Stu says: Five observations following 3-0 win against Burton
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town moved to within four points of the League One play-off places with a 3-0 home win against Burton yesterday. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
Burton had opened the scoring in 11 league games this season. They won nine of those matches and drew the other two.
The first goal in this game therefore felt crucial. Ipswich got it with just 43 seconds on the clock.
Kieran McKenna's instructions to his players to make sure their first actions in the game - be it a tackle, pass or shot - were positive crowd-pleasers had paid dividends.
After some scrappy play near the halfway line, Wes Burns seized on a loose ball and played a well-weighted forward pass. Kayden Jackson still had plenty to do a full 30 yards from goal. He darted inside and, using his weaker left foot, pulled a low shot through the defenders legs and beyond the despairing dive of keeper Ben Garratt to find the bottom corner.
At times in the recent past, Town players have been guilty of not shooting enough from similar positions. If you don't buy a ticket, you can't win the lottery.
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Such an early goal took any nerves out the air. And it meant Burton, rather than sitting in to frustrate as others have done at Portman Road, had to chase the game.
WEATHERING THE STORM
Burton sit comfortably in mid-table for a reason.
They repeatedly put the ball on top of the opposition defence, have lots of bodies looking to seize on second balls high up the field and are a real threat from the set-pieces that approach naturally leads to. It can swamp and suffocate.
For a 20 minute spell in the first half, Town had to weather such a storm.
Lee Evans headed a Jacob Maddox effort off the line after a corner had been half-cleared. Conor Shaughnessy glanced a good headed opportunity wide after a long throw had been flicked on to the far post. Christian Walton made a smart stop to prevent Joe Powell's free-kick attempt finding the bottom corner and also showed good reactions to keep out Ben Hamer's back post header.
Referee Carl Brook making a series of strange decisions didn't help.
But then the torrential rain stopped, Burton's intensity dropped and Ipswich made this their sort of game. It was controlled and clinical.
It's now been more than seven hours since the Blues conceded a goal. That's four clean sheets in a row. It's seven shut-outs in 10 matches since McKenna took charge.
After the restart, it became increasingly evident that Burton were leaving huge gaps in behind. And in Jackson, the Blues had the perfect man to exploit them.
We've always known that the 26-year-old has electric speed and a tireless work ethic. Here he added intelligent movement and some ice-cool composure. It made him virtually unplayable. He was an absolute menace.
First, he streaked away up the left and crossed for Burns to volley home at the far post in the 62nd minute. Then, after a neat lay-off earlier in the move, he powered up the right and dissected the six-yard box with a low delivery that left substitute Bersant Celina with a tap-in with 12 minutes to go.
Jackson also forced the keeper into a save with the legs after leaving Sam Hughes for dead with a frightening turn of pace. He would have had a hat-trick of assists had Sam Morsy converted following an excellent cut-back.
It was a performance which earned him a deserved standing ovation when substituted late on.
This was Jackson's first league goal for Ipswich since December 2020. It was the first time he had scored at Portman Road, in the league, since bagging a brace, funnily enough, against Burton in 4-1 win almost two years ago to the day.
A man who has looked destined for the exit door over the last few months has now given himself a great chance of earning a new contract.
McKenna's forward rotation continued as Sone Aluko and Joe Pigott replace Conor Chaplin and Bersant Celina, leaving both Macauley Bonne and James Norwood among the subs again.
Aluko was often guilty of holding onto the ball too long. But it was his fine pass over the top which led to the important second goal.
Pigott defended from the front and showed his back to goal qualities. He hit the post after a turn and shot in the box leading up to half-time. Whether it's enough to keep his place remains to be seen.
Burns' crossing from the right was hit and miss, while there was an element of fortune about the way his goal deflected in off a defender. He was always an out ball though and that takes his tally of goals for the season to an impressive nine.
Evans, again, showed just how important he is to this team. He's the one that makes things tick, allowing captain Sam Morsy to be more effective further up the pitch. Some of his teasing deep deliveries into the box were superb. Let's hope the knock he took late in the game isn't anything too serious.
January addition Dominic Thompson is improving game-by-game on the left, while enough has been written about that back three of Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson, plus keeper Walton.
Finally, this is a team that is looking like a true sum of its parts.
FORTRESS PORTMAN ROAD
Clean sheets is one cornerstone to success. Home form is another.
Wycombe, Accrington, Gillingham and Burton... Town have now won four games in a row on Suffolk soil.
Only two teams - Bolton and Rotherham - have taken all three points at Portman Road this season.
McKenna's record now reads W7 D1 L2 F14 A4. He's already won as many league games, from 10 attempts, as Town managed in the opening 23. Realistically, at least another seven, probably eight, are going to be required from the final 13 if the Blues are going to gatecrash the top-six.
Next up is the visit of 15th place Cheltenham on Tuesday night. They've only lost one of their last nine. They beat Sunderland last week. Remarkably, they drew 5-5 at Wycombe yesterday.
McKenna will, no doubt, already have his latest bespoke game plan in mind.