Stuart says: Six key talking points following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 win at Derby County
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Ipswich Town won 1-0 at Derby County last night to move to within three points of the Championship play-off places. STUART WATSON highlights six key talking points.
This was a third successive 1-0 victory at Pride Park. Town’s unbeaten run at the home of the Rams has been extended to 10 games stretching over the course of 11 years.
Many of the wins have had a smash-and-grab feel about them.
There was Carlos Edwards’ last-gasp winner in 2013 (‘I heard the sirens, we’ve burgled it,’ quipped Mick McCarthy that day), as well as Luke Varney’s shot squirming through the keeper’s hands last season.
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The Blues may have been holding on at the end, but this was no fluke. McCarthy summed it up best with his description of a ‘disciplined, fighting, well-organised, stoic performance’.
Nemesis David Nugent (previously 15 goals in 15 games against Town) was kept very quiet and was subbed at the break. Meanwhile, former Blues loan star Tom Lawrence was also handled well.
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Town had claimed 14 points from 14 games and the mood was in danger of turning sour again.
Defeat would have seen the gap to the play-off places widen to eight points. Victory, however, keeps them within three points.
McCarthy and his players always seem to pull a result out of the bag just when you least expect it.
The early weeks of the season were full of talk about Town’s added firepower as they surged towards the top of the Championship’s goal-scoring charts.
More recently, the focus has shifted towards the number of soft goals being conceded with no-one outside the bottom have having let in more.
That’s why a dogged defensive display at Pride Park was just what the doctor ordered.
It’s too simplistic to say Town parked the bus after Callum Connolly’s fine fifth minute headed goal.
Sitting behind the ball and allowing the Rams to control possession was a well-executed tactic. The Blues kept a disciplined shape, pressed and intercepted at the right times, then looked to counter-attack at speed.
“We frustrated the hell out of them,” was McCarthy’s assessment. He’s right. A few of Derby’s penalty appeals – including one which saw Lawrence booked for a dive – were desperate.
It wasn’t until the last half hour that the Rams really looked a threat. When they did break the lines there was always someone there to make a last-ditch tackle, while Bartosz Bialkowski made an excellent stop from Tom Huddlestone’s deflected effort.
This was the Blues’ first away clean sheet in the Championship since a 1-0 win at Aston Villa way back on February 11.
The following sounds bloomin’ obvious, but if Town can combine the organised, belligerent qualities that McCarthy prides his sides on having and retain an offensive threat then they will have a winning formula more often than not.
No Joe, no problem
Joe Garner has been an integral part of the Town team since his summer switch from Rangers, robustly leading the line and creating space for others behind him.
A foot injury kept him out at Derby on Tuesday night, only the second league game he’s not started this season, and Town, also without the injured David McGoldrick, had to find a Plan B.
Martyn Waghorn was pushed further forwards into his favoured No.9 role, the one he was initially purchased for, with Emyr Huws operating in the free role.
It worked. Town were less tempted to lump the ball forwards. Instead they counter-attacked on the floor and with pace.
Waghorn may not be as physical as Garner, but he tirelessly ran the channels, produced some deft touches with his back to goal and linked up well with natural wide men Grant Ward and Bersant Celina.
His whipped set-pieces have been outstanding in the last two games too. You can see Town getting more goal joy from them in the coming weeks.
Huws needs games
It was great to see Emyr Huws make his first start of the season, but it was clear he is short of match sharpness and fitness.
The Welsh international battled and gave his all, but, much like Adam Webster recently, he will need a few more games before we see him back at his best.
Who replaces Chambers?
The slate has now been wiped clean in terms of yellow cards, but two Town players managed to pick up their fifth bookings of the season at Pride Park before that amnesty kicked in and are therefore suspended for Saturday’s visit of Nottingham Forest.
Skipper Luke Chambers, who has been excellent of late, took one for the team when cynically stopping the run of Lawrence in the first half. The man who played every minute of every league game last season will be forced to watch from the stands as his team-mates face the club he almost rejoined back in January.
It will be interested to see what McCarthy does with a defence that faces former goal hero Daryl Murphy.
Tommy Smith is still sidelined with a calf injury, so there is no obvious like-for-like centre-back replacement.
Jordan Spence may move inside again given how well he filled in there earlier in the campaign. That would probably see Dominic Iorfa return at right-back after his nightmare afternoon at Aston Villa last weekend.
An alternative would be to move Callum Connolly to right-back – unlikely given how well the Everton loanee has been playing in midfield.
Jonas Knudsen could also move inside from left-back, with Myles Kenlock coming into the team.
One other option would be going three at the back, but a 4-2-3-1 system does look to suit the Town personnel at present.
Teenage midfielder Flynn Downes, who came on for his first appearance since October, stupidly saw yellow for kicking the ball away and will also be suspended.