Stu says: Six observations following 2-2 draw with MK Dons
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller
Ipswich Town's wait for their first win of the season goes on following yesterday's 2-2 home draw with MK Dons. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
ANOTHER 'WHAT IF?' TALE
And so, the wait for that first win of the season goes on.
Again, there was so much to like about this Town performance. Again, there was so much that frustrated.
Twice the Blues led through fantastic goals. Twice they were pegged back after sloppy individual mistakes. And they very nearly lost it at the death.
Five games played, two draws and three defeats. Scored six, conceded nine.
You can go back through all the matches and make a strong argument that Town could and should have won all of them.
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What if Luke Woolfenden hadn't given the ball away against Morecambe? What if Scott Fraser had scored his penalty at Burton? What if Macauley Bonne hadn't missed at Cheltenham? What if the Blues had scored a killer second when on top against the Dons?
There's only so long that we can keep saying 'what if' though.
We do have to remind ourselves how much more entertaining this new-look Town is compared to some of the mind-numbing fare served up in recent years. No-one will have walked away from this action-packed encounter thinking they hadn't got value for money.
But, even in the embryonic stages of this rebuild, it is also fair to demand more. Having quality is not enough. Football is as much about razor-sharp concentration, controlled aggression and intelligently managing moments.
Jurgen Klopp spoke in the past of his Liverpool side being 'mentality monsters'. That's what this talented Blues group needs to become if they are to be the promotion contenders we all hope and believe and they can be.
Four days on from producing one of the worst misses in recent history for Ipswich Town, Macauley Bonne responded by scoring one of the best goals in recent memory.
The Blues striker had vowed to put right his failure to find an open net at Cheltenham - and he did so in style.
First, Kane Vincent-Young won the ball back following an advanced MK Dons throw and then sent a gloriously flighted long ball over the top from the right-back position. Bonne's first touch was exquisite. His thumping finish into the near top corner on the angle was even better.
This reporter's live goal update was slightly delayed. It was a goal that deserved a round of applause.
"I don't normally pray," said Bonne afterwards. "But I did today."
That 16th minute opener certainly felt like it had a touch of divine intervention.
The QPR loanee's second goal, which restored Town's lead in the 72nd minute, came following an equally good Town move.
Substitute Matt Penney zipped a pass into the feet of Scott Fraser and his delicious bending cross was turned in at the far post.
Bonne is playing for the badge. He's said he wants to make himself undroppable for Paul Cook and you can see he's stretching every sinew.
It's certainly his shirt to lose right now.
Right, come on then, let's dissect the goals against.
Both, in what is fast becoming a recurring theme, were acts of self-harm.
Town were the team on top in the early stages of the second half. The livewire Kyle Edwards twice saw crosses fizz across the face of goal, Bonne saw a side-footed attempt deflected wide and Wes Burns saw a one-on-one attempt turned onto the post.
Failure to bag that killer second was soon punished.
First, Woolfenden gave away soft foul in a dangerous position just before the hour. Then, Vaclav Hladky's poor starting position left him unable to stop Scott Twine's free-kick creeping inside the post. It's fair to say that Town's new keeper hasn't had the most convincing of starts since stepping up from Salford.
Bonne restored the lead, but it lasted just less than three minutes.
Lee Evans dallied facing his own goal in a dangerous deep position and Matt O'Riley nipped in to finish. It was a moment to forget for the new skipper.
Town got dangerously deep as the game entered the final stages and, in the end, they got lucky in stoppage-time.
This time, Rekeem Harper lost the ball in a bad area and suddenly the visitors had men over in attack. Thankfully, Norwich City loanee Josh Martin shot against the crossbar.
As much as Ipswich could have won this game, they very nearly lost it too.
KYLE IS CLASS
I said it midweek and I'll say it again - how on earth have Ipswich Town managed to sign Kyle Edwards in League One?
The 23-year-old winger, for the third game running, scared the opposition stiff.
Deceptive body swerves and feints, combined with the ability to accelerate sharply from a standing start, make him virtually unplayable at times. He shows his marker a glimpse of the ball and then takes it away in a flash.
The great thing about him is that his decision-making is good too. After executing some skill, more often than not he finds a team-mate. Oh, and he also puts in his defensive work too.
He's got the potential to rip up this division.
CUT EACH OTHER SOME SLACK
Yes, there were some brief, frustrated boos at the final whistle. It has to be said though that the 18,121 home fans really backed their team throughout this topsy-turvy affair. The encouragement which followed MK Dons' first equaliser was proof of that.
All the questions posed to Paul Cook in the post-match interviews were worded softly and positively. Unprompted, the Blues boss keeps bringing up the subjects of pressure and opinion. He spoke of an exchange with an unhappy fan and predicted negative headlines and punditry.
For me, that's not needed. I'm seeing more evidence of people moaning about moaners than actual moaners. The vast majority, it feels to me anyway, are fully behind this project and realistic about where it's at.
But what Cook and the club's new hierarchy need to understand is this long-suffering set of supporters have been hurt many times before.
Just as the Blues boss needs time to get this new-look group fully fit and functional, the fans also need to be cut some slack if they have the odd moment of doubt or surge of cynicism.
A blank week leading up to Saturday's visit of AFC Wimbledon might just do everyone some good. Settle down all. Breath. There's a long way to go.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fraser looked more effective finally playing in his favoured central role. He was able to drift into little pockets of space and also worked hard to join Bonne in the high press. Of the five different No.9/No.10 combos we've now seen, this was probably the most joined up.
Let's hope the injury which forced Fraser off late on isn't too bad.
Hayden Coulson produced an encouraging debut before understandably tiring. He was replaced at left-back by Penney in the 69th minute. There's clearly more to come from the Middlesbrough loanee once he's fully over Covid and a slight knee problem.
Meanwhile, it was interesting to see how Tom Carroll was used when he came on. The ex Tottenham and QPR man was deployed right in front of the back four, Cook switching to a more conservative 4-1-4-1 system when the score was 1-1.
"It calmed us down completely and brought a bit more balance to the midfield area where we were getting a bit overrun," explained the Blues boss.