Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 loss at Sunderland
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Andre Dozzell was dismissed and Grant Leadbitter scored a controversial late penalty as Ipswich Town lost 2-1 at Sunderland last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
PASSIVE AND PREDICTABLE
A clipped through ball which Mark McGuiness failed to cut out on the edge of the box, Charlie Wyke got the wrong side of Stephen Ward in the box and suddenly, out of nowhere, