Six things we learned from Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw at Barnsley
Tom Lawrence’s last-gasp leveller at Barnsley saw Ipswich Town extend their unbeaten run to eight matches and rack up a sixth successive draw on Saturday. STUART WATSON analyses the game.
SOFT GOAL CONCEDED
Town went through a spell of shooting themselves in the foot, but had appeared to be back to their solid and organised best in recent weeks.
Mick McCarthy rightly labelled Barnsley’s 58th-minute opener as a ‘nonsense’ goal to concede. The Blues almost scored when David McGoldrick glanced Tom Lawrence’s corner delivery across the face of goal and just beyond Luke Chambers. Barnsley won the loose ball, counter-attacked at speed and, within seconds, Marley Watkins was muscling his way between Jordan Spence and Emyr Huws to poke home.
KEY MEN AT BOTH ENDS
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Where would Town be without the goalkeeping heroics of Bartosz Bialkowski and the goals of Tom Lawrence?
Town’s big Pole in the goal was quick off his line and stuck out a strong hand to keep livewire winger Adam Hammill’s shot out in the 81st minute. All the momentum was with the slick hosts at that point and, had that effort gone in, it would have been game over.
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That save enabled the Blues to mount a late onslaught and Lawrence ghosted in at the far post to stab home with virtually the last kick. It was the Leicester City loanee’s 11th goal of the campaign.
Worryingly, we may be about to find the answer to the opening hypothetical question. Lawrence is almost certainly out of Town’s price range and will go on to bigger and better things next season, while Bialkowski – who this week revealed there had been interest in him during the January transfer window – will not be short of suitors this summer.
The biggest tactical debate during Mick McCarthy’s four-and-a-bit years in charge has centred around the balance of his midfield.
Cole Skuse is excellent at shielding, intercepting and recycling the ball, but he needs different types of players alongside him.
For a long-time, Town fans were frustrated that tenacious players like Luke Hyam and Jonathan Douglas were Skuse’s partners in the middle. In the last two games Toumani Diagouraga and Skuse have both started. Do Town really need two sitters in this wing-back system?
I’d like to see one out-and-out protector, one box-to-box energy player and one creator. There’s definitely an argument that McGoldrick or Lawrence would be better in a deeper role. McCarthy sometimes seems to crow-bar his favourite players into a team.
PITMAN’S GOT CLASS
Brett Pitman left newly-promoted Bournemouth to get regular starts and finished his debut season at Town as the 11-goal top-scorer, despite never really getting a prolonged run in the side, and has been hailed by McCarthy as the club’s most natural finisher.
It was strange, therefore, that the front man was an unused substitute for seven successive games recently. He only came on in the 86th minute on Saturday, but that still gave him enough time to produce a classy assist. Not many other players in a Blue shirt would have had the technique under pressure to caress a perfectly-flighted cross to the far post like that.
MARLEY THE NEXT MURPHY?
Just as Jordan Hugill scored against the Blues for Preston back in January, another Town transfer target – Marley Watkins – found the net against his would-be-employers on Saturday.
The 26-year-old has many similarities with Daryl Murphy at the same stage of his career. His hard-work and strength sees him often played on the wing, but he sees himself as a striker. He’s done his hard yards in the lower leagues and in Scotland. A number nine on his back and a regular place up top could transform him into prolific front man. Don’t rule out a free transfer switch to Portman Road when his contract expires this summer.
NOT SAFE YET
Town are now very much in danger of getting dragged into a drop zone dogfight. A point-per-game is relegation form. Bristol City, Wolves and Burton all picked up huge wins at the weekend, while Blackburn are on the move under Tony Mowbray. An away trip to Neil Warnock’s Cardiff on Saturday won’t be easy. The Blues still have Wigan, Burton and Rotherham to play.