The Verdict: More delusion and fabrication... Sorry Mr Lambert, this is simply unacceptable
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com
SAME. OLD. STORY.
Yet another game where a so-called ‘promotion rival’ didn’t have to do anything special to come away from Portman Road with a win.
In fact, Peterborough didn’t even need to produce a single shot on target.
Mark McGuinness’ slice past his own keeper in the 69th minute was a goal fit for a game woefully short on quality. Jonson Clarke-Harris had smashed a penalty over the crossbar in the first half, following a trademark Toto Nsiala lunge in the box, but Town couldn't cash in on that gift.
That’s because, yet again, they looked utterly toothless in attack.
Yes, they had spells on the front foot. And no, it wasn’t a display lacking in effort. But boy there was a dearth of class.
The fact that Town finished the game with 25 fouls to their name speaks volumes.
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It wasn’t until Paul Lambert made a triple substitution in the 74th minute that you could see Ipswich scoring.
Jon Nolan finally tested the Posh keeper seconds after coming on, Gwion Edwards went close after one of new boy Luke Thomas’ driving runs up the right, while Nsiala had a goal questionably ruled out towards the end.
Would a draw have been a fairer reflection? Possibly. Below-par Peterborough always looked like the more incisive though.
Back in November, after the 3-0 home loss to Hull, I wrote that ‘Paul Lambert is either gas lighting us all or completely delusional. And I don’t know which is worse’.
Yet again, we got another head-scratching set of post-match comments which smacked of a man with his head in the sand.
A ‘really good game’ and a ‘really good performance’ was his verdict. Really? You wonder whether he realises that people can actually watch this at home. Luke Chambers’ comments were in direct contrast. ‘Not good enough’ admitted the skipper, in what was a rare public appearance this season.
We’ll see how much good that sort of honesty does him going forwards. Luke Woolfenden hasn’t played since he provided a similar assessment after the Swindon defeat recently.
Mind you, Town don’t have a back-up right-back at present. The perfectly serviceable one they did have (Janoi Donacien) has just produced a man-of-the-match debut display on loan at Fleetwood.
Lambert says ‘we just need a little break at the minute’. What about the big deflection that led to the winner at Burton the previous weekend? What about Peterborough missing a penalty?
Lambert says ‘we had so many nice opportunities to score’. That’s just pure fabrication.
Lambert insists, repeatedly, that he ‘can’t ask for anymore’. Well if that’s where the bar is set now, then that really is depressing.
Ipswich finished 11th last season. Their record against the 10 teams that finished above them was P18 W2 D8 L8 F8 (eight) A17.
Ipswich are currently ninth in the table. Their record against the eight teams currently above them this season reads: P8 W1 D0 L7 F3 (three) A15.
Combine those two records against ‘the better sides in League One’ and it’s P26 W3 D8 L15 F11 A32. That’s 17 points gained from a possible 78.
Lambert’s biggest result of note, from 57 games of League One football, is a 1-0 win at Fleetwood way back in October 2019. Ipswich were in relegation form from that very point onwards last season (25 points from 25 games).
And after another good start, they’ve been in bottom half form for three whole months now (19 points from the last 15 games, including wholly unconvincing wins against Crewe, Shrewsbury, 10-man Plymouth and rock-bottom Burton x2).
Pathetic, embarrassing, unacceptable, unforgiveable... use whatever adjective you like. These aren't words that I use lightly or with any pleasure. Especially as Lambert looks and sounds pretty ill after suffering with Covid-19. But it needs to be said.
It’s five defeats in the last six games at home. If supporters were inside Portman Road then they’d be making it patently clear just how angry, disillusioned and frustrated they are.
But they’re not inside Portman Road. They are cooped up at home, in the middle of a bleak winter lockdown, feeling helpless as another chapter of their beloved Blues’ steady downwards spiral is written.
Thousands are still paying out for season tickets they can't use. And to top it off, they're hearing the manager say everything's great and the owner describe 'green shoots' of progress. Come on, read the room guys.
People are fed up of the excuses. The sample size for failure, as demonstrated, is pretty large now.
Lambert and Marcus Evans will, no doubt, see this as ‘unbelievable negativity’. They’ll see it as the local paper not getting behind the club when it is on the edge of the play-off places with half a season still to go. No doubt some outsiders will find such a stance bizarre too.
'The key players recently back from injuries could make Ipswich better,' they'll say. 'The two new signings could make Ipswich better.' they'll add. 'It's a tight league in which everyone is beating everyone and it could only take a couple of wins to get Ipswich going,' they'll stress.
They are all valid points. I'd argue the word ‘could’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting in those sentences though.
Evans must know there are many layers behind this deep-rooted pessimism and cynicism that has built up over several years. He certainly can’t just airbrush last season from history.
Ipswich messed it up badly last time and exactly the same is unfolding again. That's the inescapable truth.
Dismiss this as shouty, sensational and knee-jerk if you like. Ipswich Town Football Club has got some of the most patient fans and media in the land though. We've all hit the reset button so many times and tried to play our part. Not backing the club in tough times is certainly not an accusation that can be levelled at any of us. This team was applauded to relegation for goodness sake.
The goodwill well is not bottomless though.
WHO’S TO BLAME?
Owner Marcus Evans has been the one constant throughout the club's steady demise. The debate around him is nuanced though. Bad decisions? Plenty. Too far removed from the fans? Absolutely. The right structures and expertise put in place? It doesn't feel like it. But a lack of investment? That can't be levelled at him. He's seen the best part of £100m go down the drain over 13 years and continues to prop the club up in the midst of a global pandemic.
Do the players get off lightly? Probably. They're the ones on the pitch after all.
Lambert is right when he says that it’s always the manager who people turn their frustrations on first in football.
He would probably argue, privately, that the big damage was done to this club when Paul Hurst was allowed to dismantle a Championship squad and naively try to replace them all with lower league players in one disastrous transfer window.
He would also probably argue that he hasn’t had the funds to rebuild as he’d want to. Out of the starting XI yesterday, only four were his signings (Holy, Ward, McGuinness and Judge).
A manager’s job is to get the best of what he’s got though. It’s his job to improve the players at his disposal. It’s his job to make them greater than the sum of their parts. It’s his job to adapt and find in-house solutions when injuries occur.
Even if the quality of this squad has been vastly over-stated, surely it’s surely still better than this?