Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 3-0 defeat at Northampton Town

Mark McGuinness is very disappointed at full-time at Northampton Town

Mark McGuinness is very disappointed at full-time at Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

Ipswich Town slipped back to 11th in the League One table following last night's 3-0 loss at Northampton Town. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.


ANOTHER NEW LOW 

Another Tuesday night, another 3-0 loss at a side occupying a spot in the relegation zone. 

Ipswich managed to concede three times against the division’s lowest scorers. 

After the baby step forwards taken with the semi-positive 0-0 draw at Charlton, came the grimly predictable two big strides back. 

The Blues can make the play-offs? Cobblers.

Ipswich go 2-0 down against Northampton Town

Ipswich go 2-0 down against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

With just four games to go (thank goodness for that), Town are back in the 11th place spot they finished in last season. 

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They are as close 15th place Fleetwood as they are to sixth place Charlton (five points). 

They are as close to the relegation zone as they are to the automatic promotion spots (18 points). 

Remember feeling crushingly disappointed with a goalless home draw against Northampton back in February and thinking things couldn’t get much worse? 

Kane Vincent-Young is disappointed to have a second half chance saved against Northampton Town

Kane Vincent-Young is disappointed to have a second half chance saved against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

Remember before that when Ipswich were ‘flat track bullies’ in League One – always beating the lesser sides but coming up short against so-called promotion rivals? (They’ve now dropped 13 points against teams currently in the bottom six). 

Remember when binary boredom in the Championship and exiting cup competitions early was all there was to moan about? 

Those were the days! 

Just when you think Town have hit rock bottom there is a new low around the corner.  

Another mid-table finish in the third-tier beckons. The big summer rebuild under new owners can’t come quick enough. 

DO THE BASICS 

Just like at AFC Wimbledon seven days earlier, the tone was set when a goal was conceded at a corner.  

Are the Blues set up to defend set-pieces man-to-man or with zonal marking? It’s hard to tell. 

One thing’s for sure, they just look so passive and soft when those dead balls are delivered into the box. 

For the eighth minute opener, Peter Kioso got the run on a static Flynn Downes to volley home on the run at the near post. 

Keanan Bennetts on the ball during the first half against Northampton Town

Keanan Bennetts on the ball during the first half against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

The killer second goal, which came just after the half hour mark, was a near carbon copy. 

Again, Joseph Mills sent in a left-footed inswinger from the right. This time Kioso outjumped Luke Woolfenden to head in at the far post. 

For goodness sake, will somebody please just attack the ball? 

Town had lived really dangerously either side of the second goal too.  

Stephen Ward had to make a big goal saving block, Tomas Holy made a diving save to deny Ryan Watson, while Alex Jones glanced a golden chance wide. 

Flynn Downes is disappointed at Northampton Town

Flynn Downes is disappointed at Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

Town’s defence was falling apart as quickly as the European Super League. 

Just to rub salt in the wounds, the late third goal was a complete shambles. 

Holy, whose kicking had been dreadful all night, came racing out of his box and hoicked the ball into a central area. Watson then outmuscled Downes far too easily and fired into an empty net. 

Holy rebuked Woolfenden for not dealing with the initial danger. Mark McGuinness hadn’t even made an attempt to stop the ball on its way to goal. 

Prior to that third goal, Town were making some horribly sloppy unforced errors. McGuinness’ failure to find Andre Dozzell from five yards away summed up the night. 

This is a group that has long given up and accepted defeat. 

Tellingly, Paul Cook blanked every one of his players as they left the field at the end and instead went out of his way to shake the hands of the Northampton players instead. 

Flynn Downes is disappointed at Northampton Town

Flynn Downes is disappointed at Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

NINE HOURS AND COUNTING 

Even though there was still the best part of an hour to play, you knew there was no coming back from 2-0. 

Because Ipswich simply just don’t score goals. 

If you include stoppage-time, the Blues have now gone more than nine hours without finding the net. 

