MATCH COMMENT: David Nugent used to cup his ears to the Ipswich Town fans, now he just shrugs his shoulders apologetically
- Credit: Archant
Leicester v Ipswich: The Blues remain five points adrift of sixth spot following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at table-toppers Leicester City. STUART WATSON looks back on the game and what it could mean for the rest of the season.
Ipswich Town were the architects of their own downfall in a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Championship table-toppers Leicester City.
The Foxes played with an intensity and swagger befitting their lofty position in the first half, but were gifted their 19th minute opener when Jamie Vardy seized on Jay Tabb’s blindly played back pass before rounding keeper Dean Gerken and slotting the ball home on the angle.
Town were equally generous in the build-up to the second, attack turned into defence once more with Luke Chambers’ block falling straight back to the feet of Ritchie de Laet who subsequently picked out David Nugent for a simple finish.
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Leicester – having expended a great deal of energy in their 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest three days earlier – took their foot off the gas after the restart. Ipswich had plenty of the ball but never really looked a goal threat.
The Foxes duly added a third in the 88th minute, making it Town’s biggest defeat of the season, substitute Chris Wood latching onto Matty James’ through ball and coolly finding the bottom corner.
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Nigel Pearson’s men remain eight points clear at the top having now dropped just four points in 12 league matches. Ipswich remain five points behind sixth-placed Reading, but have dropped to 10th in the table with four of the teams around them all having a game-in-hand to come.
Ipswich Town’s staff and players will make all the right noises about battling for sixth spot ‘until it’s mathematically impossible’, but the reality is that the final 14 games of the campaign are now about finishing as high in the mid-table positions as possible.
Five points claimed from a possible 30 against the top seven sides in the division is proof that there is a gulf between Mick McCarthy’s men and those leading the way in the Championship.
The gap between Town and league-leaders Leicester is indeed a chasm. Forget the fact that the Foxes were given a major helping hand with their opening two goals at the weekend, there is no doubting that Nigel Pearson’s men were a class above.
Filled with pace and creative spark, the Foxes could afford to take their foot off the gas at 2-0 and always looked capable of stepping up a gear.
Ipswich, by contrast, once again huffed and puffed and never really looked a threat without injured talisman David McGoldrick.
Maybe it would have been different had Cole Skuse got a good connection when the ball popped up nicely for him on the edge of the box at 0-0. He didn’t though, the wasted chance further highlighting Town’s lack of goal threat from midfield.
When Tabb’s blind back pass gifted Vardy the opening goal the writing was on the wall.
Town were again the creators of their own downfall in the 31st minute as an attacking move again quickly turned to being on the back foot due to some negative play.
After Luke Chambers’ block fell kindly back at the feet of Ritchie de Laet, a square pass meant Nugent was left with a simple finish at the back post. The Liverpudlian shrugged almost apologetically in the direction of the 1,200 or so travelling supporters. It was his 14th goal in 13 games against the Blues.
There was a time when the former Preston and Portsmouth front man would playfully cup his ears towards the Ipswich fans who booed him.
Now, it seems, he takes his customary goal against them for granted.
The hosts eased up after the break and always looked capable of stepping up a gear. Chris Wood’s arrival off the bench lifted them again and he duly finished off Matty James’ well-weighted through ball to add gloss to the win two minutes from time.
Losing to a team that not only looks destined for the Premier League but also already prepared to hold their own in the top-flight was no disgrace.
It was the previous weekend’s uninspiring goalless draw at home to Blackpool which really highlighted where the Suffolk side have fallen short this season.
McCarthy’s emphasis on hard-work, organisation and nullifying the opposition may have made his low-budget side consistently competitive, but a lack of creativity and flair has contributed to more games being drawn than won.
And yet the very fact that promotion push deficiencies and a lack of entertainment are the current topics for debate is proof of just how much has been achieved by McCarthy during little more than 15 months in charge.
At the weekend, Wolves were playing at Brentford in a League One fixture. Recently they were at Oldham, Gillingham, Tranmere and Rotherham. And that could very easily have been Ipswich given the state of affairs at this time last year.
Indeed, Saturday’s match at The King Power Stadium provides an excellent reference point for perspective.
The Blues’ previous visit there was on November 17, 2013. It was only McCarthy’s fourth game in charge and, hot on the heels of a 5-0 thrashing at Crystal Palace, Town were trounced 6-0.
It was the third time in little over a year that Ipswich had lost by a six-goal margin on their travels (7-1 at Peterborough and 6-0 at Blackpool). Goal difference stood at minus 25 at the 17-game mark.
At the 32-game mark of this campaign there has been just seven defeats. This was the first by a three-goal margin. Two of them have been a two-goal margin (and the one at Wigan was no way a reflection of the game), with just one goal the difference in the other four losses.
Goal difference stands at plus nine. Only six teams have scored more in the division, only eight have conceded less.
