Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 0-0 draw at Wigan

James Norwood in action during the first half at Wigan

James Norwood in action during the first half at Wigan - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

BORING, BORING IPSWICH

Paul Cook started his post-match interview by jokingly asking if everyone was still awake.

The mind had certainly begun to wander during this instantly forgettable affair. Now, sat down at midnight following a five-hour journey back to Suffolk, I've somehow got to summon up some new words to describe the same old story. 

It speaks volumes that centre-backs Toto Nsiala and Luke Chambers were the pick of the Town players.

There was no goal threat, no quality and no conviction.

Once more, the body language from the players was so poor.

Once more, you sensed they could have played for hours more and not scored.

Wigan striker Will Keane holds off Josh Harrop

Wigan striker Will Keane holds off Josh Harrop - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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A bore draw was about right, but if anyone deserved to edge this game it would have been the hosts. 

This wasn't Steve Evans' awkwardly direct and physical Gillingham. This wasn't Simon Grayson's well-organised Fleetwood. This wasn't Portsmouth with their new manager bounce.

This was Wigan, a side who had lost their previous seven games against current top half sides by an aggregate scoreline of 20-4. You can't even say they looked like a side 'scrapping for their lives' or one that had 'raised their game because it was Ipswich'. They were poor. Yet Ipswich were equally as bad.

On 14 different occasions this season the Latics have shipped three or more goals in a game. Toothless Ipswich, to reiterate, didn't lay a single glove on them. They barely had half chances, let alone full ones.

James Norwood had the thankless task of trying to do something with Tomas Holy's long punts, Gwion Edwards and Freddie Sears provided little spark from wide, while set-piece deliveries were consistently poor.   

The Blues have scored just 39 goals in 36 league games now. For context, only three teams in the division - struggling Northampton, Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon - have netted fewer. For further context, the other 11 sides currently in the top half have bagged, on average, 55.

Peterborough put seven goals past Accrington yesterday. It's taken Town a whole month to rack up as many.


GAMBLE BACKFIRED

There was a mixture of emotions when I saw Kane Vincent-Young's name in the starting XI: Excitement that the dynamic right-back was finally making his first competitive start in 17 months, but also some nerves that it was a desperation move which could back fire.

Sadly, those latter fears proved founded.

The 25-year-old offered some glimpses of his acceleration, sharp touch and forward-thinking full-back play during the opening period.

Kane Vincent-Young starts at the DW Stadium in Wigan on Saturday

Kane Vincent-Young was forced off at Portsmouth with a hamstring problem. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Damningly for the rest of the team, he was probably the team's best attacking outlet.

As the half entered added-time, Vincent-Young sprinted past Gwion Edwards on the overlap and pulled the ball back for a Freddie Sears chance that was smothered. That was the first and only time the Blues really penetrated the Wigan box via incisive play all game.

Heartbreakingly, Vincent-Young had injured his hamstring in that move. It's yet another set-back for a talented player who just can't get fully fit.

Cook's summer shopping list was long enough as it was. Now it's looking like he's going to need to find a right-back too. There's no way, sadly, that he can be putting all his eggs in the KVY basket.


A BIT MUDDLED

It's hard to describe what this system was.

For the second successive weekend, Alan Judge played a bit of a dual role.

At times he had the freedom to operate as the No.10 in a 4-2-3-1. But it was also clear that he had been asked to constantly get across and do some defensive work wide left in order to let Sears get forwards in support of James Norwood, the formation then resembling more of a 4-4-2.

James Norwood reaction to not getting a free-kick after being wrestled to the ground during the firs

James Norwood reaction to not getting a free-kick after being wrestled to the ground during the first half at Wigan - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Just like at Fratton Park, the Blues ended up looking a bit muddled as a result.

Cook admitted afterwards, for the second weekend running, that he is sorely tempted to pair Norwood and Kayden Jackson as a proper front two from the start. 

If he's going to do it then he may as well fully commit rather than getting stuck betwixt and between.


DOBRA'S TURN NEXT

Cook has tried everyone in the three positions behind the striker now.

Over his six games so far there have been starts for Edwards (5), Judge (4), Troy Parrott (3), Keanan Bennetts (2), Teddy Bishop, Josh Harrop, Jack Lankester and Sears (all one) in those offensive roles.

None have really grasped the nettle.

James Norwood is unhappy during the first half at Wigan

James Norwood is unhappy during the first half at Wigan - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Town's boss might soon be tempted to register his coaching duo of Kieron Dyer and Gary Roberts as players for a better standard of end product in the final third. 

As it was, young Armando Dobra got a chance off the bench for the second game running. On as a 71st minute replacement for the horribly out of sorts Edwards, he produced some neat pieces of control and often advanced the play.

Now may be the diminutive Albanian international's chance to show Cook what he can do from the start.


AND YET...

Incredibly, despite winning just one of Cook's first six games in charge, the Blues are just two points adrift of the play-off place.

With 10 games to go, somehow, they remain 'in the mix'. 

Next, Ipswich take on the division's bottom two - Bristol Rovers at home on Good Friday and Rochdale away on Easter Monday. 

Teddy Bishop in action during the first half at Wigan

Teddy Bishop in action during the first half at Wigan - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It's the hope that kills you.

Yes, there are lots of 'winnable games' on paper for Town during this run-in, but, as Cook has said, games are played on pitches not paper.

The Blues just don't look like they have the firepower to build any meaningful momentum.

One thing that does provide optimism is Cook's post match assessments. He's seeing what we're seeing. And he's doing a good job of articulating that without going full Paul Hurst at Exeter. 

Paul Cook issues instructions at Wigan

Paul Cook issues instructions to Kayden Jackson at Wigan. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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