Stu says: He's ours now! The pick-pocket and cheese-gate - Town's 4-0 win
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Ipswich Town won 4-0 at Portsmouth last night. STUART WATSON reflects on an evening to remember at Fratton Park.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Paul Cook called this his team's 'most complete display of the season'. He's right.
Since that lacklustre display at Accrington Stanley, there has been much more desire to do the ugly stuff on the road.
Just like at Cambridge three days earlier, the Blues showed plenty of fighting spirit in the first half. In windy conditions, they proved they were ready to roll up their sleeves and earn the right to play.
When ex-Town loanee Ryan Tunnicliffe wiped out Kyle Edwards within the first two minutes, the Blues responded with plenty of aggression of their own.
Captain Sam Morsy, in particular, got stuck in.
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The difference this time was the game management was good after they went ahead.
Also just like at Cambridge, Town started the second half on the front foot. Again, their play was calm and controlled as they attacked towards the travelling fans.
The difference this time was they were clinical when on top.
Even when the third and fourth goals went in, and the game was won, Cook's men continued to play with the focus and energy of a team that still had it all to do.
Seeing out the clean sheet was every bit as pleasing as the four goals.
One of the most remarkable moments in this game was the reaction that Conor Chaplin got when being subbed in the 78th minute.
Fans in all four sides of the ground stood to acclaim the 24-year-old attacker just moments after the Blues had gone 4-0 up.
Having progressed through the youth ranks at Fratton Park, Chaplin scored 25 goals in 122 games for his boyhood club, helping them win the League Two title in 2016/17.
That contribution, three years on from his departure, has clearly not been forgotten on the south coast.
'Conor Chaplin, he's one of our own' chanted the Pompey faithful.
Thankfully, he's one of ours now.
Chaplin's goal celebration was respectfully muted after he expertly guided a first time finish into the bottom corner in the 54th minute to put Town 2-0 up.
He's now scored four goals in his last six games.
Not only that, his all-around game has been impressive too. It was his driving run and pass which set up Sone Aluko for the third goal. The touch has been sharp. The movement has been clever and varied.
He's nailing down that No.10 spot.
This was another chapter in the Donaissance.
The newfound love that Janoi Donacien has been feeling from Ipswich Town has been based on his defensive solidity.
'He's probably the best one-v-one defender at the club," enthused Paul Cook after the 1-0 win at Lincoln last month.
Since then several crunching tackles have added to his growing cult status.
Here, however, the 27-year-old showed he can contribute going forwards too.
With Portsmouth deploying wing-backs, Donacien took the opportunity to attack space down the line as Aluko tucked inside.
The result was two assists as he twice swept low crosses into the box - one from deep, one from higher up the field - to set-up Chaplin and substitute Wes Burns.
The Donacien and Burns special handshake always brings a smile. It's neat shorthand for the chemistry that's building throughout this squad, both on and off the field.
Cook was a bundle of excited energy back on the Fratton Park touchline. It clearly triggered some bitter memories from Pompey fans about the way he left them for Wigan straight after achieving promotion.
In the second half, an unidentified object was hurled angrily towards the back of the Blues boss' head from the top-tier of the stand behind the dug-outs. It missed and shattered into small pieces on the field of play.
Was it an apple? No-one seemed to notice.
Around 10 minutes later, it happened again. Once more, a near miss. Once more, debris scattered just inside the touchline. Again, Cook didn't seem to notice. Or at least he didn't let on.
First team coach Gary Roberts turned and shot a despairing look towards where he thought the projectile had come from.
Later, with the ground emptied, Roberts was overhead in conversation with an opposition coach.
'I thought it was a bit of pie to start with," laughed the former Pompey winger. 'But apparently it was a block of cheese!'
Fitting on a night where Town showed signs of maturing. Insert your own cheese puns here.
THE PICK POCKET
There might soon have to be a therapy group set up for League One goalkeepers where they can discuss the night terrors that Macauley Bonne has left them with.
Gavin Bazunu has now joined that club.
The young Republic of Ireland international had an age to clear prior to the opening goal, following a back pass, but made the fatal mistake of dallying on the ball with Bonne in stalking proximity.
Bonne repeated his pick-pocket trick shown against Sheffield Wednesday's Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Once again, there was still plenty of work to do. Once again, he somehow slowed down time as adrenaline spiked.
As limbs flailed at his feet, he danced back inside and smashed the ball home on the angle. It's like watching The Matrix. It was a goal which brought back memories of Marcus Stewart in 2000/01.
The fingers to the lips celebration was back too. Last time, Shrewsbury keeper Marco Marosi was the target after he had made the mistake of trying to wind up the front man. This time, the Portsmouth fans behind the goal were on the receiving end.
That's 10 goals for the season and nine in his last nine.
Not only that, he then spent the second period relentlessly charging down Bazunu and triggering the high press.
Thank goodness QPR are playing well and scoring goals.
That's 27 goals scored in the opening 13 league games.
For context, it took Town 23 games to reach that tally in 2020/21. Aaron Drinan's tackle finish at Crewe, on January 30, brought up that milestone.
The ironic cheers and gallows humour that emanated from the Pompey fans during the latter stages was a reminder of miserable days of the not-so-distant past at Portman Road.
So whenever the next disappointment comes we really must remind ourselves of just how much more fun it is watching the Blues.
BACK IT UP!
It's five wins from the last eight games across all competitions.
Fourteen points claimed from the last seven league games is the magical 'two points a game' marker that everyone talks about being needed for promotion.
Next up is 20th-place Fleetwood at home on Saturday. Can Cook secure back-to-back league wins for the first time since taking charge back in March?
Do that and there'd be some powerful momentum being carried into crunch games against high-flying Plymouth (1st), Wycombe (3rd), Oxford (8th), Sunderland (2nd) and Rotherham (5th).