Stu says: Five observations following Town's 2-1 win v Accrington
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town came from behind to beat Accrington Stanley 2-1 at Portman Road yesterday. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
How would Kieran McKenna, a man accustomed to tippy-tappy elite football, adapt to League One slugfests? Well, we've got our answer.
Wycombe, Gillingham, Accrington... these are the sort of bruising encounters that Town have often came unstuck in since dropping into League One.
Town's new boss has seen them all off within weeks of taking the job.
The Northern Irishman started his post-match press conference with a puff of the cheeks that spoke volumes about the test his team had just passed.
"They are very good at what they do," he said. "Obviously they have got so much height in the team, are fantastic on second balls and put you under real pressure. They know all the tricks of the trade, they buy free-kicks well, they slow the game down, they load your box.
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"But we managed to stay in the physical battle and thankfully the quality of some of the football came through for the goals."
Accrington came into this game above Town in the table and unbeaten in five. They beat Rotherham on Boxing Day. They'd recently held on for draws against both MK Dons and Sunderland with 10 men. And they led in this match.
Do not underestimate how big a win this was.
Town had not started well. They went behind after a long throw into the box was poorly dealt with and Ethan Hamilton expertly rifled into the bottom corner. The defence was beginning to wobble under some sustained pressure.
Then came a defining minute of action.
First, the newly-signed Christian Walton showed superb reactions to fingertip Matt Butcher's deflected effort onto the underside of the bar. Then, within seconds, a long throw from the left was repelled, Bersant Celina's through pass from deep was exquisite and Wes Burns coolly finished off the counter-attack with a clipped effort over the on-rushing keeper.
Those two moments of quality completely changed this game.
A 20k crowd could have been left deflated. Instead, they were bouncing. Buoyed, the Blues finally began to get a grip.
TWO TENS TAKE CHANCE
McKenna said he freshened up his side for this game to 'keep the pot boiling' in terms of squad sharpness.
Conor Chaplin and Celina, deployed as dual No.10s in behind lone striker Macauley Bonne, played with the enthusiasm of dogs finally left off the leash.
Celina got on the ball at every opportunity and tried to make things happen. Not everything came off, but you always sensed a moment of magic could be just a second away. His assist was just that. There was two swerving shots and another defence-splitting pass too.
Chaplin's influence was more about pure energy. He was never not on the move.
After the restart, Accrington struggled to pick up those two in little pockets of space. Town were able to keep the ball in the final third far better. They worked several good openings and made this their sort of game.
It was Chaplin who popped up with the winner, a clever touch out of his feet in the box followed by a hammer finish high into the net. That's an impressive eight goals this season for a player who has been in and out of the side.
It might now be time for James Norwood and Sone Aluko to show a little patience.
What was meant to be three changes to the team became four after Lee Evans felt his groin in the warm-up.
Tom Carroll was his late replacement. It was the injury-hit midfielder's first start since the 2-0 loss at Barrow and his first league start since the 1-1 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday back on September 25.
There were some rusty moments, understandably, but also signs of a player who can really make the team tick. McKenna, who worked with the 29-year-old at Tottenham, is clearly a fan of a player with Premier League pedigree.
On a booking and tiring, he had to be withdrawn in the 73rd minute. That meant we saw an unexpected debut for new boy Tyreeq Bakinson, who originally had been put down for a watching brief after only arriving on loan from Bristol City on the Thursday night.
This cameo gave us a glimpse of his languid but confident style of play.
Walton made some confident catches, reaction stops and brave blocks to show exactly why the club went all out to make his signature from Brighton permanent.
Sam Morsy was a driving force in the second period, while Chaplin and Celina have been discussed.
All four of them, remember, have played plenty of Championship football.
For me, however, Luke Woolfenden was the pick of the bunch.
He barely put a foot wrong all game, sweeping up at the heart of the back three and battling strongly against big front man Colby Bishop. It's great to see the 23-year-old enjoying his football again.