Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's cup exit to Newport

Armando Dobra pushes forward.

Armando Dobra pushes forward. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town exited the Carabao Cup last night with a 1-0 home loss to League Two side Newport County. STUART WATSON gives some thoughts.

Newport County celebrate their early goal.

Newport County celebrate their early goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

FALL AT THE FIRST

So much has changed at Ipswich Town in such a short space of time. Last night's narrative felt all too familiar though.

Ten changes from the previous game and the Blues were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the early stages by lower level opposition.

See Northampton (2011), Carlisle (2012), Stevenage (2013), Crawley (2014), Stevenage (2016) and Exeter (2018) for previous examples.

Since reaching the semi-finals in 2010/11, the Blues have won just four games across 11 seasons in this competition.

Should we care? I think so.

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This exciting new era is meant to be about blowing away the so-called comfort culture of before. Shrugging our shoulders at cup exits was part of that.

Yes, this is a team of strangers. But there's the context of Newport making 11 changes and handing out six full debuts themselves. Town are not alone in bedding in new players right now. 

Paul Cook is assembling a power packed squad - and now he has at least one less game for them to get up to speed.

Macauley Bonne heads into the ground and over the bar, with Newport County keeper Nick Townsend spec

Macauley Bonne heads into the ground and over the bar. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

FUN AND FRUSTRATION

This game was fun and frustrating in equal measure.

The Blues switched off at a quickly taken free-kick in the fourth-minute and Timmy Abraham (brother of Tammy) produced an inventive finish. 

After that it was the hosts who asked all the questions. In fact, it quite often resembled an attack-v-defence training session.

It was entertaining fare. Full-backs Janoi Donacien and Bailey Clements got forwards, midfielders Cameron Humphreys and Idris El Mizouni were positive with their passing, Armando Dobra and Louie Barry were direct and exciting, while Macauley Bonne was strong and alert up top.

Dobra and Bonne both hit the post. Dobra stung the keeper's palms and Bonne's downward header bounced over. Sone Aluko produced an air-kick in a golden position. Bonne powered a header just wide. El Mizouni saw a dipping free-kick pushed around the post. Barry lashed into the side-netting.

At half-time, it felt like a case of when, not if, the equaliser would come. And you sensed that once that breakthrough occurred, the floodgates could open.

Louie Barry with a fierce strike.

Louie Barry played as the No.10 on his Ipswich Town debut against Newport County. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

But the goal didn't come.

Barry fired over in the box. Bonne's headed finish came from an offside position. Keeper Nick Townsend then made a flying stop to deny Dobra's arrowed effort. 

The big miss, undoubtedly, arrived in the 72nd minute. Dobra had to score from 10 yards out following Scott Fraser's cool pass, but shot too close to the keeper. Kayden Jackson's follow-up header was acrobatically cleared off the line. 

Town were soon reduced to 10 men (more on that to come), Newport started time-wasting, but there was still time for Janoi Donacien to head wide. 

A very watchable game ended with Ipswich having had 70% possession, seven corners and 25 shots.

There's only one stat that matters though - and that's the scoreline.

Cameron Humphreys on the ball.

Cameron Humphreys on the ball for Ipswich Town. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

CAM'S THE MAN, EL MIZ THE BIZ

Paul Cook might not be in such a rush to sign central midfield competition after watching the performances of homegrown duo Cameron Humphreys and Idris El Mizouni.

Humphreys, in particular, was excellent.

The 17-year-old, making his competitive debut, grew in confidence as the game wore on. Time and time again he found an attacker with clever left-footed balls, be it disguised ground passes or perfectly-weighted clips over the top. His first touch was classy, while he did his defensive work too. Remember the name.

El Mizouni's display was more understated, but also  impressive. His technical ability has seen him typecast as a No.10, but this mature performance is possibly proof he may actually be better suited to having more of the game in front of him. 

A word too for left-back Bailey Clements. The 20-year-old was given a bit of a torrid time on his senior debut back in August 2019 - a 3-1 Carabao Cup loss at Luton. Two years on, he was a major attacking outlet. Fair play.

With Hayden Coulson and Matt Penney ahead of him in the pecking order, a loan move looks likely.

 

James Norwood heads over the bar.

James Norwood heads over the bar - moments later he went off injured. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

FALLEN FORWARDS

James Norwood and Kayden Jackson were Town's main men in the early stages of 2019/20. Colleague Andy Warren dubbed them 'thunder and lightning'. They were looking like League One's most potent strike force.

Two years on and it's a different story.

Norwood has been Ipswich Town's top-scorer in his first two stop-start seasons at the club.

The hope was that he would stay fully fit this campaign and, fired up by increased competition, would produce the form that had so many clubs chasing his signature back in 2019.

Sadly, so soon after an opening day assist, he's injured yet again. The 30-year-old came on not long after the hour mark, but limped back off 14 minutes later after pulling up with a muscle injury.

Meanwhile, Jackson, who was introduced at the same time, probably didn't do enough to show Cook that he should be called in from the cold of the Under-23s. 

Both are now in the final year of their contracts.

Armando Dobra pushes forward.

Armando Dobra pushes forward. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller.com

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Debutant Sone Aluko, it's fair to say, was somewhat off the pace. The former Reading and Fulham man spent much of pre-season on trial at Derby County, but it didn't show. He's an experienced player though and there will undoubtedly be better days ahead.

Armando Dobra is a joy to watch. Town's 'street baller', perhaps feeling the pressure to impress as others arrive in his position, was guilty of tunnel vision at times in this game. Once his decision-making improves he's going to be a hell of a talent. How much game-time he gets going forwards though remains to be seen.

Luke Woolfenden, the only player to keep his place in the team from the weekend, did have some more casual moments at the back that could have been punished. 'If in doubt, stick it out' just doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary. It's a style that he'll either thrive or die by.   

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