MATCH COMMENT: A gap in class, but a gulf in budgets – Ipswich Town are punching above their weight

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town’s play-off ambitions hang by a thread after they once again came up just short against one the leading sides in the Championship. STUART WATSON looks back on Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Wigan Athletic.

OVERVIEW

Ipswich Town’s play-off ambitions hang by a thread after they once again came up just short against one the leading sides in the Championship.

The Blues led through Tommy Smith’s smart finish but Wigan produced a clinical display to turn the game on its head as James McClean struck twice either side of a Leon Barnett header.

Uwe Rosler’s men have now won eight straight matches in all competitions to book a place in the FA Cup semi-finals and move up to fifth in the Championship. Ipswich are now six points adrift of sixth-place and could drop to 11th if Blackburn and Watford win their games in hand.


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COMMENT

Finishing in the play-off places may not be mission impossible, but it’s become mission highly unlikely.

Most Read

Ipswich Town may have games against the teams above them in the table to come but there is little evidence to suggest that they will start reeling in their rivals.

Saturday’s defeat to Wigan was a familiar tale. Mick McCarthy’s low budget side ran their socks off against one of the leading sides in the division, more than competed and left nothing on the pitch only for that extra bit of quality of the opposition to shine through at the crucial moments.

It was the same in the home defeats against Leicester (1-2), Burnley (0-1) and QPR (1-3), as well as the reverse fixture at Wigan (0-2) and the losses at QPR (0-1) and Reading (1-2).

Eight points from a possible 33 against the eight teams currently above them in the table suggests it could very well be the same in the next three matches – a trip to Brighton (eighth) followed by the visits of Derby (third) and Nottingham Forest (sixth).

None of the above should be seen as a slight on Ipswich Town or McCarthy though.

There may be a gulf in class between them and top sides in the division, but there is an even bigger gulf in budgets.

Wigan are currently without the injured trio of Shaun Maloney, Chris McCann and Ben Watson, yet they were still able to have the likes of Callum McManaman, Josh McEachran and Nicky Maynard as unused substitutes on Saturday. There’s even talk of Jack Rodwell (a player who made a £12m switch from Everton to Manchester City less than two years ago) being recruited on loan.

The scoreboard should have read: Team that has been in the Championship for 12 successive seasons and an owner taking Financial Fair Play rules seriously – 1; Team that has millions of pounds in Premier League parachute payments – 3.

Frustrating, but it is what it is. McCarthy may not have the best squad in terms of ability and depth, but he has formed one of the most spirited, organised and hard-working units around. And for that Blues fans should be proud.

There were certainly plenty of positives to take from Saturday’s defeat.

Town started on the front foot and deservedly took the lead in the 19th minute when Smith hooked the ball home after Aaron Cresswell’s blocked free-kick attempt had been helped back into the box by Cole Skuse.

Doubts may have started to creep into the visiting side’s mind had the score stayed that way for any significant amount of time. As it was, the lead lasted little more than two minutes.

Emmerson Boyce’s raking ball over the top was pulled back from the by-line by Marc-Antoine Fortune and James McClean drilled home from near the penalty spot.

Then came a two-minute spell which summed up why Wigan will finish higher in the table than Town.

At one end, Luke Hyam blazed over from 12 yards out following Cresswell’s low cross and Paul Anderson’s neat lay-off. Within seconds, Jordi Gomez’s peach of a free-kick delivery was nodded home by a stooping Barnett.

Town sides of the recent past would have collapsed at such a set-back, but that will never be the case with this current bunch.

The Blues – applauded off at the break – flew out of the traps after the restart and Stephen Hunt’s low cross just evaded Murphy at the far post.

Wigan gradually took the sting out of the match though and, after failing to finish a glorious three-on-one chance, did eventually kill the match off when McClean slid in to convert at the far post.

Town substitute Paul Green had given the ball away in the middle of the pitch, while Fortune’s low sweeping cross was inch-perfect. And those are the fine margins which prevent Ipswich from being top six challengers at present.

MANAGERS’ REACTION

Mick McCarthy, Ipswich Town manager

“I’ve got to say I thought we played well. I’m really pleased with the lads we just didn’t defend particularly well.

“Certainly we contributed to their first one, the second one was not like us defending a free-kick like that and the third one is as plain as the nose on my face that Greeny’s lost it and they’ve broke on us.

“People make mistakes, but my lads are such an honest bunch and they try their hearts out. It happens. It’s just whether the teams you play against have the ability to punish you and they did.

“We will keep on scrapping to get in that top six and who knows? This has made it more difficult but it’s not impossible.”

Uwe Rosler, Wigan Athletic manager

“I’m very pleased with the victory and pleased with the performance and the level that we have shown again. I think everybody who was on the pitch today put in an at least seven out of 10 performance and that is what we need in this league to be where we want to be.

“We knew what we would face. I was a bit surprised that Mick had only played one striker, we had prepared for two.

