Why has it gone so RIGHT for Town?
IN six short weeks, Ipswich Town have gone from shipping in a dozen goals against newly-promoted sides to being undefeated against three of the top five.
Here are some of the main reasons for the Blues’ renaissance
Let’s start with the obvious. If you stick with a settled side, avoiding injuries to key men, you have a chance. Paul Jewell has recently been blessed in this department after initially raising eyebrows by starting with four like-minded midfielders for the televised match against Coventry City. Any fears, likes the Sky Blues, were blown away and Jewell had the simple task of picking the same side for four consecutive matches. A 10-point haul followed and this has largely been down to having the same 11 knowing what is expected of them. This won’t always be possible, but Jewell has already shown in his brief time at Town that he likes to keep the same side. It is up to those on the bench and beyond to break through – which in itself can only be a positive thing.
Superman and DC
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It is harsh to solely blame the heavy defeats on centre-backs Damien Delaney and Tommy Smith and makeshift centre-back Jack Ainsley, but something had to give. Bringing in a defender who hasn’t played since January, Ibrahima Sonko, might not have seemed the answer, but the Senegalese international has been a revelation, often defying the laws of medicine to “wheel out” and play, in the words of his manager. But while Sonko shined in the victory over Leeds United, it was only when he was paired with loanee Danny Collins thereafter that Town really became a unit. Although both came from Stoke, Sonko and Collins actually hadn’t spent much time on the same pitch before moving to Portman Road. But in the last five matches, it is like they have been playing together all their career. Sonko is no-nonsense, Collins has a bit more about him on the ground and with the ball. Put both together and they form a formidable duo.
The clown prince of Portman Road
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Paul Jewell’s diamond lights in the middle of the park have all contributed with both Lee Bowyer and Keith Andrews starting to show their Premier League class and Grant Leadbitter getting over his dire spell to begin to show his true form. Completing the quartet is of course Jimmy Bullard. Now five and a bit games into his second coming, the mercurial midfielder is the man who makes Town tick. He might be deployed in a withdrawn role among the other diamonds, but this means that Bullard can see the whole game and help the Blues build momentum. Off-the-pitch, he has obviously lifted the whole place, with Andrews also joining in with the fun and games. But whether it is his dangerous set pieces, incisive passing or the odd decent tackle, Bullard is so much more than just a class clown.
Much has been made on Paul Jewell’s insistence on thirty-somethings throughout his side. But characters and experience has sadly been lacking at Portman Road for too many years and the manager was right to address this as a top priority. Of course, the side lacks pace although having the likes of Reece Wabara and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the bench will help. But good experienced pros like Lee Bowyer, Jimmy Bullard and Danny Collins should always be welcomed. Between them, they have achieved numerous highs and lows and therefore know how to react to any scenario that might befall them on a football pitch. West Ham could have been put out of sight in the first half at Upton Park but the old guard didn’t panic, riding out the ensuing storm before grabbing a late winner. Likewise, Brighton’s smash-and-grab on Saturday didn’t see the home side capitulate as in the past. Jewell’s transfer policy is paying dividends.
Scot and Chops
Over the last few years, creating chances has not been that much of a problem for the Blues. Taking the chances is a different story. A real goal-getter has been lacking since the halcyon days of Bent and Kuqi. Now, judging on recent matches, Jewell might have two to call on. But whether it is Jason Scotland, Michael Chopra or anyone else getting the goals, the biggest thing has been playing with two up top. Chopra has admitted he prefers a partner, Bullard as well believes it helps with ball retention and providing options. To his credit, the manager has never shirked from the fact that he is a 4-4-2 traditionalist. And now everyone has got their wish with both Scotland and Chopra showing their class during the four-match unbeaten run. And with Nathan Ellington waiting in the wings and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas eyeing a more central role, one hopes Jewell won’t have to revert back to an isolated frontman any time soon.