Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-1 win at Swindon
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Ipswich Town returning to winning ways with a 2-1 success at Swindon Town yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
DROUGHT IS OVER!
When Kane Vincent-Young's stooping close-range header was kept out by the trailing legs of keeper Lee Camp in the 40th minute you began to wonder if Ipswich Town actually had some kind of hex put on them.
Teddy Bishop had already been denied one-on-one by the experienced home keeper, Armando Dobra dragged an effort wide from a golden position inside the box, while James Norwood had seen an adapted shot on the run tipped over the bar.
The Blues were playing well and creating openings - but still a goal wouldn't come.
When the clock hit 41 minutes, the drought had reached the 11 hour mark.
Thankfully, we didn't have long to dwell on another miserable landmark. With half-time fast-approaching, Jonathan Grounds produced a clumsy trip on Bishop in the box and Norwood converted his spot-kick down the middle.
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Relief was etched on the players' faces.
Manager Paul Cook, beaming ear to ear, was ribbed by his backroom staff for not going through with his pre-match promise of a topless goal celebration.
Town were playing with energy and intent.
They almost had a quickfire second moments before the break when Bishop bundled his way to goal only to be denied by the in-form Camp. They carved out another opening soon after the restart when Flynn Downes shot over after Bishop had mis-kicked following Gwion Edwards' low cross.
The killer second did finally arrive in the 57th minute.
Vincent-Young's direct running got the Blues in a good position, pressing by Dobra and Edwards kept Swindon pegged back and then Scott Twine badly undercooked his back pass to allow an alert Norwood to stab home on the stretch.
Norwood had moved onto nine goals for the season in all competitions.
Town were firmly in the box seat against an already-relegated side who have conceded more goals than anyone else in the division.
IT'S NEVER EASY!
Ipswich, in typical Ipswich fashion, still somehow made things difficult for themselves.
In the 71st minute, David Cornell let Brett Pitman's low shot squirm through his hands and into the net.
Then, two minutes later, Norwood had put a penalty wide.
This spot-kick was awarded when Taylor Curran mis-timed his slide tackle on fellow substitute Troy Parrott.
Teenage Tottenham loanee Parrott grabbed the ball and placed it on the spot, but Norwood, on a hat-trick and surprisingly wearing the captain's armband as the team's most senior player, pulled rank.
Sadly, his effort went comfortably wide of the right-hand upright and the striker was left with his head in his hands.
The 30-year-old record from the spot with the Blues now reads scored four, missed three.
And there was still time in this game for Josh Harrop to slice a horrible shot high, wide and out of the ground.
THE HOLY TRINITY
This is what Paul Cook teams are supposed to be all about.
Both full-backs, Vincent-Young and the reinstated Myles Kenlock, got forwards and provided an attacking outlet.
Luke Woolfenden was calm and collected at the back, Flynn Downes produced some super passes in midfield, while Norwood produced some fine centre-forward's play.
Those five are all under contract beyond this season.
Norwood may not have taken away the match ball, but his performance was about much more than the goals.
He showed discipline when a couple of soft early fouls went against him, invention with a clever dummy for Bishop's chance, strength and skill when testing Camp and a poacher's instinct for the second goal.
For me, Vincent-Young, Downes and Norwood are the squad's best three players.
And this was only the ninth time in two seasons that they have all started a game together.
Town's record over those nine games reads W7 D2 (and Norwood went off after 25 minutes of the goalless draw at Charlton).
For all the doom and gloom of recent months, it's a reminder that Cook does have some good ingredients to add to when he works on a new recipe this summer.
THEY THINK IT'S ALL OVER...
It is now mathematically impossible for Ipswich to finish in the play-off places.
With two dead rubber games to go - at Shrewsbury on Tuesday night and against Fleetwood, at Portman Road, next Sunday - Town can finish as high as seventh or as low as 14th.
Securing a top half place and not finishing as the division's lowest scorers is all there is to play for now.
Next season things simply have to be better.