“They squeezed us, they wanted to play on the second ball, so they had to stay high up with their back four and the plan was to go in beyond them.

“We did that very well and the first and third goals were examples of how we wanted to play. I’m very happy that the players performed at such a consistent level.

“I am not thinking about the FA Cup. I am only dreaming about getting two points per game, which would get us into the play-offs, and then we will deal with that. We have won eight games in a row and six have been away from home. I am very happy with everyone.”

RATINGS

IPSWICH TOWN

22 Dean Gerken

Rooted to line for two goals 5

4 Luke Chambers (cpt)

Out of position at times 5

6 Christophe Berra

Not as dominant as usual 5

5 Tommy Smith

Took his goal like a striker 6

3 Aaron Cresswell

Got forward, overplayed at times 6

11 Paul Anderson

Bright spark in first half 7

8 Cole Skuse

Not grabbing games by scruff of neck 5

19 Luke Hyam

Positive start, but made mistakes 6

12 Stephen Hunt

Huffed and puffed 6

25 Jonny Williams

Real handful. Faded, needs games 7

9 Daryl Murphy

Some excellent link-up play 7

Substitutes

1 Scott Loach (not used)

15 Tyrone Mings (not used)

24 Frazer Richardson (not used)

18 Jay Tabb (not used)

16 Paul Green 5 (Skuse 62)

26 Paul Taylor 7 (Anderson 71)

27 Sylvan E-Blake 6 (Williams 78)

WIGAN ATHLETIC

26 Ali Al-Habsi

Fine save at 0-0 7

17 Emmerson Boyce

Raking ball for equaliser 7

21 Ivan Ramis

Bullied by Murphy at times 6

25 Leon Barnett

Scored one, could have had second 7

24 James Perch

Solid full-back display 6

14 Jordi Gomez

Pulled strings. Super free-kick assist 8

16 James McArthur

Fuss free display in middle 7

31 Ryan Tunnicliffe

Looks short of match sharpness 6

33 Martyn Waghorn

Quiet by his standards 6

32 Marc Antoine-Fortune

Ran in behind on counter 7

11 James McClean

Clever runs for both his goals 8

Substitutes

1 Scott Carson (not used)

3 Stephen Crainey (McClean 82)

30 Rob Kiernan 6 (Barnett 74)

4 Josh McEachran (not used)

15 Callum McManaman (not used)

19 Nick Powell 7 (Waghorn 64)

29 Nicky Maynard (not used)

TOWN MAN-OF-THE-MATCH

Jonny Williams

The Palace loanee impressed on his full debut. The diminutive midfielder was the only player in the home team that looked capable of creating something out of nothing with his close control and dribbling. Linked up well with Murphy and got stuck in too.

STATS

IPSWICH

Bookings: Hunt (57), Green (67)

Sendings off: None

Shots on target 3

Shots off target 4

Hit woodwork 0

Corners 7

Fouls 8

WIGAN

Bookings: McClean (30), Ramis (57)

Sendings off: None

Shots on target 3

Shots off target 3

Hit woodwork 0

Corners 3

Fouls 17

OTHER QUOTES

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy on the gulf in budgets between his side and Wigan: “There is a disparity isn’t there? Of course there is. But do you ever hear me come in hear and complain about that? Our lads, my lads, are brilliant. Me and TC (Terry Connor) get the best out of them and they’ve been fantastic.”

McCarthy on his team just falling short against the top sides in the Championship: “There will never be anything in it in terms of effort and endeavour and work rate and belief and having a go. That will get you results, but at times you need that extra touch of quality, a bit of finesse and something that can win you a game when it’s tight. I thought we gave as good as we got, especially in the first half.”

McCarthy on Luke Hyam’s miss at 1-1: “They had a player injured apparently, but you’ve got to score the goal and then argue about it afterwards.

“That let them off the hook then we gave them a goal just before half-time. I’m pleased with the way we played though, I’m not angry with my players.”

Wigan midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe: “It’s a great win. It was always going to be difficult to come down here because Ipswich have got good home form. This sends a marker out to the rest of the league.

“We’re in the play-off positions and have got a few games in hand, we’ve got great momentum but we can’t get complacent.”

Ipswich midfielder Luke Hyam: “It was nice to be back in the team. It is never nice for any footballer to be out injured and it was good to be part of it again. I was out for nearly six weeks and I’m still short of match fitness but the more games I get the fitter I will be.

“We got off to a great start with Tommy’s goal but it was disappointing they got back into it so quickly. We have to look forward now.”

Wigan midfielder Jordi Gomez: “It was a great win for us and a very good performance

“The confidence in the team is high. Everyone is working hard in training and in games and we are very happy with our form right now.

“There have been a lot of games with Europe, the FA Cup and the busy Championship schedule, but it is easier when you are winning – you don’t feel as tired.”

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