Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 home loss to Oxford United
PUBLISHED: 19:03 22 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:58 23 February 2020
Ipswich Town slipped to eighth in the League One table following this afternoon’s 1-0 home loss to Oxford United. STUART WATSON reports.
Ipswich dominated the first half. They couldn't make it count. How many times have we said that?
Kayden Jackson, who carried on where he left off in the 4-1 thrashing of Burton, provided several dangerous low cross from the right. Luke Woolfenden saw a shot blocked. Luke Garbutt fired over following a cut-back. Keeper Simon Eastwood saved at Will Keane's feet following a succession of dangerous dead ball deliveries.
The breakthrough should have come in the 35th minute. Instead, Keane headed wide from inside the six-yard box following Alan Judge's teasing corner.
Oxford's defenders continued to stand strong. Jon Nolan rifled a shot wide. Then came the sucker punch.
First Gwion Edwards gave the ball away with a bad touch, then he failed to stop a pass into the final third. Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden were both drawn to Cameron Brannagan on the edge of the box, he slipped it wide right, James Henry swept in a fine first time cross and Matt Taylor was left completely unmarked to take a touch and ram home.
LIMP SECOND HALF
Josh Earl saw a header tipped over soon after the restart, but very quickly Ipswich ran out of ideas against organised opposition.
Just like in the goalless draw at AFC Wimbledon, no-one seemed to want to take ownership of a difficult situation and drag everyone through. Too much energy was expended moaning at the officials rather than motivating team-mates.
Oxford posed the occasional counter threat as Town struggled to create as they had before the break. Then, when Earl bent in a fine deep cross, Edwards couldn't adjust and the ball pinged off him into the keeper's arms.
Garbutt, recently back from a thigh injury, appeared ring-rusty. Judge was nowhere near the levels he produced in the 4-1 thrashing of Burton a week prior. Keane's touch often let him down at vital moments. Jon Nolan hardly got in the game at all. Edwards huffed and puffed.
The ball never seemed to break kindly. It was clear this game was drifting.
Teddy Bishop replaced Gwion Edwards in the 72nd minute. That meant a switch from wing-backs to 4-4-2. Luke Woolfenden went to right-back, Judge move to right-midfield, while Bishop played on the left.
It did little to improve things. There were groans when Luke Chambers' long ball drifted out of play. The team and crowd needed a lift.
However, it wasn't until the clock hit 90 that Lambert made his next change as Freddie Sears came on for Judge. Baffling. How on earth was he meant to make an impact in that time? The crowd let Lambert know what they thought with chants of 'you don't know what you're doing'.
The Blues boss' explanation was that 'there wasn't too much wrong' with how his team were playing. That's a rather worrying statement.
To cap it all, Jackson, who had a really good first half, went and got himself sent-off in stoppage-time.
He appeared to stamp down on Rob Dickie, with the defender tangled under his legs, in an act of pure frustration. Unfortunately, it happened right under the linesman's nose. That's not how he wanted to celebrate his 26th birthday.
The front man slapped the top of the tunnel in anger as he left the field. Unless Ipswich appeal (which seems unlikely), he'll be suspended for the next three games - Blackpool (a), Fleetwood (h) and Coventry (h).
With James Norwood having just undergone groin surgery, it leaves Lambert with just Keane and Sears (yet to start in the league since returning from a long-term knee injury) as his striker options for some crucial matches.
Lambert had many supporters eating out the palm of his hand with some clever PR moves during his first year at the club, but today showed that some of that gloss might just be starting to wear off.
In the 80th minute, audible chants of 'Lambert, Lambert sort it out' came from those in the North Stand. Then we had the angry reaction to the late sub, followed by a significant number of boos at the final whistle.
When Lambert and his assistant Stuart Taylor went over to applaud the fans at the end they got short shrift from many.
It's wins, not kind words and gestures, that are needed. A record of four victories from 22 games across all competitions is simply unacceptable.
Down to eighth, the Blues' promotion hopes are fading fast given that many of their rivals have games in hand to come.