Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 4-1 loss at Doncaster
Ipswich Town’s unbeaten start to the League One season ended with a 4-1 defeat at Doncaster Rovers last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
IT STARTED SO WELL
This result never looked on the cards after 20 minutes. Town started really well.
First and foremost, the Blues were winning all of the individual battles over the pitch. Even the likes of Alan Judge and Freddie Sears were winning headers.
Once they got hold of possession, the ball was played quickly and with purpose. You could hear Paul Lambert constantly shouting ‘pass forwards’ from the sideline.
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Gwion Edwards produced a silky pirouette prior to Sears winning a corner. Emyr Huws saw a low shot from outside the box held. Then came the deserved 15th minute breakthrough.
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Luke Chambers won a towering header down the right then immediately charged on to receive a return pass from Judge. Had Joe Wright not turned the dangerous low cross past his own keeper in the six-yard box then Sears would have had a tap-in.
Town’s skipper, who is now 10th in the club’s all time league appearances list, cupped his ear in the direction of the empty stand behind the goal as way of celebration.
He’s loving playing as right-back again.
The first warning sign of what was to follow came in the 21st minute when Tomas Holy presented a short pass straight to the feet of Josh Sims on the edge of the box. On this occasion, Toto Nsiala got him out of jail with a saving tackle.
Later in the game he wouldn’t be so lucky. In the 64th minute, the big Czech gave the ball straight to Sims again when trying to play out from the back. This time, the Southampton loanee squared to Fejiri Okenabirhie. And that made it 4-1.
Let’s rewind. How readily you dismiss Doncaster’s first two goals as being unfortunate depends on personal levels of generosity.
Yes, when Nsiala stepped out of defence to engage Okenabirhie, the ball did fall nicely for John. It hadn’t helped that both Nsiala and Wilson had both pressured the same ball though, leaving space in behind. Matt Smith slipped in the forward-running John and he fired in off the underside of the bar. That was Doncaster’s first shot on goal.
And yes, Ben Whiteman’s deep cross was one of those flukes that evades everyone and creeps in at the far post. Town had everyone back to defend the shortly-taken corner though. Someone had to put their head on it. Holy was slow to react too.
LACK OF GRIT
So, Town were behind in a league game for the first time this season. How would they respond after the break? The answer is, they didn’t.
Nsiala got away with a jittery moment on the ball soon after the restart. That set the tone.
Again, there was a prior warning sign to the goal when Sims raced in behind, skipped past a rash Nsiala sliding tackle and dragged a shot wide.
Ten minutes later, Sims was simply too quick for Nsiala as the pair chased a ball over the top. The first desperate grab at the shoulder was outside the box, but the eventual clumsy clip of the heels looked inside. That brought back some bad Nsiala memories of old. Whiteman crashed home the spot-kick.
Holy’s ricket for the fourth followed soon afterwards.
To only focus on the indvidual defensive errors would be unfair though. Town were outplayed in the second half because their midfield and attack didn’t work hard enough off the ball.
Andre Dozzell, Jon Nolan and Huws just didn’t get stuck in enough. You could see the Town defenders imploring them to provide more protection.
Dozzell was never given the time and space to play his positive passes on the turn, but counterpart Whiteman was given all day to pull the stings by contrast.
This was the sort of game where Flynn Downes’ bite was required.
It’s not an excuse, but Town’s preparations for this one weren’t exactly ideal.
Kayden Jackson’s positive coronavirus test result over the weekend led to the whole squad being tested early Monday morning.
At that stage, with the Blues unsure how many in the camp might have the virus, training had to be socially distanced. Players were told they might have to drive their own cars at least part of the way to the ground the following day if the results were sill being waited on. The club had several youth teamers on standby to step in if a whole load of positive results came back.
Thankfully, the results were known late on Monday evening and everyone was given a clean bill of health.
It is, however, a sobering reminder of how big a role Covid-19 could yet have to play on the field as well as off it during this strangest of seasons.
Town’s first league defeat of 2020/21 came exactly a year on from their first league defeat of 2019/20.
That 2-0 loss at Accrington Stanley proved to be the beginning of a drawn out demise. A few days later, Lambert’s men lost 2-0 at home to Rotherham. Those two games showed up some glaring deficiancies that had been bubbling under the surface during an 11-game unbeaten start.
It’s vital that Town respond quickly to allay fears that the same is about to happen again.
Saturday’s game at Lincoln - the scene of a 5-3 thrashing last season - is certainly a huge test of character. The new-look Imps are third in the table and only behind Town on goal difference.