Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-0 defeat at Crawley in the EFL Trophy
PUBLISHED: 10:13 11 November 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 11 November 2020
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Ipswich Town exited the EFL Trophy with a 2-0 defeat at Crawley Town last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
ALL EGGS IN THE LEAGUE ONE BASKET NOW
We’re not even at the midway point of November and Ipswich Town are out of all three cup competitions.
Arsenal’s Under-21s claimed top spot in Group J of the Papa John’s Trophy after drawing with Gillingham (and claiming the penalty shoot-out bonus point) in the earlier kick-off. That left the Blues needing just a draw against Crawley reserves to progress.
Blues boss Paul Lambert, who has made it patently clear he thinks this competition shouldn’t have gone ahead in this most hectic of seasons, named a team full of kids (at the People’s Pension Stadium).
The outfield 10 had an average age of just 18.5. Not a single one of them was eligible as a ‘senior’ player under the competition’s rules (and clubs are meant to field four). It means, for a second time this season, a £5k fine is incoming.
Yes, it’s a ridiculous rule that Football League clubs are punished for playing their kids in a competition that invites Premier League clubs to develop their Under-21 players. And yes, those fines have been covered by the £10k prize money received for beating Gillingham earlier in the group stages. But it still feels like an unnecessary waste of cash at a time when revenue streams are limited.
As much as it was good to see some potential stars of the future, did the team really need to be quite that young?
Lambert (who only named six subs) appeared to be making a statement with this selection. There might even have been a bit of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Town have 10 days off until their next game now. Would it not have been prudent to keep James Wilson up to speed for the weeks ahead? He had not featured in either of the games against Sunderland and Portsmouth last week.
Kayden Jackson, a second half sub at Sunderland and unused against Portsmouth, could arguably have benefitted from some game time as he works his way back to fitness.
Could the likes of Janoi Donacien and Myles Kenlock really not have gone again after their 120 minutes at the weekend?
A smattering of senior players would not only have boosted Ipswich’s chance of progressing, but their presence would probably have helped some of the younger ones too.
As it was, the Blues lost 2-0 and finished bottom of the group. It leaves them with a rare blank midweek after a long weekend trip to Plymouth at the start of December. And that should be beneficial with regards the subsequent home clash with top-sox rivals Portsmouth.
But by the time Town reach the start of a week containing three successive home games against Shrewsbury, Hull and Charlton, most of their starters (also rested for last weekend’s FA Cup loss to Portsmouth) will have gone 17 days without a game. Will they be recharged or rusty? Time will tell.
That’s five defeats in seven matches now.
The easy thing to do here would be to sugar-coat the performance of a very young Blues side. The thing is, I’m not sure it was anywhere near as good as Lambert made out post-match.
When he labels every display as ‘incredible’ and ‘outstanding’ the words are increasingly losing their impact.
The same deficiencies that the first team have been showing of late were there. Plenty of the ball at the back but no real cutting edge. Lambert constantly shouts ‘keep it’ at his players. Opponents are wising up to this obsession with possession. You could hear the Crawley coaches telling their players to ‘let them have it there’.
When Town moved the ball into midfield, the speed of the action was a step up from the tippy-tappy action of youth football. For all the lovely pieces of ball control, whenever the play got frenetic there were some rushed loose passes. Out of possession, as a collective, Town didn’t press high enough either.
The Blues had two long-range shots blocked in the first half. There was more purpose about their play after the restart, but the first shot on target didn’t arrive until the 75th minute. Central striker Tyreece Simpson had a limited number of touches. Is that really ‘dominating the game’?
As soon as Polish teenager Brian Galach produced a fine low finish in the 55th minute, his second goal of the game following on from a first half header, it felt like game over,
Yes, this was a very young Town team. But they weren’t up against a full-strength Crawley side full of wily lower league players.
Fresh from an epic 6-5 extra-time win at Torquay in the FA Cup at the weekend, boss John Yems (who sat in the press box commentating on the game for BBC Sussex) changed his entire starting XI. Nine of their players were aged between 17 and 24. Six of them haven’t started a league game this season. It was hardly men versus boys.
Don’t get me wrong, there were positives. Plenty of positives.
Ex Tottenham youngster Zanda Siziba, 17, is usually a winger so it was a surprise to see him play as the deep-lying midfielder in the now familiar 4-3-3 system. He really grew into the match, never stopped showing for the ball, played on the half turn and was among the better performers.
Ross Crane, a powerful 18-year-old winger recruited from Bury Town in the summer, was full of purpose on the right. He looked the most likely to make something happen in the final third.
Dutch-born Levi Andoh, a towering centre-back, was pretty composed, while wide forward Zak Brown injected a bit of spark when he stepped off the bench in the second half.
Then there was the introduction of Jack Manly. At 16 years and 22 days old, he becomes the second youngest player in the club’s history. He showed some nice touches and movement during a late cameo in an advanced midfield role and looks to be one to watch.
Keanan Bennetts, a player who moved from Tottenham to Borussia Monchengladbach for around £2m in 2018, should really have been standing out as the best player on the pitch. The 21-year-old didn’t really do enough to show Lambert he’s deserved more than the seven short sub appearances he’s been given in the league so far though.
Every time he gets the ball he tries to make things happen with a twist, a turn and a stepover or two. Little of the trickery came off though and he cut a frustrated figure as the game wore on.
The other player who has been on the fringes of the first team, Corrie Ndaba, didn’t really do enough to push himself further into the picture either.
There was an instance in the first half where he was rolled and out-muscled too easily by young striker Ricardo German. It was his area of the box from which 5ft 9in front man Brian Galach headed home the opener. He pumped some long passes straight into touch too.
Right-back Dylan Crowe, who has a pro deal until 2022, didn’t jump off the page as a player who has played for England at youth level and reportedly had interest from the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
DODGY REF (AGAIN)
Yet again, some big calls did not go Town’s way.
The Blues looked to have a very strong case for a penalty in the 77th minute when Bennetts’ cross hit Manny Adebowale’s arm in the box. Nothing given.
Then, towards the end, exuberant 17-year-old Rafiq Khaleel really should have been dismissed when he climbed dangerously over the top of Sizibe for the second time in the game just moments after being booked.
Neither of those non-decisions could be described as game-changers given Town were 2-0 down at the time, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
Town are certainly due some luck.
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