Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 0-0 draw at Oxford United
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Oxford United have kept five clean sheets in 30 league games this calendar year. Three of them have been against Ipswich Town.
Karl Robinson’s men went into last night’s match with the second leakiest defence in the division. They’d gone 18 league games without a shut out.
Ipswich never laid a glove on them.
Aaron Drinan pressed high and hard, but looked horribly isolated. Armando Dobra played with similar energy, but got kicked out of the game. Keanan Bennetts was direct but wasteful.
Jack Lankester and Jon Nolan couldn’t stamp any authority on the game in midfield. Veteran full-backs Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward just aren’t joining the attack in the way they were earlier in the campaign.
Town’s first and only shot on target – a tame header from Oli Hawkins that went straight to the keeper – didn’t arrive until the 90th minute.
Nolan slammed an angled shot over the bar in the 75th minute. Moments later, Andre Dozzell’s drifting corner was pushed onto the bar by the keeper.
In the first half, Bennetts blazed over from range, home keeper Jack Stevens was quick off his line to clear ahead of Drinan, while Chambers had a shot charged down.
That was literally it in terms of Town chances.
This was another game where the Blues looked like they could play all day and not score.
It’s now 270 minutes without a goal. It’s six goals scored in nine league games. And two of them have been own goals.
This was a game between two of the division’s most out of form sides.
It was cagey. It was short on quality. Penalty box action was very much at a premium.
Oxford are a lot like Ipswich. They kept the ball for long spells, but ultimately ran into dead ends or ended up with lofted hopeful balls forwards.
They still had chances though.
A poorly marked Elliott Moore planted a header wide at a corner. David Cornell was forced into a flying save after Marcus McGuane was allowed to drift inside. James Henry nodded against the post after a cross was not dealt with.
After the break, an Olamide Shodipo shot was deflected wide, a James Henry shot was beaten around the post, while McGuane and Jordan Obita both saw fierce efforts blocked.
If anyone deserved to win this, it was the hosts.
Seven of Town’s starting XI were aged between 19 and 22.
The front three – Dobra, Drinan and Bennetts – had just nine league starts between them ahead of kick-off.
Mark McGuiness and Jack Lankester are equally green when it comes to senior minutes.
MORE: Oxford United 0-0 Ipswich Town: Lambert’s Blues draw a blank as visitors lack bite at Kassam Stadium
The injury list is ridiculous. As a reminder, here it is in full: Kane Vincent-Young, James Wilson, Toto Nsiala, Teddy Bishop, Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes, Emyr Huws, Gwion Edwards, Freddie Sears, James Norwood and Tristan Nydam.
Brett McGavin also missed out on this one through illness. Nolan was rushed back to action just 10 days on from suffering a groin injury.
Under such trying circumstances, you could, if you were being kind, argue this was a positive point gained at last season’s play-off finalists. The thing is, the current concerns run a lot deeper.
DEATH BY STATS
Since October 19, Ipswich have claimed just 10 points from nine league games.
Only four teams have a worse record over the same spell of games. Three of them - Bristol Rovers, Shrewsbury and Wigan - have changed managers recently.
Since October 19 last year, Ipswich have lost more league games (17) than they’ve won (14).
Is Paul Lambert feeling the pressure? Read his post-match press conference and make your own mind up.
And now Andre Dozzell is sidelined again.
The midfielder, whose positive passing from deep is so crucial to the way Town play, had only just returned from his three-game ban for that controversial red card at Sunderland.
Now he’s suspended again, for Saturday’s trip to Plymouth, after picking up his fifth league booking of the campaign.
There can be no complaints over his late yellow card either. It was a late tackle.