Report: Ipswich Town 1 Royale Union Saint-Gilloise 2 - Poor end to underwhelming pre-season

Daryl Murphy heads town in front during the Ipswich Town v Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (Pre-season f

Daryl Murphy heads town in front during the Ipswich Town v Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (Pre-season friendly) match at Portman Road, Ipswich, on 30 July 2016. Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town’s underwhelming 2016/17 pre-season campaign ended with a 2-1 defeat to Belgian second-tier side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise at Portman Road this afternoon.

The Blues dominated for the majority of the game against poor opposition and, after coming close several times in the first half, finally took the lead when Daryl Murphy headed home just after the hour mark.

Mick McCarthy’s men let their guard down after that though and conceded twice in less then three minutes as first substitute Mathias Fixelles netted at the end of a swift counter-attack following a home corner and then Nicolas Rajsel drifted inside too easily to score at the near post.

It was a continuation of themes throughout Town’s pre-season campaign so far – lots of possession, not taking chances and conceding sloppy goals – and will have done little to enthuse fans ahead of next Saturday’s Championship opener against Barnsley.

Already season ticket sales are down around 1,000 on this time last year and a small crowd of just 3,713 watched this game.

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The big positive of the afternoon was the impressive display of triallist Roland Lamah.

McCarthy may or may not have given a hint of the team that he will pick for next weekend with the selection he made for this final warm-up.

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Summer signing Adam Webster started, although McCarthy has previously said that he would not be match-fit for competitive football after only recently recovering from an ankle injury, with Christophe Berra selected over Tommy Smith for the other centre-back slot.

Left-winger Lamah, a 28-year-old five-cap Belgium international, was given another start on trial after impressing McCarthy in the goalless draw at Charlton on Tuesday night.

Early on there was some classic mop-up play by Cole Skuse as the midfielder appeared in the right place at thr right time to make a crucial tackle on the edge of his own box. The Belgian visitors wouldn’t get much nearer the home goal for the rest of the half.

It was clear early on that the Blues were going to play very narrow with wide midfielders Lamah and Teddy Bishop tucking inside and Skuse and Kevin Bru sitting deep. It was almost a 4-2-2-2 system at times, with the emphasis on striker Freddie Sears to run the channels and full-backs Luke Chambers and Jonas Knudsen to attack.

Lamah’s first piece of positive play was a clever turn and pass which found Berra in the box, the Scottish international’s cross-cum-shot flying across the face of goal and just beyond the stretching Daryl Murphy inside the six-yard box.

Bishop, undoubtedly the stand-out player of the Blues’ pre-season so far, once again looked strong and sharp. There were a few moments of close ball control, a couple of aesthetically pleasing bodyswerves, while he was winning headers and tackles too.

With Ipswich dominating possession against pretty poor opposition, Lamah continually took up good positions. The former Swansea loanee fired one 30-yard effort just over the bar and was unceremoniously blocked off after skipping inside two challenges. Bru curled the subsequent free-kick narrowly wide.

Chambers had produced a fine last-ditch block at the other end,, but it was Ipswich who continued to probe. In the 23rd minute, Sears seized on a mistake at the back and crossed for Murphy to head against the bar with a glancing near post effort. Keeper Anthony Sadin bravely threw himself in the way of Bishop’s follow-up attempt.

Just after the half hour, defender Gertjan Marten’s threw himself in the way of a Murphy effort in the box and, after the ball span clear, Bru’s ambitious first-time return volley from 30-yards dipped just over.

Town’s chances continued to come from set-pieces or long-range efforts. In the 39th minute, Berra met Bru’s corner with his head and Chambers threw his heel at the ball in the six-yard box. There wasn’t significant contact and Tracy Mpati Bibuangu cleared off the line.

Lamah carried on catching the eye. First he saw a low cross hacked away after taking up a good position and then he dragged a decent low shot from 25 yards just past the far post.

Smith replaced Berra at the break, the latter having received treatment for what looked to be a bloodied nose midway through the first half.

Lamah started the second half as he had finished the first. There was a clever backheel in the box which found Knudsen on the overlap and, less than a minute later, a nice bit of skill and pass that would have set Sears clear had it not been for the offside flag. The home fans chanted ‘sign him up’.

David McGoldrick and Andre Dozzell replaced Bishop and Lamah just before the hour mark and, with two No.10 types wanting to play between the lines, Ipswich suddenly had a different dimension to their attacking play.

You rarely get yellow cards in friendlies, but Jordan Massengo was booked after rugby tackling McGoldrick following his neat turn.

Town finally made the breakthrough in the 61st minute when Murphy nodded Bru’s corner kick delivery into the bottom left corner.

Ipswich had showed signs of letting their guard just before that though when Webster produced a loose header in his own box under zero pressure. Freddy Mombongo Dues’ overhead kick was easily held by Bartosz Bialkowski.

Royale Union were level after counter-attacking from a home corner in the 73rd minute. One clearance, one quick pass and substitute Fixelles was suddenly out-sprinting Skuse to score one-one-one. He was booked for over-exuberant celebrations with the away team’s noisy 122-strong following.

Town switched off again less than three minutes after that. Chambers was caught on the ball in a dangerous position and Rajsel skipped inside Webster before beating Bialkowski at his near post.

The closest Town came to an equaliser was in the final minute when keeper Sadin kept out quickfire headers from Chambers and Smith.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Webster, Berra (Smith 46), Knudsen; Bishop (McGoldrick 53), Skuse, Bru, Lamah; Sears, Murphy.

Unused subs: Crowe, Digby, Malarczyk, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Douglas, Dozzell, McDonnell, Stewart, McLoughlin.

ROYALE UNION: Sadin, Morren, Bibuangu, Cabeke, Vandiepenbeeck, Wallaert (Fixelles 66), Aguemon (Zitte 82), Martens, Mombongo Dues, Rajsel, Massengo.

Unused subs: Salah, Kaminiaris, Neels, Palmeri, Saussez.

Attendance: 3,713 (122 away)

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