Stu says: Five observations following 0-0 draw with Cheltenham

Wes Burns reacts after volleying over the bar.

Wes Burns reacts after volleying over the bar early on in Ipswich Town's 0-0 home draw with Cheltenham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town were held to a 0-0 home draw with Cheltenham Town last night. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.

Conor Chaplin throws himself and a Kayden Jackson cross, but just fails to make an connection.

Conor Chaplin throws himself and a Kayden Jackson cross, but just fails to make an connection. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

MISSED CHANCES

The Blues completely dominated the first half. There was a real rhythm about their play. They looked a well-oiled machine.

Bersant Celina, who looked very much in the mood, had combined really well down the left Dominic Thompson. In the middle of the park, Sam Morsy and Tom Carroll were dictating play.

Big chances were squandered though.

In the fifth minute, an unmarked Wes Burns volleyed over at the back post. In the 12th minute, Celina fired narrowly over after a driving run. In the 18th minute, Conor Chaplin put a stooping header too close to the keeper. In the 29th minute, Celina's fierce angled effort was beaten away by the keeper. In the 44th minute, Luke Woolfenden's glancing header at a corner was so close to finding the top corner.

The Blues were applauded off at the break. It was a different story at the full-time whistle.

Bersant Celina on the ball during the Cheltenham game.

Bersant Celina on the ball during the Cheltenham game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

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FALLING FLAT

Sadly, things went rather flat after the restart.

As McKenna admitted post-match, 'there was fatigue in some of our key positions'.

Brentford loanee Thompson, making only his 11th start of the campaign, and Kayden Jackson, making only his ninth start of the season, were withdrawn in the 65th minute.

Carroll, also making only his ninth start of the season, rapidly ran out of juice too. He lasted until the 79th minute.

Burns, who has been such a talisman this campaign, has also shown some signs of burn out recently too.

Town lost their tempo and intensity. Gone were the sharp one-twos and driving runs which had repeatedly broken the lines. All of a sudden, Luke Woolfenden's raking long passes from the back became the more hopeful route of attack.

Even so, there were still more opportunities to score. George Edmundson diverted a wicked Celina free-kick delivery just wide, substitute Macauley Bonne lashed an angled volley over after the ball fell loose at the far post, while substitute Joe Pigott took the ball away from Celina in the box following Burns' pull-back. 

That last moment rather summed up the night.

Tempers flare late in the game.

Tempers flare late in the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

'BORING, BORING CHELTENHAM'

It was a painful end to this game.

Cheltenham keeper Owen Evans was guilty of eeking out every possible second he could when in possession. Ben Williams was booked for holding onto the ball when it was an Ipswich throw. Andy Williams stayed down with cramp at the death, leaving frustrated Town players George Edmundson and Sam Morsy trying to physically lift him from the field.

That frustration was echoed by another 20,000+ crowd, who chanted 'boring, boring Cheltenham'.

They're not the first team to deploy such tactics at Portman Road and they won't be the last. Incredibly annoying, yes, but Ipswich only have themselves to blame for letting the game reach that stage.

Also, it has to be recognised that the Robins didn't exactly park the bus in the second half. Bonne cleared an Alfie May free-kick off the line, while Andy Williams had two good openings in the box.

Town should undoubtedly have won this game. On another day they might have lost it too.

Tom Carrol on the ball against Cheltenham.

Tom Carrol on the ball against Cheltenham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

MISSING LINK

Lee Evans and Sam Morsy are, without doubt, Town's best central midfield partnership.

All of the Blues' best results this season - 6-0 against Doncaster, 4-0 at Portsmouth, 4-1 at Wycombe, 4-0 at Gillingham - have come with those two both in the team.

Sadly, injuries and suspensions mean the former Wigan team-mates have only been able to start 18 games together so far.

Evans was outstanding in the 3-0 win against Burton last weekend. But he suffered a knee injury in the latter stages of that game which, McKenna says, will keep him out for 'a few weeks'.

When Morsy sat out four games through suspension, Town lacked his forward thrust through the middle. When Evans has missed games through injury and illness recently, the undersized Blues have lost some physicality and an ability to quickly switch the play.

It's up to Carroll, Tyreeq Bakinson or Idris El Mizouni to step up now.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured ahead of the game.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured ahead of the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

KEEP THE FAITH

There's no getting away from the fact this was two points dropped. And every dropped point feels big given how small the margin for error is.

Cheltenham are a side, lest we not forget, that have now lost just one of their last 10 (and that was to Rotherham) though. They've taken points off Sunderland, Oxford, Wycombe and Wigan recently.

So let's try and focus on the positives.

Ipswich have claimed 23 points from a possible 33 under McKenna. That's 2.1 points per game - automatic promotion form.

It's now five successive clean sheets, making it and eight in the last 11. That's quite a record.

And while the gap to the top-six didn't narrow last night, it didn't grow either.

Four points from a home double header wasn't ideal, but it's not a disaster either. The main thing is that the performances have been good.

There's still plenty of points to play for. So bring on Morecambe and Fleetwood away.