MATCH COMMENT: Should a point at second-bottom Barnsley be celebrated? Absolutely
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town scored twice in the final 10 minutes to rescue a share of the spoils at second-bottom Barnsley on Saturday.
The Blues were 1-0 down at half-time thanks to Chris O’Grady’s early strike and, after wasting a number of golden chances in a one-way second period, went further behind when Tomasz Cywka’s deflected free-kick came massively against the run of play in the 74th minute.
Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Mick McCarthy’s men rallied and ended up with a fully deserved point thanks to late goals from Christophe Berra (81) and David McGoldrick (84).
Indeed, the visitors could justifiably feel they should have claimed all three points, with debutant Paul Green denied a late winner thanks to a fabulous defensive block.
A draw saw seventh-place Town – now unbeaten in four matches – reduce the gap to the Championship play-off places to three points heading into the final 16 games.
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Blackpool at home is next on the agenda, with the quartet of Brighton, Blackburn, Leeds and Wigan in a pack of six teams that increasingly look to be contesting the final top six spot as the leading five begin to pull away.
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There are lies, damned lies and statistics, as the phrase goes.
Numbers don’t always tell the full story, but they give a pretty good idea of how Saturday’s game went and where Ipswich Town are at with 16 games to go this season.
The Blues may have left it late to rescue a draw at Oakwell on Saturday, but there is no arguing they deserved a share of the spoils. In fact, they probably deserved more.
Eighteen shots compared to six, 10 corners compared to two. As Mick McCarthy said afterwards ‘with nine minutes to go it was looking like it might be the most one-sided 2-0 defeat ever’.
With strong winds playing a part in a scrappy first half, the Tykes led 1-0 at the break courtesy of Chris O’Grady’s 12th minute strike. The front man had side-footed wide from a golden position early on. He then conjured a goal from nothing, looking for a pass on the edge of the box before swivelling and sending a low shot past flat-footed keeper Dean Gerken and into the bottom corner.
Aaron Cresswell thumped the post with a fabulous swerving free-kick effort in response, with the disjointed Blues really stepping up their game after the restart.
Jay Tabb fired over at the end of a good move, Cole Skuse lifted the ball over the bar from close-range after keeper Luke Steele had palmed a cross back into the six-yard box, Paul Anderson put a side-foot volley the wrong side of the post following one of numerous excellent Stephen Hunt crosses, while Steele made a fine double stop from Daryl Murphy and Anderson.
When Luke Chambers conceded a soft free-kick and Tomasz Cywka’s powerful dead ball effort took a deflection off McGoldrick on its way into the back of the net it certainly felt like it was going to be one of those days.
Town refused to let their heads drop though and finally found their shooting boots. First Christophe Berra rammed the ball home from close-range after Jim O’Brien had blocked Tommy Smith’s header on the line, then McGoldrick smashed the ball high into the net after Aaron Cresswell had rolled a free-kick to him on the edge of the box.
There was still time for debutant Paul Green to be denied a dramatic late winner courtesy of a last ditch block.
Should a point at second-bottom Barnsley be celebrated? Given the circumstances, absolutely.
Barnsley may be fighting relegation, but there have been genuine signs of late that the team which has made the great escape a speciality in recent years are set for another resurgence.
Much has been made of the fact that Town have dropped 25 points from winning positions this season (the worst record in the Football League), but it’s worth noting that they have now gained 14 from losing positions (a record only bettered by Leeds in the Championship).
The last two home games have been wins, the last two away outings draws. It’s the so-called magic formula for a top six finish.
Only five teams have scored more than Town’s 43 goals in the Championship this season. Only six teams have conceded fewer than 34.
The only statistic that really matters though is the one which says the Blues are seventh in the table. Had you offered that to anyone associated with the Blues last summer then they’d have snapped your hand off.
Mick McCarthy, Ipswich Town manager
“There is always that thought that it could be one of those days, but we’re on the sidelines shouting ‘get your heads up, keep running and keep doing it’ because we’d played well enough.
“I’ve been there as a player. You can get that resignation when a goal goes against when you’ve played well, but we didn’t let their heads drop, we rallied them on and we got what we deserved by a good stretch.
“I don’t think we got what we deserved actually. I think we should have won.”
Danny Wilson, Barnsley manager
“I’m frustrated rather than disappointed. In the second half we had our backs to the wall, but the two goals we conceded were disappointing ones.
“The first one is a mis-control and the second one is a deflection. We defended too deep instead of taking a forwards step.
