MATCH COMMENT: Simply a sticky patch or a sobering reality check for Ipswich Town?

Dean Gerken is deceived by Ryan Fredericks' cross, which found it's way under the bar and into the n

Dean Gerken is deceived by Ryan Fredericks' cross, which found it's way under the bar and into the net for the decisive goal at The New Den. PHOTO: PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Archant

Millwall v Ipswich: Ipswich Town suffered their third successive defeat at the weekend when going down 1-0 at Millwall – is this a simply a stick patch or a sobering reality check for the Blues?

OVERVIEW

Ipswich Town produced their limpest performance of the season to go down 1-0 at Millwall on Saturday.

The winning goal may have been a fluke, debutant Ryan Frederick’s mis-hit cross sailing over embarrassed keeper Dean Gerken, but the home side fully deserved their first win in eight matches.

While the Lions lived up to their nickname amidst an emotionally charged atmosphere at The Den for what was manager Ian Holloway’s home debut, Town – by contrast – looked edgy at the back and desperately short of ideas going forwards.

It was a third successive defeat, with all seven goals conceded in that run all falling in the ‘soft’ category.

The mood has suddenly changed. Little more than a week ago, Town were undefeated in nine, in the play-off places with manager Mick McCarthy among the nominees for December’s Championship manager of the month.

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Now they are out of the FA Cup and down to 10th in the table, with the statistic which now jumps off the page being just one in nine matches.

Curiously, McCarthy is yet to win a match at Ipswich during the month of January, his record consisting of six losses and four draws.

Next up is Reading at Portman Road on Saturday, the Royals having thumped Bolton 7-1 at the weekend.

The game

COMMENT

A third successive loss, sealed by a goal created through a combination of fluke and keeper error, a generally limp display and Luke Hyam stretchered off with a nasty cut to his leg.

Saturday, without doubt, was a bad day at the office for Ipswich Town.

Millwall were always likely to be lifted by new manager Ian Holloway on his home debut.

With the atmosphere at The Den as good as it’s been in years, the Lions lived up to their nickname, winning every individual battle, dictating the tempo of the match, with three players dropping to the floor with cramp in the closing stages.

The uninitiated could have been forgiven for thinking this was extra-time of the FA Cup Final on a roasting hot May afternoon, not a mid-season league clash.

This was exactly the sort of game that Town did not need at the end of a difficult week.

The 3-1 home defeat to QPR and 3-2 midweek loss at Preston (complete with 500-mile round trip) had just rocked the confidence slightly of a side that had previously proved competitive in virtually every match they’d played this season.

When Hyam was stretchered off with a nasty cut to his leg in the 13th minute and Frederick’s mis-hit cross sailed over Gerken five minutes before the break, it was no wonder then that the Ipswich players’ body-language suggested they felt as if the whole world was against them. It certainly didn’t help that every contentious refereeing decision seemed to go the home side’s way amidst a charged atmosphere.

Even laid-back Trinidadian Carlos Edwards lost his cool at one stage, going nose-to-nose with marker Scott Malone after the latter appeared to accuse him of diving.

David McGoldrick wore a permanent snarl too, the frustrated striker given absolutely no service as his team-mates time-and-time again threw away possession by lumping the ball upfield. It was a tactic which played straight into the hands of Millwall’s two powerful centre-backs Danny Shittu and Shane Lowry.

Millwall were no Barcelona themselves, but they certainly showed the greater attacking intent and fully deserved the win. Indeed, they should have had the three points well wrapped-up before Town’s late onslaught, former Blues winger Lee Martin blazing over from eight yards out after tricking his way past two defenders in the box. Some things never change.

So, is this a sticky patch that most sides go through at some stage in the season, or a sober reality check for a low-budget side that was punching above its weight?

Defeat to a star-studded QPR side (having dominated the first half) was certainly no disgrace, while the Cup exit to League One side Preston – although disappointing – did come after several changes to the starting line-up.

The Blues then simply ran into Millwall at the wrong time, but the worry now is that some unwanted negative momentum could quickly gain pace – especially as it’s Reading (7-1 winners against Bolton on Saturday) who are up next.