Four games in and the club’s new owners still haven’t seen their team score. 

Reaction from the players to going two behind against Northampton Town

Reaction from the players to going two behind against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

Over the last 36 league games Town have scored a pathetic 28 goals.

At this rate, they could finish as the division’s lowest scorers. 

Northampton are only three behind now thanks to this result and Bristol Rovers just one. 

Here it was the same old story. Town worked the ball into some really good attacking areas, but the final bit of quality or composure was continually lacking.  

Freddie Sears is fully committed for the ball against Northampton Town

Freddie Sears is fully committed for the ball against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

Time after time low crosses were snuffed out. Keanan Bennetts is an infuriating player to watch. 

Gwion Edwards (one of the only players who could hold his head high at the end) struck the outside of the post from 30 yards out early on following a short corner routine, while Freddie Sears’ flicked backwards header looped onto the crossbar late in the first half. 

Then, five minutes after the restart, Kane Vincent-Young fluffed an absolute sitter. 

When Kayden Jackson picked him out at the far post with a low ball it looked harder to miss from six yards out. Somehow, he managed to fire into the keeper on the opposite side of the unguarded net. 

Later on, in the 71st minute, sub Oli Hawkins powered a header inches over the angle of bar and post. 

The goal drought goes on. 

Paul Cook watching the warm up before the match against Northampton Town

Paul Cook watching the warm up before the match against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

UNDERCOOKED 

There’s no getting away from the fact that Paul Cook’s record since taking charge at the start of March has been appalling. 

Just 11 points from 12 games is relegation form (W2 D5 L5). 

Town haven’t had a worse run than this since dropping into League One. 

Yes, he’s not had loads of time on the training pitch. And yes, the standard of this squad is clearly not as good as many of us previously thought. 

What went wrong? Tomas Holy walks off the pitch scratching his head at Northampton Town after Ipswic

What went wrong? Tomas Holy walks off the pitch scratching his head at Northampton Town after Ipswich lose 3-0. - Credit: Pagepix

But surely it wasn't too much to expect more than this? 

We haven’t even had a dead cat bounce, let alone a new manager bounce. 

Why is that? 

You could argue that Cook’s got his man management wrong. Calling his players mentally weak and unfit was perhaps a card played a little too soon. 

Oli Hawkins vents his frustrations at Northampton Town

Oli Hawkins vents his frustrations at Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

You could also argue that, tactically, he’s tried too much. For a manager who has said he wants partnerships to develop he’s not exactly allowed that to happen with constant chopping and changing.  

Maybe, having taken over a team that had just won three games on the spin, he tried to change too much too soon.  

The counter argument is that the strong words were both fair and necessary. It’s not as if Paul Lambert’s ‘they give me everything in their bodies’ positive approach had brought the best out in the players either. So someone had to try and press some different motivational buttons.  

As for the switches in systems and personnel, the defence would be that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results would have been the definition of madness. At least he’s been trying to find a formula. 

Ultimately, the players carry the can.  

Cook will hopefully get things right after being given the chance to completely overhaul the squad, sign players to suit his style of play and get them properly fit over a pre-season  

Gwen Edwards smashes a first half shot into the woodwork against Northampton Town

Gwen Edwards smashes a first half shot into the woodwork against Northampton Town - Credit: Pagepix

NEW SIGNING SPOTTED? 

Could there be a new member of staff incoming? 

Noel Hunt was in attendance last night. 

The former Town loanee had a long chat with Cook before the game and then watched from the stands. 

The Irishman played under Cook at both Portsmouth and Wigan and has been out of work since leaving a coaching role Swindon in December. 

Hunt was assistant manager to Richie Wellens for two years and is on the look out for his next job.

If he does arrive at Portman Road that will make for a packed backroom staff. Cook has already brought in Gary Roberts and given Kieron Dyer more first team duties alongside Matt Gill. 

What this all means about the possibility of Cook luring his trusted long-term assistant Leam Richardson away from Wigan remains to be seen.

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