Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 loss at Blackpool
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:28 01 March 2020
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Ipswich Town’s poor run of form continued with a 2-1 defeat at Blackpool yesterday. STUART WATSON reports.
SAME. OLD. STORY.
A lack of ruthlessness in both boxes. That was the narrative as Ipswich Town slipped out of the Championship with a whimper. That's again been the tale as the tractor wheels have fallen off in a long-fading League One campaign.
You know the story by now. Play well enough without ever really having sustained spells of pressure, create plenty of openings but spurn most of them, don't concede that many chances but still contrive to shoot themselves in the foot at key moments.
The dramatic events of stoppage-time summed up Town's struggles in a nutshell. Freddie Sears didn't take a one-on-one opportunity at one end and Blackpool countered at speed to win it through Joe Nuttall's header.
Blackpool were struggling, without a permanent manager and their talismanic striker Armand Gnanduillet. This game was there for the taking. Sadly, Town couldn't finish a fish supper by the seaside. Sears, Emyr Huws, Will Keane, Flynn Downes and Alan Judge had all failed to score with efforts of varying degrees of difficulty.
Yes, Town had looked the more likely to win this after Sears had cancelled out Keiran Dewsbury-Hall's first half opener. But they didn't. They lost. It's long been a recurring theme for some time. And a very worrying one.
It was a good start. Luke Chambers did some fine mopping up work at the back. At the other end, Huws couldn't quite get on the end of Sears' low cross, then Keane dragged a shot wide. Both were well-worked, positive moves.
Then came Blackpool's opener. It was a catalogue of errors. First, Luke Garbutt (who over-hit several dead ball deliveries, never adapting to the windy conditions) tried a showy flick on the edge of his own box. Town looked to have got away with it, but then Downes inexplicably toed the ball away from Huws as he looked to burst away from danger. Dewsbury-Hall jinked inside too easily and saw a low, bending effort creep under the outstretched arm of Tomas Holy to go in off the post.
The Blues reacted well and created a golden opening in the 37th minute after Keane found Downes in the box. The midfielder should have left keeper Chris Maxwell with no chance, but the effort was pushed away and Sears couldn't snaffle the rebound. Was he given a nudge in the back by Calum MacDonald at the vital moment? Yes. It still has to go down as a big miss though.
Downes rifled a low shot narrowly wide, Huws put a volley straight at Maxwell and Sears saw an attempt comfortably pushed away as more opportunities came and went.
The 54th minute equaliser, Sears forcing the ball home after Downes' high press had led to Keane crossing from the right, set up an open finish.
Sears saw a shot in the box blocked, Judge volleyed straight at the keeper and rifled another shot just wide, while Keane was denied at the near post. At the other end, Holy got away with a couple of mad dashes off his line and Gary Madine headed against the crossbar from a corner.
Then came the late drama. Sears should have done better when trying to nick the ball around Maxwell. Garbutt's bad day got worse as he let the keeper's long ball bounce, Earl was dragged across and failed to stop the cross, leaving Nuttall unmarked for the headed finish.
Flynn Downes looked to have been awarded a foul just before the hour. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old shoved his opponent to the floor after they had become entangled.
It was a silly way to receive his 10th league booking of the campaign. Town's star man, who has carried far too big a burden on his shoulders this season, will now be suspended for two massive home games against Fleetwood and Coventry this coming week.
Lambert's options are rapidly dwindling. Joint top-scorers Kayden Jackson (suspended for two more games) and James Norwood (out until April following groin surgery) are out, while it's still unclear when Kane Vincent-Young will be ready to go again. Asking him to hit the ground running after a prolonged period out will be a big ask anyway.
Can Sears and Teddy Bishop, who flanked Keane in a 4-3-3, start a second game in four days following their own recent injury comebacks? That would be a risk.
KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
With little to lose, is it time to call upon the fearlessness of youth?
Armando Dobra injected some spark when he was introduced on the hour. The teenager plays like he's in a school playground game of Wembley.
One moment in particular summed him up. He plucked the ball out the sky tight to the right touchline, instantly tried to beat the full-back, lost it, then raced back the length of the pitch to win back possession and launch a counter on the counter. Every time he got the ball you sensed he could make something happen with his close control and direct instincts.
Tyreece Simpson, who only turned 18 at the start of this month, then produced a decent cameo after replacing Keane up front in the 84th minute for his league debut. He looks a big, strong lad with a decent touch and bit of pace.
THEY THINK IT'S ALL OVER...
It's not quite, but the fat lady is certainly warming up her vocal chords.
Five defeats in seven games has seen the Blues slip from top of the pile to ninth. The slide goes back longer than just the last few weeks though. Since the 1-0 win at Fleetwood at the start of October, it's 25 points gained from 23 league games (W6 D7 L10). In truth, there were concerns that Town weren't playing that well before that too.
The gap to the play-off places now stands at five points. This coming week is, no question, the last chance saloon.
Lambert concedes his team probably need to win beat both Fleetwood and Coventry - two of the league's most in-form sides. Even the most positive of Blues fans will be struggling to find belief that can happen.