Five observations following Ipswich Town's 6-0 win against Doncaster
- Credit: stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Town thrashed Doncaster Rovers 6-0 at Portman Road last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
JOY OF SIX
What a night.
Enjoy it. Really enjoy it. Because we’ve all waited a long time for a moment like this to come along.
This was the first time Ipswich had scored six goals in a game since Connor Wickham’s hat-trick at Doncaster more than a decade ago (Feb 2011).
Lee Evans became the first Ipswich player to score a hat-trick since Grant Ward’s debut treble on the opening day of 2016/17.
It was, of course, Town’s first home win of the season at the eighth attempt.
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Remarkably, it was the Blues’ first victory in front of an unrestricted Portman Road crowd since February 2020 (Burton 4-1).
Hometown hero Macauley Bonne bagged another two to take his embryonic tally to seven. Bersant Celina, another player fans have got a real emotional connection to, got a couple of assists. Town scored from two set-pieces. It was another clean sheet.
No wonder there were such jubilant scenes at the end.
This was a result born out of a perfect storm.
Doncaster were a down-trodden, tired-looking side. In the space of four days they’d travelled down to Plymouth, lost to a stoppage-time penalty, returned to South Yorkshire and then almost immediately headed straight down to Suffolk.
From the very start, the league’s bottom-place side appeared a little punch drunk. And they just so happened to be up against a power-packed Blues team that is finally beginning to find its feet.
As Paul Cook said, ‘they walked into us heavy’.
THE BIG MOMENT
Doncaster were all over the place in the first half.
Wes Burns intercepted a slack pass and swept in a low cross for Macauley Bonne to tap-in a 13th minute opener.
The pair combined again to almost produce a carbon copy goal not long afterwards.
When Evans side-footed home a second following a poorly-defended Scott Fraser corner in the 32nd minute, a very noticeable chasm in confidence levels began to show.
The rest of a very one-sided first half was played out like an attack-v-defence training session. Town had found some swagger.
Richie Wellens made a double sub at the break. He switched to a 3-4-3 system. After a pretty nothing opening 15 minutes to the second half, the visitors, to their credit, actually started to get a bit of a foothold in the game.
For a 10 minute spell, the Blues actually started to wobble just a little bit. It was, perhaps, a sign of some deep-rooted anxieties created by previous dropped points.
A goal against would have completely changed the mood in the ground. Instead, with their newfound solidity, Town stood firm. And, thanks to some increasing chemistry/fitness, they were able to suddenly move up a gear to ruthlessly finish things off with four goals in the space of 10 mad minutes.
Evans expertly heading in Celina’s cross on 70 minutes was, for me, the defining moment of this match. And it shouldn’t go unnoticed that it was Evans who won a powerful defensive header in the build-up too.
SAM’S THE MAN
Never has a player probably felt so happy to pass on the captain’s armband.
Evans was able to go and get his goals – the match ball secured with a fine side-footed finish high into the net - thanks to having his former Wigan team-mate Sam Morsy alongside him. The shackles were released.
Morsy led both vocally and by example. Out of possession, he sniffed danger and snapped at heels. In possession, he never stopped demanding the ball and always looked to drive into space when possible.
The team looked so much more functional with him at the heart of it.
Little more than a fortnight earlier, Town had lost 5-2 at home to Bolton.
So what’s changed from then to get a scoreline like this?
No frills right-back Janoi Donacien has, undoubtedly, made the Blues better defensively since replacing the more adventurous Kane Vincent-Young.
Central defensive duo George Edmundson and Cameron Burgess are beginning to form an understanding. Edmundson, who stabbed home the sixth at a set-piece, looks a very good signing.
Goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky, far less exposed, has himself become a lot more assured in all he does.
There’s been a far better balance in central midfield since Rekeem Harper has dropped out the side. He, to be fair, has been an effective sub in a more advanced role. The 21-year-old almost made it seven when hitting the post late on.
And Town were always going to be dangerous once they got that solid base sorted because, quite clearly, there are goals galore in this squad.
There’s Wes Burns’ pace on one side and Scott Fraser’s clever movement and classy touch on the other.
In between them, Celina – who provided two second half assists with crosses from the left – is only going to get stronger. We know he's got the ability to light up this league. Already, just half-fit, he's showing signs of that.
And up top, of course, is Bonne. He’s simply on fire.
His second goal of the game was sublime. A chest, spin and left-footed volley into the bottom corner followed by a knee slide and kiss of the badge. Beautiful.
Just like with Daryl Murphy in 2014/15, it feels like he’s going to score every game.
And with players like Kyle Edwards (currently injured), James Norwood, Joe Pigott, Conor Chaplin, Sone Aluko and Harper all in reserve, no-one will be able to let their standards slip.
Whisper it quietly, but this is a squad that looks like it might just have a long winning streak in them at some stage.