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Stu says: Five observations as Ipswich Town exit the EFL Trophy at Exeter

PUBLISHED: 20:04 04 January 2020 | UPDATED: 20:04 04 January 2020

Lee Martin scores the winner for Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

Lee Martin scores the winner for Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

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Ipswich Town were dumped out of the EFL Trophy at League Two side Exeter City this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.

Freddie Sears in action during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSFreddie Sears in action during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

IT HAD TO BE HIM

The game enters stoppage-time, penalties are looming and who pops up with the Exeter winner? Yep, you guessed it, Lee Martin. It had to be him.

The former Blues winger, who left Portman Road in 2013 branded as one of Roy Keane's big money flops, ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the deflated travelling fans.

History had repeated. It was Martin who scored the winning spot-kick when Town exited the League Cup at St James Park at the start of the ill-fated Paul Hurst era too.

Teddy Bishop pictured during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSTeddy Bishop pictured during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

DEPRESSING DAY

There was a time not so long ago when we bemoaned Ipswich Town always losing on FA Cup third round weekend.

Today, on this famous date in English football's calendar, the Blues were dumped out of the EFL Trophy by a League Two club's reserves. And it won't even make a ripple in the national football consciousness.

Will Keane in action during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSWill Keane in action during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

It's a sobering reminder of where the club has fallen to.

A victory would have put Paul Lambert's men just two games away from Wembley. The narrative would have been about how the Lincoln lock-in potentially proved a turning point.

Instead, the winless run has stretched to 12 games (LDLDLLLDDDDD). It's one win in 15. It's three wins in 19. It's worrying.

Toto Nsiala pictured after the full-time whistle at Exeter City Photo: ROSS HALLSToto Nsiala pictured after the full-time whistle at Exeter City Photo: ROSS HALLS

NOT RUTHLESS ENOUGH

Town's flying start to the season was based on edging plenty of fine margins affairs thanks to a watertight defensive team effort.

The recent extended downturn in form has, sadly, been underpinned by a return to the Achilles heel of the relegation campaign - a lack of ruthlessness in both boxes.

In the first half (in which Town had the odd bright moment but failed to produce a single shot on target), Keane was guilty of spurning a gilt-edged chance when heading wide after the flag stayed down.

Stuart Taylor and Paul Lambert pictured during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSStuart Taylor and Paul Lambert pictured during Town's 2-1 defeat at Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

Then luck wasn't on their side when Keane's trickery and low cross resulted in the ball hitting midfielder Nigel Atangana and coming back off the post.

Exeter's opener right on half-time had an element of good fortune given Atangana's cross deflected into the path of Nicky Ajose at the far post. Even so, Toto Nsiala should have been tighter.

Ipswich played much better after the restart and deserved their 57th minute equaliser. Keane's initial piece of chest control was superb, while his crisp outside of the boot finish, which came following a one-two with Freddie Sears, was equally impressive.

This now looked like Town's game to win. Attacking towards their vocal fans, the pressure began to build. Freddie Sears forced a save out the keeper and saw another effort blocked.

Will Keane celebrates his equaliser during Town's clash with Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSWill Keane celebrates his equaliser during Town's clash with Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

On came Kayden Jackson and he fired into the side-netting following Myles Kenlock's switch. Fellow substitute Idris El Mizouni was then guilty of not cutting the ball back to Keane from a good position.

In an end-to-end finish, Town lived dangerously on a couple of occasions, just as they had in the opening exchanges. Cole Skuse had to make a vital penalty box challenge, while Tomas Holy produced a stunning save to claw Matt Jay's curling free-kick out the top corner.

The corner was half-cleared, the ball came back into the box and Martin was there to poke home.

As the Blues keep finding out, if you don't take your chances then you get punished.

Myles Kenlock in action during Town's clash with Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLSMyles Kenlock in action during Town's clash with Exeter City in the EFL Trophy Photo: ROSS HALLS

TEDDY AND FREDDIE

The major positive was undoubtedly the performance of Teddy Bishop.

In what was his first competitive start since April, the silky midfielder looked like he'd never been away.

Playing to the right of Keane in a front three, he constantly found pockets of space, always demand the ball in tight areas and often glided past defenders with neat footwork.

Given he's not had a single Under-23s outing (and just a late cameo at Wycombe) since that summer knee surgery, it was a very impressive that he was still going pretty strong before a 75th minute withdrawal.

A word too on Freddie Sears. This was his first competitive start since February. Playing wide left, he worked hard and, like Bishop, was constantly positive.

There were moments where he lacked half a yard of pace when running at his marker, but that will hopefully return. Grabbing an assist before his 63rd minute withdrawal will do his confidence the world of good.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

The good: Myles Kenlock, playing as a left wing-back, did his chances of a league recall no harm with a confident display. He was a major attacking outlet.

The bad: Toto Nsiala. Wasn't tight enough for the first goal and lost a header ahead of the winner. Not only that, there were some loose touches, rash tackles, a customary booking and a shanked shot that went out the ground. He did, however, play the ball up to Keane for the equaliser.

The ugly: The St James Park pitch. It wasn't in good shape.


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