Stu says: Six observations following Papa John's Trophy exit to Arsenal U21s

Ipswich keeper Vaclav Hladky is beaten as Town are knocked out of the Papa John's trophy on penaltie

Vaclav Hladky is beaten from the spot as Ipswich Town are knocked out of the Papa John's Trophy by Arsenal U21s. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town exited the Papa John's Trophy at the hands of Arsenal U21s last night. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.

Arsenal U21s celebrate going through on penalties.

Arsenal U21s celebrate going through on penalties. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

BRITTLE BLUES

I'll repeat a gag first used several weeks ago... Don't hire an Ipswich Town player to walk your dog - they simply can't hold a lead.

Not very funny, is it? (The joke or the situation).

Town had already lost five games from winning positions this season (Cheltenham, Bolton, West Ham U21s, Accrington and Plymouth). They've now also drawn five games from winning positions too (MK Dons, AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge, Oldham and Arsenal U21s).

Worryingly, this is the third time a two-goal advantage has been let slip.

Let's not forget, the Blues were left clinging on against Crewe last Sunday having also taken a two-goal lead into half-time.

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Once may be regarded as misfortune. This amount of times is carelessness.

JOB WAS DONE

Paul Cook changed his entire 11 for this game but was still able to name a team of senior players.

In the early stages we saw some understandable rust from a group that have found minutes hard to come by of late, but as the half wore on the Blues grew stronger and stronger.

Town pressed high and in numbers. Kane Vincent-Young and Matt Penney both got forwards well from the full-back positions. Idris El Mizouni was tigerish. Tom Carroll played some classy passes. It was a more joined up display than we've seen from the 'first team' in recent weeks.

Kayden Jackson, playing on the right, seized on a loose ball and fired home from the edge of the box via the aid of a deflection. The forgotten front man soon bagged another, timing his run well to finish off Penney's searching cross on the stretch. 

When Folarin Balogun missed an absolute sitter at the far post in the 61st minute that should have been the cue for Town to professionally shut the game down against a bunch of teenagers.

No matter who plays though, that doesn't seem to be a mode they can switch to.

An own goal by Kane Vincent-Young sees Towns lead halved.

Kane Vincent-Young's own goal saw Arsenal U21s get back into the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

SELF HARM

Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say 'there wasn't a lot we could have done to stop that'. Sadly, neither of Arsenal's goals fall in that category.

Kane Vincent-Young had a shocker when inexplicably heading a corner delivery into his own net under zero pressure. The Blues aren't defending set-pieces very well at all.

And while Balogun's darting run and smart one-two with Omari Hutchinson was slick, there was no way Vaclav Hladky should have let the ball squirm under him at the near post.

Bersant Celina's fluffed penalty in the shootout then rather summed up Town's frustrating Jekyll and Hyde nature.

Three days on from producing one of the greatest goals ever scored at Portman Road, the Kosovan hit a powderpuff effort down the middle of the goal from 12 yards out.

Joe Pigott heads wide for town.

Joe Pigott heads narrowly wide for Ipswich Town late on. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

STOCK EXCHANGE

"There were lads who 100% have given me a selection headache and there are others who have probably cemented what I already knew," said Cook afterwards.

So whose stock rose and whose fell?

Joe Pigott worked his socks off up top, constantly dropped deep to try and make things happen and also got into some good goalscoring positions.

Late on, as Town finished strong, he forced a diving save, glanced a header wide and saw a neat finish disallowed for offside.

He's just ramped up the pressure a bit more on Macauley Bonne.

Penney overcame a poor start, produced an assist and was still bombing forwards at the death. He may well jump back in the team ahead of Bailey Clements. 

Cameron Burgess fouls Mika Biereth.

Cameron Burgess fouls Mika Biereth. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

In midfield, Carroll's got the aura of a former Premier League player, while El Mizouni showed more desire than anyone else on the field. They're breathing down Lee Evans' neck.

Jackson got two goals and Cook called him 'the big shining light of the night'. It's hard to see him replacing Sone Aluko in the league team, but he might have earned himself some game time off the bench while Wes Burns remains sidelined.

Meanwhile, it was the same old story for Kyle Edwards - exciting moments, but no end product.

Rekeem Harper may have forced a brilliant save out of Ovie Ejeheri, but we're still yet to see him be the 'beast' he declared himself to be back in July.

At the back, Cameron Burgess made one big saving tackle, but there's always a sense he looks vulnerable on the turn.

Rekeem Harper on the ball against Arsenal U21s.

Rekeem Harper on the ball against Arsenal U21s. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

PRESSURE RISES

For the sixth time this season a win was followed up by a disappointing set-back.

A run to Wembley could have offset some pain if Town do ultimately fall shot in the league this season. That nice side distraction is gone now though.

Since that magnificent 4-1 victory at Wycombe at the start of November, the Blues' form reads DDDWLLWD - and those two wins, against Oldham and Crewe, were both pretty uninspiring.

At Portman Road this season it's W4 D8 L3. That's clearly not good enough.

Town are losing momentum at a time when they really need to be gaining it. Blues fans desperately want to believe, but there's no doubt that some of the feelgood factor is fast fading.

League Two side Barrow come to Suffolk for an FA Cup second round tie on Saturday, then it's league games at Charlton and Wigan.

Town manager Paul Cook screaming instructions during the first half.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook screaming instructions during the first half. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

COOK'S COMMENTS

Nine months, 43 games and 19 signings into the job, Cook has - unprompted - started calling for time.

"Until we change the individuals then the individual errors won't change," he said last night. He also stated: "Personnel around the club might feel they are safe sometimes, but that's not how it works at big clubs."

Demolition Man the sequel on the horizon? The Liverpudlian has been known to quickly move on players he's recently signed at previous clubs.

Would that be brave, ruthless and ambitious? Or should the Blues boss really be concentrating on improving and getting a tune out of what he's got? 

January is going to be a very interesting transfer window.




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