Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich's 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday
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Conor Chaplin's last minute goal secured Ipswich Town a 1-1 home draw against Sheffield Wednesday yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Macauley Bonne must have felt 10 feet tall leading out the team he grew up passionately supporting as captain.
And while he may have spurned some golden opportunities to add to his five-goal tally in this match, it was his piece of cheeky play that enabled Town to rescue a point at the death.
The front man ran out of pitch when trying to hook a deep cross back into the mix at the far post and keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell was left with a simple pluck out of the sky.
The clock was ticking down. The Blues looked to be heading towards a defeat which would have been hard to stomach. As everyone shuffled back into position, the Wednesday keeper strolled towards the penalty spot with the ball in his arms.
Were this a pantomime, now would have been the moment where the crowd – which numbered 21,338 at Portman Road – would have all screamed ‘he’s behind you’.
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Instead, Bonne gestured to the North Stand collective to stay quiet. Downwind of his prey, the front man stalked the keeper like a lion from his motherland of Zimbabwe. Inch-by-inch he tiptoed closer, staying in the blind spot. And then, as soon as the ball dropped to the floor, he pounced.
There was still plenty of work to do. A shocked Peacock-Farrell flailed on the floor, forcing Bonne wide. Town’s skipper, adrenaline no doubt racing, kept his cool, found Scott Fraser with a cut-back and he, in turn, also showed great composure to pick out Conor Chaplin for the finish.
Bonne and Fraser ran towards the corner flag in joyous celebration. Chaplin, however, snatched the ball and gestured wildly for his team-mates to quickly get back to the halfway line.
‘There’s still time to win this’ was the sentiment. And Town almost did.
Rekeem Harper, once again introduced as substitute in a more advanced role, shrugged off Lewis Wing and powered his way towards the edge of the box.
However, seeing his name in lights, the midfielder snatched at a tame low effort when an unmarked Bonne was screaming for a pass to his right.
The final whistle sounded soon afterwards. Would a defeat have been harsh on Town? Undoubtedly. Would they have deserved to win the game though? That’s more debateable.
Just a fortnight earlier, Paul Cook had been bemoaning the fact that his team looked ‘soft’ following a 5-2 home humbling by Bolton.
The Blues conceded 18 goals in their opening eight games of the campaign. Individual errors, weak in midfield and huge gaps behind advanced full-backs were recurring themes.
Town, encouragingly, have made giant strides on the defensive front over the last two games. They’ve looked much more organised and shown much more fighting spirit.
Following on from the fully deserved 1-0 win at Lincoln, Cook’s men limited Sheffield Wednesday to zero good goalscoring chances.
Dennis Adeniran’s 26th minute opener, a dipping volley into the top corner from the edge of the box following a deft chested lay-off from Lee Gregory, was a bolt out of the blue.
A couple of nervy moments from Cameron Burgess in the second half aside (both times he atoned for slack passes), the Blues never looked in danger of conceding.
That has to be the main takeaway from this game.
FINISHING AND FITNESS
Tightening up at the back is a big step forwards.
Now, if Town are going to truly get on a roll and start quickly climbing their way up the league ladder, they need to become fitter and more ruthless.
This was another match where the Town weren’t able to put the opposition to the sword when on top.
Bonne fluffed a gilt-edged chance in the third minute after beating a high offside trap. Wes Burns had a close-range finish disallowed for a marginal offside in the 19th minute. There were several crosses that flew across the box.
Disappointingly, after a five minute flurry at the start of the second half, the Blues then faded.
Yes, Bonne had two very decent opportunities in the second period – one shot kept out at the near post by Peacock-Farrell and another deflected wide by Sam Hutchinson – but they were moments.
The host’s attacking intensity dipped as the game wore on though. The atmosphere went a little flat. Town weren’t exactly banging the door down leading up to that dramatic finish.
Should Cook have turned to his power-packed bench earlier? It wasn’t until the 75th minute that he introduced fresh legs.
TAKING THEIR CHANCE
Great credit to Vascav Hladky.
To say he had a nervy start to life at Ipswich Town would be an understatement.
Christian Walton was signed. Tomas Holy then got the nod in the Papa John’s Trophy. The summer signing from Salford must have been wondering where his next game was coming from.
Things can change very quickly in football though.
Holy had a nightmare against West Ham U21s. Then Walton picked up an injury in training. All of a sudden, Hladky had jumped back from third choice to No.1 again.
And what a response it has been from the Czech custodian.
Just like at Lincoln, he produced a really assured display between the sticks. There were several confident catches and punches when surrounded by bodies.
It’s his place to lose now.
Praise too for Matt Penney and Idris El Mizouni.
In for the injured Hayden Coulson and Lee Evans respectively, the duo were arguably Town’s best two outfield performers.
Left-back Penney was full of poise and positivity against his former club, while El Mizouni, a surprise starter, offered a mixture of grit and guile alongside Tom Carroll in deep midfield.