Verdict on Town’s defeat at Leicester City
ELVIN KING’S verdict of Ipswich Town’s final game of the 2011/12 season
You only have to consider the corner count to see why Blues manager Paul Jewell has been scouring the country for players who can pop the ball into the back of the net.
His side won 13 corners at the Walkers Stadium as the curtain came down on another drab season enlightened only by a Carling Cup run to the semi-final stage.
Leicester City had just two corners, but when their chances came along they were able to make them pay. After conceding four goals it would be flippant to say that Ipswich deserved to win this game.
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But they certainly had enough opportunities to have matched the Foxes score.
Skipper David Norris passed up a gilt-edged chance in the third minute and how Jason Scotland did not go off at the interval with a hat-trick to his name only he can say.
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With Norris employed to stop the opposition’s midfield from gaining a foothold his 11 goals this term has to be applauded.
Scotland is one behind him at the top of the scoring charts – but he is a proven striker brought to Portman Road at no little expense to put chances away.
He failed to beat a prone Chris Weale from close range, then missed a Connor Wickham cross completely when right in front of goal, but most unimpressively somehow contrived to fail to get a touch that would have brought a goal when standing right in front of the keeper following a Wickham head down.
Town have paid a heavy price for failing to have an instinctive finisher for a number of years now, with Scotland and Tamas Priskin not coming into the category.
When balls go into the box 20-goal-a-season men have a sixth-sensed where the ball will land and are already poised to react. How many times have we seen Town players stationery or reacting too late to potential match-winning crosses – dozens I would say this season alone?
A former striker himself, Jewell was seen kicking a water bottle as far as he could in frustration at one of the Scotland misses.
With his current squad he can argue that he has little alternative than to continue playing the ex-Swansea and Wigan man up front on his own despite the player’s failure to shine in that role.
But when Josh Carson came on for Scotland, Wickham proved himself much more adept at the lone striker’s role.
From being on the fringes of the action, Wickham took centre stage to show why Premier League clubs continue to look at him and show how to take a goal when presented with the ball by an opponent.
Jewell was not a happy man at the final whistle with the size of his task in turning his team into a successful one reinforced – and news that top flight clubs are showing an interest in taking on Jimmy Bullard.
Jewell sees fans’ favourite Bullard as a vital cog next season if he can keep the man who was on loan from Hull from the end of January and did more than most to move Town well away from relegation danger.
With keeper Brian Murphy leaving the club after failing to agree to a new contract offer and goalkeeping coach James Hollman the first of a number of backroom staff to confirm their imminent departure by his non-appearance at the Walkers Stadium, Ipswich went into the game in some turmoil.
A number on the field – plus Norris, who is definitely on his way and Gareth McAuley, who could well be – have received enough vibes to know that they are unlikely to feature much if at all next term.
You cannot blame Jewell for his desire to make significant changes to his squad based on the evidence of the last four games despite a rather scrappy win over Preston.
While Leicester fans cheered their manager and players on their post-match circuit of the pitch with the gusto associated with supporters expecting big things in 2011/12, it is all looking a tad worrying for Ipswich followers.
Norwich City’s promotion has not helped the general demeanour of Blues’ fans, and recent events – including this display – have added to the feeling that it will take a big effort by all at Portman Road to bring the smiles back to the stands.
To pass up a host of chances at one end and concede four goals your end is a recipe for disaster.
And this is what happened on Saturday although to be fair to the Town defence, Leicester have been showing their prowess as an attacking force since Sven-Goran Eriksson took over as manager.
Both defences showed their frailties but Ipswich were lively in midfield and well organised. A goal or two in the first half and an away win could well have accrued.
It was entertaining stuff for much of the time without the pressure of promotion and relegation far removed. But the Mexican Wave is a sure sign of boredom and this materialised as the second half proceeded as Ipswich regained the hold they held in the early stages before the game was finally decided by Leicester’s fourth goal.
Town’s players made a point of going over to their fans at the end of a game where no-one really stood out, but the likes of Wickham, Carlos Edwards, Marton Fulop and a lively Lee Martin did themselves no harm.
Luke Hyam and Joe Whight were in the squad and warmed up with the visiting squad before the start.
The absence of keeper Murphy in the Town squad confirmed that he would be leaving with Arran Lee-Barrett coming in to sit on the bench after being omitted from the previous week’s final 18.
Fulop remained between the sticks with McAuley, Wickham, Colin Healy and Martin coming in. Out went Bullard, who was feeling the effects of his run of games since joining Town on loan from Hull.
GOOD AND BAD.
Rightly criticised for their failure to pay tribute to their side reaching the last eight of the Carling Cup with only 10,000 home fans watching a rare quarter-final win over West Brom, full marks to Ipswich followers for their turn-outs in away matches.
Despite their heroes conceding four goals they were determined to enjoy the last day and this they did putting their hands in their pockets to contribute heavily to a charity collection staged by Leicester on the day. On the field missed chances and leaking four goals was only going to leave one result.
Should Jeffrey Bruma have been sent off? Yes, he had previously been booked when he clearly handled for Town’s penalty.
To finish 13 points off the play-offs and 20 off the bottom three is pretty mundane stuff and something for club owner Marcus Evans to consider as he left the ground with chief executive Simon Clegg
Jewell’s arrival has given hope, but he needs to make best use of Evans’ money and get the right players in - and out - over the next two months or 2011/12 will prove just as frustrating as this one.
n WHAT do you think Town need to do next season? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org