Stu says: Five observations following Town's 0-0 home draw with Oxford
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town remain ninth in the League One table following yesterday's 0-0 home draw with Oxford United. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
DONE BY DARK ARTS
A bumper Ipswich Town crowd chanted 'boring, boring Oxford' as this game came to its conclusion.
The visitors deployed all of the dark arts to run down the clock and escape Suffolk with a point in their pocket. On more than one occasion, players went down with 'head' injuries so that the referee stopped play when the Blues were in possession. Matty Taylor took an age to leave the field when substituted. Herbie Kane went down with cramp. Goalkeeper Simon Eastwood had a little lie down at one stage too.
Frustrating? You bet. The U's were well within their rights to push the boundaries of fair play though. We'd be calling it wily game management if the shoe was on the other foot.
Ipswich wouldn't have been in that position had they scored when on top.
The Blues asked all the questions during a dominant second half but couldn't quite find the killer touch in the final third.
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Wes Burns was unusually quiet on the right. Bersant Celina regularly found pockets of space, but his final pass was often awry. The livewire Kyle Edwards' end product wasn't quite there either. Macauley Bonne won plenty of aerial duels, but had little to feed off in the box.
To be fair, this is the first league game in which Town have failed to find the net.
And, all that said, it must be recognised that Bonne and Celina did both hit the post in the first half, while Bonne also forced a diving save out of Simon Eastwood after the break. We have a very different definition of 'misfiring attack' these days.
Could Joe Pigott have been introduced sooner than the 89th minute? Maybe. But it's hard to take off 11-goal Macauley Bonne or big moment man Celina too early.
A good point or a missed opportunity to close the gap on the top-six? I guess only time will tell on that front.
I'm very much in the glass half full camp on this one.
Let's not forget that Oxford were top of the League One form table coming into this game. Karl Robinson's men had won five of their previous six league games, scoring 16 goals in the process. And, as mentioned, they were left desperately hanging on at the end.
Ipswich have now proved more than a match for Wycombe (4-1 away win), Plymouth (2-1 away loss) and Oxford. Cook's right - the points total taken from those three games could have easily been more than four.
Do not underestimate the value of this clean sheet.
Oxford looked a slick, cohesive unit in the first half. But Town, having ridden some luck, really got to grips with them. When on top in the second half they didn't look their usual vulnerable self in transition. The costly lapses in concentration at key moments didn't rear their heads either.
Christian Walton was, again, an assured figure between the sticks. George Edmundson, my man of the match, increasingly looks a real class act at the heart of defence.
A team that was shipping goals at an alarming rate in the early stages of the season has started to fix some leaks.
That's now just two defeats in 14 games across all competitions.
COMPLIMENTS TO CLEMENTS
Bailey Clements' impressive league debut is a reminder of just how quickly things can change in football.
Earlier this month it looked like the academy graduate had four players ahead of him for the left-back slot. Hayden Coulson started at Wycombe. When he got injured, Cameron Burgess stepped in for two lots of 45 minutes. When he got taken off at half-time against Oldham, Matt Penney came on for the second half. And when the game against Colchester United arrived, Myles Kenlock was again called in from the cold to play a Papa John's Trophy fixture.
Kenlock was forced off ill at the break in that tie though and the door was suddenly ajar for Clements.
The former Northgate High School pupil, who grew up a big Town fan, took his chance that night. So much so that Cook felt he had earned the opportunity to leapfrog Penney and start a crunch fixture.
Clements could have been full of nerves. Instead, he left the field as one of Town's top performers.
The youngster - who turns 21 tomorrow - did not play it safe. It was his driving run which led to Celina's shot hitting the post in the first half and his sweeping cross which just evaded Bonne after the restart. Defensively he was sound against a dangerous player in Mark Sykes.
"The way he played means he'll be hard to leave out," said Cook afterwards.
It sends a message out to everyone in his large squad. Be ready to take your chance when it comes.
THE 21K CURSE
Town launched their 'Pack Out Portman Road' campaign the day before this match.
Having slashed ticket prices for the festive home fixtures against Sunderland, Wycombe and Lincoln - an adult can attend all three for as little as £40 - the stated goal is to get more than 28,000 inside the stadium for crucial mid-season clashes.
It's a fantastic initiative from the new leadership group which must be applauded.
Town have got three home games between now and then - Rotherham (Tues, Nov 23), Crewe (Sun, Nov 28) and Arsenal U21s (Tues, Nov 30 in the Papa John's Trophy).
It goes without saying that they could do with winning a few of them to really pique the interest of those thinking about returning or coming for the first time over the holiday period.
The Blues' record at Portman Road this season now reads P13 W3 D7 L3. That clearly is something that needs to improve.
Winning in front of a big home crowd is long overdue too. As Renegade Statman pointed out on Twitter, Town's recent record in games where the attendance has been 21,000+ now reads: P22 W0 D8 L14 (there were 21,322 there yesterday).
You have to go back to Easter Monday in 2017, and that memorable 3-1 victory against Newcastle, for the last time it happened.
Town are now on the road again.
On Tuesday night it's the FA Cup replay at Oldham. Cook says he will freshen his side up with the intention of getting through and facing Barrow at Portman Road on Saturday, December 4.
The likes of Sone Aluko, Conor Chaplin and Scott Fraser should be champing at the bit.
Latics beware, Town will be wearing white under the lights...
Then, on Saturday, it's Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Following a storming start, the wheels are falling off for Lee Johnson's men. They're winless in six now, having suffered heavy defeats at Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday and exited the FA Cup at the hands of Mansfield.