“I’m sure Mick will think they deserved it, but we should have seen the game out better. The goals we conceded weren’t down to the conditions, but the wind did play a big part today.”
1 Luke Steele
Double stop, powerless for goals 7
12 Jack Hunt
Better in attack than defence 6
3 Peter Ramage
Out of position numerous times 5
6 Martin Cranie
Needless foul in lead-up to leveller 6
4 Tom Kennedy
Unadventurous at left-back 6
33 Brek Shea
Poor display. Replaced at break 5
7 Jim O’Brien
Could have cleared before Berra goal 5
8 Stephen Dawson
Pulled strings in first half 7
16 Dale Jennings
Real threat with direct running 7
10 Chris O’Grady
Good goal, real handful 7
9 Nick Proschwitz
Decent foil to O’Grady 6
31 Iain Turner (not used)
5 Lewin Nyatanga (not used)
19 Tomasz Cywka (Shea 46)
14 Liam Lawrence (not used)
11 Martin Woods (Hunt 74)
20 Marcus Pedersen (not used)
42 Paddy McCourt (not used)
22 Dean Gerken
Rooted to spot for opener 6
4 Luke Chambers (cpt)
Needless foul for free-kick goal 6
6 Christophe Berra
Battling display. Poacher’s goal 7
5 Tommy Smith
Solid. Could have had hat-trick 7
3 Aaron Cresswell
Hit post with sublime free-kick 7
8 Cole Skuse
Wasted some good chances 6
18 Jay Tabb
Worked hard. Tidy 6
12 Stephen Hunt
Superb energy, wicked crosses 8
35 Frank Nouble
Town improved after he departed 5
10 David McGoldrick
Not at best, but 16 goals for season 6
9 Daryl Murphy Player name
Big improvement after break 6
1 Scott Loach (not used)
15 Tyrone Mings (not used)
24 Frazer Richardson (not used)
14 Anthony Wordsworth (not used)
16 Paul Green 7 (Tabb 74)
7 Carlos Edwards (not used)
11 Paul Anderson 7 (Nouble 52)
Sendings off: None
Shots on target 3
Shots off target 3
Hit woodwork 0
Sendings off: None
Shots on target 8
Shots off target 10
Hit woodwork 1
Attendance: 9,929 (817 away)
Referee: Darren Bond
Conditions: Strong winds
What is Ipswich Town’s best formation?
Mick McCarthy started with the same 4-3-3 system he deployed in the 1-0 home win over Bolton, with Cole Skuse the holding midfielder and Stephen Hunt and Jay Tabb the two central players ahead of him. That in itself worked okay, but Daryl Murphy is wasted as a wide left striker and Frank Nouble underwhelmed on the right.
The Blues certainly improved when McCarthy reverted to the 4-4-2 formation which produced such an impressive display in the 2-0 home win over Reading recently.
Paul Anderson replaced Nouble, with Hunt switching to his favoured left-wing role.
The duo’s direct running immediately made Town more of an offensive threat and there’s a good chance that will be the way the Blues start in Saturday’s home game against Blackpool.
Why has it taken this long for Stephen Hunt to become a regular starter?
That’s the question on Blues’ fans lips after the Irishman once again produced a superb display full of energy and quality.
Man-of-the-match on his full debut (3-1 home win over Blackburn) last December, a change of formation and a couple of niggling injuries meant he saw very little action in the weeks which followed.
Has been a breath of fresh air since returning to the starting XI, impressing in the games against Reading, Bolton and Barnsley.
Quickly becoming a real fans’ favourite.
Where does Sylvan Ebanks-Blake fit into the equation now that he’s close to returning to fitness?
He may be a two-time winner of the Championship Golden Boot award, but Ebanks-Blake is certainly not going to walk into the side. David McGoldrick took his goal tally for the season to 16 at the weekend and is on course to become the club’s first 20-goal-a-season player since Shekfi Kuqi (2004/05). Daryl Murphy has proved to be an excellent foil and that partnership cannot be broken up.
Likely he’ll be eased back in as an impact sub over the coming weeks.
What will new signing Paul Green bring to the squad?
The 30-year-old central midfielder joined up with the squad at the team hotel in Barnsley last Friday night, the paperwork for his 93-day loan switch from Championship rivals Leeds completed on the morning of the game.
The Irishman helped Doncaster earn three promotions in five years (from non-league to the Championship) and has been an established player at this level for Derby and Leeds.
The 20-cap international will bring versatility (can play in the middle, on the right or at full-back), Championship know-how, real energy and touch of class. A good character off the field, he’ll add to the already excellent team spirit.