddis and the impressive Dominic Thompson marauding forwards from right-back and left-back respectively.
Perhaps Chambers and Ward weren’t helped by the fact they had two men playing out of position ahead of them. Jackson was tried out wide again, but he doesn’t look a natural winger. Armando Dobra, stuck out on the left, has looked far more effective when played centrally too.
Some of Andre Dozzell's passing was a joy to watch, but he got a little sloppy as the game wore on and wasn't quick enough to close down.
Luke Woolfenden hasn't been the player he was last season. Ex Town striker Brett Pitman schooled him with some clever movement and won the aerial duels. The Blues perhaps lack a hard-nosed, experienced centre-half at present.
A more positive word for Judge. First half miss aside, the Irishman did well. He made several well-time runs in behind and struck the outside of the post from range.
Why does Town’s misery always seem to be played out to a national audience?
Since Noel Hunt’s dramatic late winner at Charlton back in November 2014, the Blues have won just three live televised games in 32 attempts (D10 L19).