Town v Posh: A fan’s preview...and prediction
As the storm clouds gather over Portman Road, it’d be easy to forget that we are still only in the middle of August, with Town’s season having already lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous in a matter of weeks.
Tuesday night’s performance against Southampton was shambolic. Defensive ineptitude spread through the Town team like wildfire, and offered a chilling reality check for all those optimistic Blues fans - myself included - who had high hopes for the coming year.
In the post-mortem, many excuses have been offered as to why Town capitulated so dramatically. Southampton’s post-promotion momentum; our lack of wide players; two left-footed centre halves getting in each other’s way or a midfield made up of players who are predominantly on the wrong side of 30.
While there is credence to all these theories, I believe the problem is so much simpler. At Championship level especially, great success can be found in putting square pegs in square holes.
Paul Lambert’s success north of the border can be attributed to such a quality – you’ll never see a Norwich back-four consisting of a right-winger and three left-footers.
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Adam Lallana was undoubtedly the man who inspired Tuesday’s massacre, but is it any wonder? Town’s right-hand side was protected by Carlos Edwards, a galloping winger by trade, and Grant Leadbitter, who everybody possessed with an ounce of footballing intelligence will know is not a wide player.
Too often, over-analysis makes us miss the blindingly obvious when it comes to sport. The best natural right-back at the club is Jack Ainsley. The outstanding right-winger is Carlos Edwards – would this combination have been bypassed by the brilliant Lallana quite so easily?
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Fortunately for Town, our next Championship assignment takes us away from the home that our players seem so uncomfortable in and towards the delights of London Road, the ground where newly-promoted Peterborough ply their trade.
While Town fans will rightly shudder at the thought of facing another promoted side, Peterborough don’t appear to be blessed with the swashbuckling brilliance of Southampton – George Boyd apart, their team is devoid of players who would make the likes of Tommy Smith wake up in a cold sweat.
And, even more encouragingly, Town’s current team look set to become away-day specialists, free of the shackles that seem to overwhelm them at Portman Road.
The ‘must-not-lose’ mentality we have to adopt away from home will hopefully encourage our midfield to protect our fragile back-four, sacrificing the forward thinking that they feel is a necessity at home and instead focusing on keeping a clean sheet.
I maintain that Paul Jewell is no fool. While Roy Keane’s management beggared belief at times, Jewell is a proven pair of hands at this level and generally talks sense, even if some of his decisions since taking the hot-seat have raised a few eyebrows.
You can bet that Town’s performance on Saturday will not be pretty, despite the presence of the Sky TV cameras.
A loss at Peterborough will undoubtedly make this an abysmal start to the season (it’s already bad, but not abysmal), so I foresee an all-hands-on-deck effort from our boys, with defensive survival at the forefront of the agenda.
While this will anger many fans who expect Town to go to places like Peterborough and attack, Tuesday night should serve as a stark reminder for the Blue’s faithful as to how damaging such a gung-ho approach can be.
While it pains me to say it, Ipswich are no longer good enough to expect victories against anyone at this level.
This cautious approach could still reap rewards though. Our opening-day demolition of Bristol City - which seems a long time ago now - was achieved playing a 4-5-1, and we even looked reasonably solid against Hull when we employed the system, even if we offered next-to-nothing as an attacking threat.
My prediction therefore is that this back-to-basics approach will work. I’m sure that this bright bunch of footballers isn’t totally lacking in any pride, and will roll their sleeves up and grind out a point.
It’ll be ugly as hell, but I see a 0-0 on the cards.
For those of you compelled to give your thoughts, write in the box below or cyber-shout at me via @jonnievale on Twitter.