MATCH COMMENT: School’s nearly out and Mick McCarthy has shown he can turn previously bottom-of-the-class Ipswich Town into A-grade students
- Credit: Archant
Burnley v Ipswich: Ipswich Town’s push for the play-offs ended with a whimper as they went down to a 1-0 defeat at already-promoted Burnley on Saturday lunchtime. STUART WATSON takes a look back on the game.
Ipswich Town’s push for the play-offs ended with a whimper as they went down to a 1-0 defeat at already-promoted Burnley on Saturday lunchtime.
The Blues lacked urgency and intensity in what was a must-win game in front of the Sky television cameras.
Michael Kightly’s 54th minute goal sealed the home win and meant that the Clarets are guaranteed to finish their incredible season with an average of at least two points per game.
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Town now head into Saturday’s season finale, against Sheffield Wednesday at Portman, knowing they can finish anywhere between eighth and 12th in the Championship table.
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The door to the play-off party has been left ajar for weeks, but Ipswich Town could never quite pluck up enough courage to gatecrash.
And after Brighton slammed that door shut on Friday night (with a 2-0 home win over Yeovil), the Blues simply walked away without putting up a fight.
Mick McCarthy had spoken bullishly about how an already-promoted Burnley side – off the back of two days of celebrations – would effectively be on the beach.
It was the visitors who lacked intensity though, not the hosts.
The tone was set in the opening five minutes as the Lancashire side got straight on the front foot. The atmosphere at Turf Moor may have been strangely subdued – this a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ following the joyous pitch invasion on Easter Monday – but Sean Dyche’s side once again displayed the professionalism which has seen them secure automatic promotion against the odds.
Ipswich had a couple of half chances in the opening 45 minutes, Tommy Smith’s goalbound header diverted over the bar by defender Kieran Trippier and Fraser Richardson stabbing over under pressure at the far post, but you always felt that the home side could step it up a gear.
Town’s best hope was snatching a goal from a set-piece, but they wasted several corner kick deliveries.
So when Burnley broke the deadlock in the 54th minute the writing was very much on the wall.
Twice home players broke challenges before Ashley Barnes flicked the ball into the path of strike partner Danny Ings. The 20-goal man left Luke Chambers on his backside with a clever body swerve and, after his shot was blocked by on-rushing keeper Dean Gerken, alert winger Michael Kightly was on hand to roll the ball into an empty net.
The goal helped blow away any cobwebs from a home crowd still waking up after a week of celebrations and an early kick-off. And their team began to enjoy themselves.
Ings’ ambitious 30-yard effort whistled just past the post, twice Town scrambled the ball away in their own box, before Ings slid in to stab Dean Marney’s low cross against the bar.
McCarthy finally made offensive changes in the 66th minute, bringing on Frank Nouble and Paul Taylor. And the Blues boss screamed at centre-back Christophe Berra to join the attack in the closing stages.
Taylor’s curling free-kick was clawed out of the top corner, Nouble’s dipping volley went just over the bar, while Berra glanced a header just wide. Town had left it until the final 10 minutes to show any urgency. It was too little, too late.
You can count the number of flat performances this consistent Blues team has produced on one hand this season. Unfortunately, they added to that tally on the very day when they simply had to win.
Mick McCarthy’s men will now go away and lick their wounds, kicking themselves for falling just short in the last week. With four games to go a top-six finish was in their own hands. One point from a possible nine later and they head into the season finale against Sheffield Wednesday, at Portman Road on Saturday, with nothing but pride to play for.
School is nearly out for another year, but there are signs that Ipswich – who have constantly been held back a year as others move on – are finally maturing into a team capable of graduating with distinction.
Further improvements will need to be made in the summer, without doubt. But, at last, some solid foundations for progress have been put in place. No longer do you feel they are just drifting along in English football’s second tier.
McCarthy and assistant Terry Connor shared a big hug as they left the field at the end. In just 16 months they have taken Ipswich from bottom of the class to solid B-grade students. Don’t underestimate how far good tutelage can take them.
The sight of Burnley receiving their second-place trophy should certainly act as inspiration. They are proof that promotion can be achieved without spending millions.
1 Tom Heaton Super save from Taylor late on 7
2 Kieran Trippier
Best right-back in the league 7
5 Jason Shackell
Rock solid 8
4 Michael Duff
Veteran reads game so well 7
6 Ben Mee
Some important blocks 7
37 Scott Arfield
Good movement 7
8 Dean Marney
Real box-to-box energy 8
14 David Jones
Kept things simple 7
19 Michael Kightly
Always wanted the ball 8
30 Ashley Barnes
A real handful 7
10 Danny Ings
Popped up in good positions 8
12 Alex Cisak (unused)
17 Chris Baird (unused)
28 Kevin Long (unused)
26 Keith Treacy (Ings 90+)
7 Ross Wallace 6 (Arfield 71)
11 Junior Stanislas 6 (Kightly 63)
15 David Edgar (unused)
22 Dean Gerken
Made saves you’d expect him to 6
4 Luke Chambers
Poor final delivery 6
6 Christophe Berra
Good battle with Barnes 6
5 Tommy Smith
Some important blocks 6
3 Aaron Cresswell
Gave the ball away too often 5
24 Fraser Richardson
Worked hard in unnatural position 7
16 Paul Green
Box-to-box energy 7
8 Cole Skuse
Usual; solid but unspectacular 6
12 Stephen Hunt
Huffs and puffs 5
25 Jonny Williams
Tried to make things happen 7
9 Daryl Murphy
Fed off scraps 6
1 Scott Loach (unused)
15 Tyrone Mings (unused)
20 Freddie Veseli (unused)
18 Jay Tabb (unused)
26 Paul Taylor 6 (Richardson 66)
34 Jack Marriott (unused)
35 Frank Nouble 7 (Hunt 66)
Both he and Fraser Richardson have had to bide their time since joining on loan from Middlesbrough and Leeds respectively, but both have made smooth transitions into the team. Can see both joining the club on permanent deals this summer.