Stu says: Six observations following Town's shootout win against Colchester
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Ipswich Town beat Colchester United on penalties at Portman Road last night to progress in the Papa John's Trophy. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
Ultimately, Ipswich Town remain in both the FA Cup and Papa John’s Trophy.
Yet how everyone reflects on these games against Oldham and Colchester United will, I imagine, vary.
Failing to beat two struggling League Two sides inside 90 minutes at home with strong line-ups hasn’t exactly added to the feelgood factor that was building following that magnificent 4-1 midweek victory at Wycombe. It hasn’t killed it either.
The Oldham display was disappointing, no doubt about it. Last night was much better.
Town were positive, worked plenty of good openings but just lacked that final bit of quality against organised, deep-sitting opposition who looked to play on the counter. Could have won, nearly lost it. This was an entertaining watch.
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Maybe a little bit of grounding is not a bad thing ahead of crunch League One fixtures against Oxford United, Sunderland and Rotherham. We’ll see.
These last two matches are a timely reminder that, with a third of the season gone, this new-look squad is still a work in progress.
And there has, let’s not forget, been plenty of progress.
Town lost five of their opening eight games. They’ve now been defeated just twice in their last 13 across all competitions.
The show goes on.
TAKING THE SHIRT
Paul Cook surprised us all when naming the same team which finished the Wycombe win for the FA Cup visit of Oldham.
Following a lacklustre display in that 1-1 draw against the Latics, it was nine changes for the visit of Colchester.
“Players had the shirts after the Wycombe game – they were the team,” said Cook. “Unfortunately, after Saturday's game they put the shirts back on the table and said 'does anyone want to take mine?' I’m not a manager scared to make changes.”
So, did anyone do enough last night to get themselves in the team for Saturday’s visit of Oxford United? I’m not so sure.
Sone Aluko is the most likely candidate. He had an excellent first half on the right, constantly beating his marker and making things happen.
Conor Chaplin’s typically energetic display on the left has possibly given food for thought too.
No-one really put in a performance which makes them simply impossible to ignore though.
Luke Woolfenden was calm and steady at the back, but that’s unlikely to be enough to dislodge Toto Nsiala.
Bailey Clements did really well when he came on at the break. He might be able to push Matt Penney while Hayden Coulson is sidelined.
Scott Fraser and Rekeem Harper both played plenty of incisive passes from deep midfield roles, but they were afford plenty of space to do so. You'd imagine Sam Morsy and Lee Evans will come straight back.
Up top, Joe Pigott, despite hitting the bar and scoring from an offside position, looked like a player finding his feet again having played just 12 minutes of the previous seven games. Macauley Bonne will definitely return.
Louie Barry had exciting direct moments as the No.10, but ultimately flattered to deceive. Vaclav Hladky and Cameron Burgess didn’t enhance their reputations at the other end of the field.
CHAMBERS’ SEND OFF
Whatever you think of Luke Chambers as a player, the long-serving and passionate skipper deserved a proper send-off following nine years at the club.
Having initially been robbed of one due to Covid crowd restrictions, he finally got it last night. The 36-year-old received a warm ovation from the 8,100 strong crowd at the end.
It’s a shame the injured Cole Skuse couldn’t get the same.
Even with him, Alan Judge (also injured) and Tommy Smith (away with New Zealand) unavailable, there were still five ex-Town players in the U’s squad.
Freddie Sears looks to be enjoying playing up front again. He gave Burgess problems playing on the final shoulder.
Tom Eastman, one of the Colchester’s longest-serving players ever now, was a steady presence at the back, while Frank Nouble was industrious on the left.
Dean Gerken, who has struggled with the hip problems that began to blight him towards the end of his time at Town, was on the bench.
That well-trodden path up and down the A12 is sure to continue in the future.
How much more Town fans will see of Kenlock going forwards remains to be seen. He went off ill at half-time (robbing us of the opportunity to see the 'Travolta' run-up in a shootout again). It’s not impossible he joins the army of ex-Town players in North Essex at some stage.
Meanwhile, the impressive performance of 22-year-old U’s midfielder Brendan Wiredu might just stick in Cook’s mind.
It was a surprise to see Bersant Celina’s name among the substitutes when the team-sheets came out.
The 25-year-old had been called by Kosovo and was expected to be away for games against Jordan and Greece this week.
Instead, he stepped off the bench in the 71st minute and provided a real spark. His penalty conversion in the shootout was coolness personified too.
Cook revealed afterwards that Celina had spoken to the Kosovan FA and requested that he could stay in Suffolk.
The fact he lost his place for four league games following the last international break may have had something to do with that.
No-one should question Celina's deep pride at representing Kosovo. He’s always made himself available and already has 30 caps to his name.
The fact their two games are largely meaningless (one a friendly, the other in a World Cup qualifying group they now can’t progress from) means his love for Ipswich Town won out on this occasion though.
Poor Kane Vincent-Young. One of the nicest guys in football simply can’t catch a break.
After being hit by a firm-but-fair Nouble challenge just before half-time he stayed down grimacing. He didn't come out again for the restart.
Towards the back of last season he dislocated his left shoulder and required an operation. This time he went off holding his right shoulder in pain.
It’s such a shame because the 25-year-old was just starting to look like the attacking menace of old again.
Let’s hope this latest in a long line of set-backs isn’t a big one.
In the meantime, Cook has a right-back decision to make at the weekend.
Janoi Donacien, who was in top form prior to falling ill at Plymouth, to come back? Or play Wes Burns there behind Aluko? The latter option was tried last night as Town chased the win.
Finishing second in the group (behind West Ham U21s) means Town will now be drawn away to one of the other southern group winners.
Sutton, Swindon, Leyton Orient, Cambridge United and Aston Villa U21s have all secured top spots, while tonight’s games will determine who finishes top of Group D (Walsall, Brighton U21s or Forest Green) and Group E (Chelsea U21s, Bristol Rovers or Exeter).
Yes, another cup trip to Exeter is a possibility.
The draw will be made live on Sky this Saturday.
The first knockout matches are scheduled for the week commencing November 29 (after Town have played a Sunday league game at home to Crewe and before the weekend on which they might host Barrow in the FA Cup second round).