Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-2 draw against AFC Wimbledon
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller
Ipswich Town conceded in stoppage-time to draw 2-2 at home with AFC Wimbledon yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
MANAGE THE GAME!
When Wes Burns charged onto Kane Vincent-Young's pass and expertly arrowed an angled shot into the net it seemed for all the world like Ipswich Town's season was finally up and running.
The Blues had created several good openings in a goalless first half only for a lack of composure at vital moments to let them down. Once again, it was eminently watchable. Once again, you feared such profligacy could prove costly.
However, any such thoughts were dispelled when Town scored twice in the space of three minutes soon after the restart.
Joe Pigott coolly converted a penalty against his former employers after Burns' burst into the box had been stalled by a tug of the shirt.
Moments later, another show of Burns pace led to what should have been a killer second. For the first time this season, the Blues had a two-goal cushion.
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That's when Paul Cook's men should have clicked into game management mode. Keep the ball, slow things down, control the play. Instead, they conceded within four minutes and, all of a sudden, it was squeaky bum time.
It was arguably a soft free-kick given against Kyle Edwards. Even so, Town had to defend the wide dead ball delivery much better.
Pigott appeared to momentarily forget he doesn't play for Wimbledon any more when flicking the ball further into the danger area with his head. That allowed big centre-back Ben Heneghan to get the run on Lee Evans and convert with a fine downward header.
In the 63rd minute, Heneghan was left criminally unmarked at a corner and his header crashed into Pigott.
So why on earth was he left free again, deep into stoppage-time, to get his head on another corner delivery? This time Town were punished.
Set-pieces are a massive part of the game. Right now, Ipswich don't look like scoring from them and look vulnerable when facing them.
They crumbled under the pressure of Cheltenham's long throws and they crumbled again here.
The frustrating thing is, Town actually defended pretty well in open play. Luke Woolfenden fist-pumped a perfectly-timed slide tackle in Giorgio Chiellini fashion, while Cameron Burgess and Janoi Donacien also made some superb interventions in the latter stages.
POSITIONS UNDER PRESSURE
There's no getting away from it, goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky has had a poor start to life at Ipswich Town.
The Czech custodian should have held onto Heneghan's late header. Instead, the ball was spilt and Jack Rudoni snaffled the close-range rebound.
That error comes a week on from his poor positioning for Scott Twine's free-kick goal for MK Dons.
It's not just been those two costly mistakes either. The former Salford City stopper has, in general, looked quite nervy.
Don't be surprised if Town try and sign a keeper before Tuesday night's transfer deadline.
This game is also likely to have made Cook's mind up that he needs to add some bite and fight to the engine room.
Lee Evans and Rekeem Harper, for the second weekend running, didn't impose themselves on the game enough. Harper, in particular, lost far too many physical duels for a player who has described himself as 'a beast'.
One big positive was the performance of Hayden Coulson.
The Middlesbrough loanee came off to a standing ovation in the 86th minute after producing an all-action display at left-back.
Not only was he a real threat going forwards, combining well with Kyle Edwards, but he also made some really important defensive contributions too.
If that's him semi-fit post Covid, then Town have got themselves a very good player.
The problem is, all Ipswich's attacking threat comes down the flanks. There's not been enough central penetration. Too often, the No.10 (on this occasion Scott Fraser) is on the periphery.
Meanwhile, watching lone striker Pigott try and scrap on his own against two big centre-backs was a bit of a throw-back to frustrating days of old.
The good stuff comes in bits and pieces. Town, though much more entertaining, are still a long way from being a well-oiled machine.
The fear now, of course, is that this is becoming something of a mental block.
Injuries, late additions and a whole new squad settling/gelling are excuses that carry only so much weight.
To have reached the end of August without registering a win is not good enough given that Ipswich have so far played Morecambe, Newport, Burton, Cheltenham, MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon.
With respect, there are tougher challenges ahead.
Cook's record since taking over back in March - W4 D8 L10 - quite frankly isn't good enough either.
Town are already nine points behind the leaders and seven adrift of the play-off places. There's still a long, long way to go - of course there is - but there's already a bit of catching up to do.
'If we'd have scored that goal/not made that mistake/held on for another minute then it would have been a different story' can't keep being the conclusion.
This might all sound a little dramatic to Cook, Mark Ashton and co, but, as I've said before, they have to appreciate what this long-suffering fan base has been through. Cook's right - it's up to him and the players to fully earn the supporters' trust now. It's natural a few emotional barriers have been raised after all the previous pain.
Blackpool and Oxford United remain the poster boys for patience. They both claimed three points from their opening five games last season. Oxford finished sixth, while Blackpool ended up third and promoted via the play-offs.
Whether the Blues play at Wycombe next weekend remains to be seen. The Chairboys will have the option to postpone the fixture due to international call-ups, but Gareth Ainsworth might just think it's better to face Town now rather than further down the line.