No excuses for Town

“IT was an awful game with no football played. We were poor, never passed the ball at all well and it was a case of after the Lord Mayor's Show for us.

By Derek Davis

“IT was an awful game with no football played. We were poor, never passed the ball at all well and it was a case of after the Lord Mayor's Show for us.

“Neither keeper had a save to make and we fell asleep when it really mattered - yet again.”

That was Jim Magilton's eloquent summing up of yet another disappointing away-day defeat.

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What he could not put his finger on quite as succinctly is why his players look like Brazil one week but can't beat Barnsley the next.

The only consistent thing about Ipswich yet again is their inconsistency.

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Magilton's mantra is that the habits formed on the training ground are the habits you will take into a game.

Perhaps players are getting into the habit of switching off when the 90 minutes normal time is up and start thinking of their cuppa instead of defending.

You can't imagine that being the case from professional footballers but it can only be hoped that lessons will have finally been learnt as Grant McCann's winner two minutes' into time added on was the fourth time this season Town have conceded with 90 minutes on the clock. This was once again a case of 'it's grim oop north' following a wonderful home win.

Last month, Town walloped Luton 5-0 with a scintillating display. Okay, no one knew at the time that Sol Davis had suffered a stroke the day before, but, anyway, the Blues won well and, after a dogged point won at Plymouth, went to Burnley only to lose through lapse of concentration in time added on to a Chris McCann header.

So there was a real sense of déjà vu when another McCann pounced on a weak clearance from a Town defender to wallop in Barnsley's winner two minutes into time added on at Oakwell.

Grant McCann was one of four players making their Barnsley debut in a week of disruption in south Yorkshire.

Barnsley, at times, played like a team of strangers, although they also stuck to a rigid game plan of bottling the game up and squeezing everything tightly.

Ipswich had no such excuses and yet looked a ragged bunch that rarely strung a series of passes together.

They lacked invention, guile and, at times, any real quality.

Although Matt Richards foraged and kept things moving as best he could, the Blues could not find decent penetration. Even the sparkling Gary Roberts struggled to get into full flow and, although a couple of shots went wide of the mark, the Barnsley keeper was not tested until 12 minutes into the second half.

That came through Richards finding Jon Macken, who then slipped a superb ball in for Alan Lee but his tame shot was easily smothered by Nick Colgan.

Ironically, Macken had enjoyed a relatively decent spell but was given the hook and replaced by Danny Haynes.

The former Manchester City and Preston striker showed his frustration with a few well aimed kicks at some water bottles and gave the reinforced plastic dug-out a few hefty bangs for good measure.

If only he and his team-mates had shown the same sort of passion and aggression on the pitch.

After all, Barnsley were there for the taking. You could see why they had won once in 10 games and were sitting second from bottom.

The fans got on to the stand-in manager's back for not playing their favourite Brian Howard who, by all accounts, has been their best player all season and was only left out because he dared criticise the chairman's decision to sack Andy Ritchie.

But Ipswich didn't capitalise by going out to attack the Tykes and were strangely subdued.

They weren't helped when Matt Bates went off on a stretcher with knee ligament damage and could well return to Middlesbrough to be treated and, depending on the severity, not come back.

Whether Bates would have cleared on-loan West Ham winger Kyel Reid's cross any better than Roberts, who was helping out at the back, is anyone's guess. But the ball fell invitingly for an unmarked McCann who, up until now, has been plying his trade in League One with Cheltenham Town, and he had the freedom of the Oakwell to drill a low shot past Lewis Price.

There was not a lot Price could have done about it and had also survived a first-half scare.

Price got the nod over Shane Supple due to his kicking prowess but a lack of communication with defender Alex Bruce almost cost Town dear when Leon Knight nipped between them and his cross for Paul Hayes was blocked.

Hayes had also slipped at the vital moment after McCann took advantage of a rare Jason De Vos mistake to cross and Town escaped.

They were rare moments of excitement that studded an otherwise drab game and Ipswich will need to show a big improvement if they are going to find their third away win of the season on Wednesday at Derby County.

Trips to Pride Park have been fruitful in recent years but the Rams have been in form of late, while Town have now managed just eight away points from a possible 27 so far this season.

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