Stu says: Five observations following 4-0 Charlton win
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town finished the season with a 4-0 home win against Charlton Athletic yesterday. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
FINISH ON A HIGH
And so, a season of fun and frustration ends on a real high.
For weeks we've been saying that Kieran McKenna's men, who have played some lovely football, would put someone to the sword.
That moment finally arrived on the final day of the campaign and simply added to the over-riding feeling of 'what if?'
Tyreeq Bakinson got the ball rolling in the seventh minute when guiding a superb first-time shot into the top corner. At last Town players have started shooting from outside the box.
Crucially, when the tails were up, the Blues soon added that oh-so-often elusive killer second. Conor Chaplin provided the through ball and Wes Burns coolly converted one-on-one with the outside of his boot. Again, that sort of central penetration is not something we've seen loads of in recent weeks.
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A little bit of that ill-discipline which has proved costly started to creep in as the foul count rose, but dead ball deliveries were repelled and Christian Walton, in typical fashion, pulled off an important flying save when called upon, clawing Jayden Stockley's header around the post.
Town, expressing themselves in an open game, finished the first half strongly. Within five minutes of the restart they'd ruthlessly put it to bed.
A Conor Chaplin forward pass, a low Macauley Bonne cross and a well-timed run to convert from six-yards out. Another for Burns. This pattern of play is becoming Town's party piece.
James Norwood stepped off the bench late on to add a fourth (more on that in a minute). In truth, the scoreline could have been anything.
Sam Morsy and Bersant Celina had spurned big chances inside the box during the second half. Conor Washington and Stockley both really should have scored for the Addicks too.
The fact this dead rubber was played in front of a crowd of 26,002 tells you everything about how enthused and engaged Town fans are right now. Rightly so.
Ultimately though - and this should not be forgotten - the Blues have finished 11th.
Days like these need to happen far more regularly next season. McKenna and the players know that.
Wes Burns' brace means that he finishes the season as Town's top-scorer with 13.
After the game he was named Supporters' Player of the Year, having already scooped Players' Player of the Year, Sponsors' Player of the Year and been named in the EFL Team of the Year.
It's been an impressive debut campaign for the flying Welshman, who really went up a gear once McKenna put him in this hybrid right wing-back/right forward role.
"I've really enjoyed getting to know Wes better and the career he's had to this point," said McKenna. "He's an example to people that they can come to this football and enjoy the pressure and the atmosphere.
"Whether you are 19, 27 or even 33. We want players to come here improve and thrive. Wes has managed to do that this year. He knows now that next year is a really big year for him. Coming and having one good season is one thing, but to push on again and repeat that and go up a level is another. That's certainly the challenge for him now. I'm sure he's going to look to do that, starting in pre-season."
James Norwood certainly does things his way.
The 31-year-old took it upon himself to announce he was leaving the club the night before this game via a social media statement.
Less than 24 hours later he had persuaded four of his mates to leave their corporate box refreshments and join him on the traditional 'lap of appreciation'.
In between that he got six final minutes in a Blues shirt. Obviously he scored.
Following a finish from the acutest of angles, the front man stood, arms outstretched, taking the acclaim of the North Stand.
That was goal number 28 for him in a Blues shirt - a pretty impressive return for someone who has only started 57 games.
Norwood could have become a cult hero at this football club. Injuries and off-field shenanigans - some silly, some serious - have sadly ended up being his legacy following three eventful years.
It was impossible not to feel sorry for Macauley Bonne after this game.
He scored from an offside position in the first half. He literally handed the Golden Boot to Burns when sweeping in the assist for goal number three. He then saw late replacement Norwood get his goodbye moment.
Bonne loves this club. Deeply. He's genuinely lived out a boyhood dream.
No-one will ever be able to take those magic first three months away from him. That 12-goal period was so special. I'm not sure we'll see a bond like that between player and fans again.
There was a lump in the throat as the QPR loanee slowly left the field, thumping the badge and soaking up the applause.
There's no room for sentiment in football though. Ultimately, for all the work-rate and passion, neither he or Norwood have done quite enough to prove they should be the men to spearhead the attack next season.
Joe Pigott remained an unused substitute. He may well be off too. The hunt for a new talisman is on.
STAR IN THE MAKING
Cameron Humphreys has made two league appearances for Ipswich now - both of them against Charlton.
The 18-year-old midfielder's experiences couldn't have been more different.
Back on a dark day last December, he was thrown into an impossible situation at The Valley as a Blues side still shell-shocked by Paul Cook's departure were booed from the field following the limpest of 2-0 losses.
This time he was introduced, in an advanced role, with Town 3-0 up and enjoying themselves.
Some confident touches followed, including a well-weighted reverse pass for Norwood's clincher.
Town look to a have homegrown star in the making in this talented and seemingly well-grounded teenager.
"He's a player we have very high thoughts about," said McKenna. "We want to be very careful with him and map out the right steps for his career at the right times. It’s important to give them the right exposures at the right time."