Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 1-1 draw against Coventry
PUBLISHED: 18:45 07 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:23 08 December 2019
Ipswich Town have played out their second 1-1 draw against Coventry, at St Andrew's, in the space of six days. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
Let's start with the positives. Town completely dominated the first half. It was, in fact, their most easy on the eye display for quite some time.
At times this season the approach has been direct, frantic, a bit crash-bang-wallop. Today, just like during the latter stages of the relegation campaign and at St Andrew's last weekend, the Blues focused on getting the ball down and playing through the thirds.
There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the team not creating enough opportunities and not joining up midfield and attack. That wasn't a problem in the opening 45 minutes here.
Will Keane played the role of lone striker superbly. Instead of being utilised as a target man (fight balls are not his forte), Town played to his strengths by getting balls into his feet. Time after time he dropped into pockets of space and played neat lay-offs. That's how you play with one up top.
It helped that his supporting cast was full of good footballers. Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell, Jon Nolan, Alan Judge, Luke Garbutt and Luke Woolfenden are all very comfortable on the ball.
This game could, and really should, have been sewn up by the break.
Nolan glanced a close-range header wide from an Alan Judge cross early on. Then, had Judge been able to convert on the stretch at the far post, we'd be waxing lyrical about a goal of the season contender. It was a move that started with keeper Will Norris, involved some Keane link-up play and a defence-splitting Nolan forward pass. Sadly, Gwion Edwards lacked a little composure with his sweeping cross.
Keane's 31st minute opener, a towering header from Judge's high cross, was the least the Blues deserved. The front man then saw an equally good header come back off the inside of the post following Luke Garbutt's corner kick delivery,
An utterly one-sided first half, in which Coventry could barely get a kick, continued with Garbutt dragging a decent volleyed chance wide.
Callum O'Hare putting a decent headed chace just wide for Coventry at the very end of the first half was a reminder of how dangerous a 1-0 lead is, no matter how well the team is playing.
Fears that Town could be left to rue their profligacy sadly proved founded.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the teams swapped shirts at the break. Coventry started on the front foot. Jordan Shipley stung the palms of Norris, then Liam Kelly's superb through ball was finished off coolly on the run by Maxime Biamu.
The Sky Blues grew in confidence. They were now the team dominating possession and carving open chances.
O'Hare clipped a shot onto the crossbar following another fine forward pass by Kelly. Cole Skuse and Garbutt then had to make blocks in the box during a frantic spell.
Only one team looked like winning this as the game entered the final stages. Kyle McFadzean peeled away from his marker at a corner only to head a golden chance straight at Norris. Then, deep into stoppage-time, Jake Allen pulled a shot wide from inside the box.
This really was a classic game of two halves.
Coventry boss Mark Robins must take credit for his tactical reshuffle.
He moved big striker Amadou Bakayoko out to the right side to limit the influence of Garbutt, who had often been the catalyst for Town's positive play out from the back.
Putting midfielder Jordan Shipley on for defender Dom Hyam, and abandoning three at the back, allowed Coventry to get a foothold in the middle of the pitch too.
Blues boss Paul Lambert responded with some changes of his own in the 67th minute. Wide men Judge and Edwards were replaced by Kayden Jackson and Skuse. Town switched to a narrow diamond midfield.
By that point though, the hosts had got the bit between their teeth though. Momentum is a powerful thing.
TRUST IN DOZZELL
Andre Dozzell has often been guilty of not taking opportunities to shine when they've come his way in recent months, but the young midfielder could rightly point out that it's hard to do just that when you're parachuted into the team weeks apart - especially coming back following a long-term injury.
He's now started four games in the space of a month, including two in a week, and you could see the benefits in the way he played.
The 20-year-old couldn't be accused of not pulling his weight when Town were out of possession. In the first half he was very much part of a well-oiled machine, playing some trademark positive passes.
In the past, Dozzell would be the first player to be given the hook in scenarios such as this. The fact that Lambert kept him on, to play at the tip of the diamond, might suggest that he is starting to win over the Blues boss.
HOW FULL'S YOUR GLASS?
Ipswich Town have now won just one game (excluding penalty shootouts) in their last eight across all competitions. Their record against current top eight sides reads W0 D4 L1.
Did they ultimately get past Lincoln in the FA Cup? Yes. Did they deserve more against Blackpool and Wycombe in the league? Possibly. Should they have lost at Colchester? Probably not (and that didn't really matter anyway).
Second in the table, with a game in hand on most, and still being in two cup competitions... this is hardly a crisis as the packed festive schedule approaches.
And yet there are some nagging doubts; about the lack of momentum and chemistry being built thanks to a stop-start schedule and squad rotation, about an inability to produce impressive performances over an entire 90 minutes and about scoring more than once in a game just four times in 18 games since early September.
Next up... Coventry again. This time at Portman Road, on Tuesday night, in an FA Cup second round replay. To the victors, an early January trip to either Plymouth or Bristol Rovers.