A season of stability may not be sexy, but it will provide a solid platform for progress going forwards.
1 Kasper Schmeichel – Barely tested 6
2 Ritchie de Laet – Excellent assist for second 7
5 Wes Morgan (cpt) – Rock-solid. Denied by good save 7
27 Marcin Wasilewski – Polish centre-back so strong 8
15 Jeffrey Schlupp – Winger a threat at left-back 7
24 Anthony Knockaert – Popped up everywhere 7
4 Danny Drinkwater – Oozed class in middle 9
8 Matty James – Perfect through ball for third goal 8
11 Lloyd Dyer – Left-winger kept quiet 6
9 Jamie Vardy – Fast, aggressive, superb 9
35 David Nugent – Great movement. Customary goal 8
25 Conrad Logan (not used)
18 Liam Moore (not used)
10 Andy King (not used)
7 Dean Hammond (not used)
26 Riyad Mahrez 7 (Dyer 64)
28 Kevin Phillips (Nugent 83)
39 Chris Wood 8 (Vardy 71)
22 Dean Gerken – Two smart stops, but hesitant off line and poor kicking 5
4 Luke Chambers (cpt) – Error for second, but dealt with Dyer well 6
6 Christophe Berra – Battled well 6
5 Tommy Smith – Struggled with Vardy’s pace 5
3 Aaron Cresswell – Pinned back 6
16 Paul Green – Industrious, but tired 6
8 Cole Skuse – Below-par. Poor shooting 5
18 Jay Tabb – Not confident on ball. Gifted opener 5
12 Stephen Hunt – Huffed and puffed 6
35 Frank Nouble – Worked hard. Shouldn’t be the scapegoat 6
9 Daryl Murphy – Little service. Fluffed chance 6
1 Scott Loach (not used)
15 Tyrone Mings (not used)
24 Frazer Richardson (not used)
14 Anthony Wordsworth (not used)
11 Paul Anderson 6 (Tabb 61)
26 Paul Taylor 6 (Hunt 75)
27 S Ebanks-Blake 6 (Nouble 65)
Bookings: Wasilewski (16)
Sendings off: None
Shots on target 5
Shots off target 10
Hit woodwork 0
Bookings: Tabb (17)
Sendings off: None
Shots on target 1
Shots off target 9
Hit woodwork 0
Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy
“We were beaten by a better side, that’s for sure. Unfortunately for me and for us we contributed to it – and they don’t need any help.
“We’d just had our best spell in the game, we’d had the best chance with Skusey (Cole Skuse) at the edge of box and we went backwards instead of keeping it on top of them.
“I know I spoke about them having played in midweek, but if you can tell me that Vardy and Nugent were tired then I’ll show my backside in Burton’s window! That’s all psychological babble that. You just hope that’s going to be the case.
“Losing to Leicester is no disgrace though. I think they’ll stroll it (the league) by a million miles. I think they’re the best team by a street.”
Ipswich Town captain Luke Chambers
“I think they had the majority of the possession, but being the team that are top of the division you expect that.
“We fully contributed to our own downfall though and gave goals away that we haven’t been doing since the last time we came here (6-0 defeat).
“If you give teams chances like we have done today then you are going to get beat.
“Tabby’s held his hands up for the first goal, obviously it was a slack back pass, but there were a lot of things that happened before that.
“I’m not going to stand here and blame Tabby because I think he’s been different class every time he’s played in the team.
“He’s mentioned it’s the first time he’s ever done something like that in his career. I said ‘don’t worry about it then’. If he was doing it week-in, week-out we’d be having a bit of a moan at him.
“We’re all in it together. We’ve just been discussing in the dressing room that we didn’t think we were too far away from them today.
“We never give up as a team, I think people appreciate that, and the fans were brilliant again by staying until the end. We appreciate their support.
“We kept going and the third, for me, is clearly offside. Tommy Smith has had to run around Kevin Phillips which makes him active in my mind. “I’m not sure how that can be allowed to stand.”
Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson
“It was a good result and good all-round performance against a decent side. I was very pleased with the outcome.
“I am very pleased with Vardy’s contribution to the side this season. “When you compare his performances this season to last year, I think he has responded exceptionally well and I am very pleased for him because of that.
“All in all I think he is developing as a Leicester player and that is all I am really interested in. I know he is fulfilling what we thought he could achieve and I think that is very important.
“He takes the credit for what he has done. He’s in the side because of his performances.
“Confidence is a huge part of any player’s game.”
“Leicester’s midfield is what Town supporters have been crying out for. “Two wingers with pace and two box to box central midfielders. #ITFC”
“No shame in losing to Leicester today, they’re a fine team.
“Plenty of shame in not playing attacking football game after game though.”
“The flouncing from Ipswich fans is incredible. Short memories.
“We’ve been bottom half for 5+ years. We won’t become top 6 in 1 season. #itfc”