PLAYER RATINGS

MILLWALL

1 David Forde – Solid until injury 7

14 Ryan Fredericks – Fluke goal, but really direct 7

3 Danny Shittu (cpt) – So dominant in the air 8

12 Shane Lowry – Some thunderous tackles 8

27 Scott Malone – Bombed forwards from left-back 7

20 Andy Keogh – Less effective as a right-winger 6

6 Liam Trotter – Tidy passing, always on the move 7

10 Nicky Bailey – Snapped at heels in middle 7

13 Lee Martin – Always involved, no end product 6

27 Scott McDonald – Good link-up play in the hole 7

9 Steve Morison – Bullied Town defence at times 7

Substitutes

43 Stephen Bywater 7 (Forde 44)

4 Josh Wright 6 (Bailey 61)

7 Liam Feeney (not used)

11 Martyn Woolford (not used)

16 Mark Beevers (not used)

26 Jimmy Abdou 6 (Trotter 69)

32 John Marquis (not used)

IPSWICH TOWN

22 Dean Gerken – Embarrassed by goal 5

4 Luke Chambers – Dragged out of position at times 5

6 Christophe Berra – Looked edgy 5

5 Tommy Smith – Few nervy moments 5

3 Aaron Cresswell – Not been as assured of late 6

7 Carlos Edwards (cpt) – Even he lost his cool 5

8 Cole Skuse – Tried to get the ball down 6

19 Luke Hyam – Tenacious tackle led to early injury 6

16 Ryan Tunnicliffe – Faded after energetic start 5

9 Daryl Murphy – Off the pace on return from injury 5

10 David McGoldrick – Went looking for ball. No service 6

Substitutes

1 Scott Loach (not used)

15 Tyrone Mings (not used)

18 Jay Tabb 5 (Hyam 13)

11 Paul Anderson (not used)12 Stephen Hunt (not used)

26 Paul Taylor 6 (Edwards 62)

35 Frank Nouble 5 (Tabb 73)

MATCH STATS

MILLWALL

Bookings: Malone (45)

Sendings off: None

Shots on target 3

Shots off targe 6

Hit woodwork 0

Corners 3

Fouls 8

IPSWICH TOWN

Bookings: Edwards (45), Taylor (89)

Sendings off: None

Shots on target 4

Shots off target 2

Hit woodwork 0

Corners 7

Fouls 14

IPSWICH MAN-OF-THE-MATCH

It’s a case of picking the best of a bad bunch. At least COLE SKUSE tried to keep the ball on the deck when it came his way, the ball otherwise continually lumped forwards. David McGoldrick tried to drop deep and make things happen, but he received no service.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Join Blues writer Stuart Watson for a live webchat at 1pm today – http://www.greenun24.co.uk/ipswich-town/live-webchat.

STAT ATTACK

Ipswich have had sluggish starts to the new calender year for the last five seasons, their record for the month of January from 2009/10 onwards reading: W3 D5 L12. Millwall – who had lost six and drawn one of their previous seven matches – ended up with three ex-Ipswich players on the pitch in Stephen Bywater, Liam Trotter and Lee Martin. This was the first time Town have lost three consecutive matches under McCarthy’s management. The last time the Blues lost three in a row was at the end of Paul Jewell’s managerial reign / start of Chris Hutchings’ caretaker management (there were four defeats in succession).

WHO’S NEXT?

On Saturday, Reading are the visitors to Portman Road. The Royals have blown hot and cold following relegation from the Premier League, but Nigel Adkins side (narrow 2-1 winners against Town at the Madjeski Stadium on the opening day of the campaign) thrashed Bolton 7-1 on Saturday. After that it’s a Tuesday night trip to Leeds, whose manager Brian McDermott is under pressure following a seven-game winless streak. February then begins with the visit of Bolton, another inconsistent side who have had a real mixed bag of results.

TWITTER TALK

“Which genius thought route one was going to work against Shittu then?! Clueless. Never even turned up.”

– @cmcdougie (Cameron McClue)

“Question for my #itfc followers: If our only chance of buying in January is by selling Cresswell/McGoldrick, shouldn’t we consider it for the greater good?”

– @prickettboy3 (Ben Prickett)

“Someone who does deserve a start next game is Hunt. He was excellent against Blackburn, we’ve hardly seen him since.”

– @ryitfc

“One win, five draws and two losses in last eight league games, No win in five, 8/24 points... That’s more like what we’re used to! #ITFC #MidTableMediocrity.”

– @RunbadRumbold (Pete Rumbold)

“My concern is once McCarthy realises stagnation, likely that he’ll move on. No real prospects other than keeping us afloat.”

– @Nickshirley (Nick Shirley)

“Thought Jay Tabb was dealt a bad hand. Asked to fill four different roles. For 10 mins he looked positive, then dragged off.”

– @olimar99 (Alistair Rattray)

“Town absolutely awful today. Midfield non-existent. No creativity. Shocking.”

– @dk681 (David Kitt)

“Wondering if all the soft goals will lead to a speeding up of the loan market capture of a defender McCarthy keeps mentioning?”

– @Doctor_Beaker

“Is MM taking player loyalty too far by saying Tabb was superb? There’s protecting your players, but fans won’t take spin too long...”

– @Doctor_Beaker

“Poor from #itfc today, just goes to show we’re miles away from a promotion side unless we sign some creativity.”

– @underthesun666 (Liam O’Sullivan)

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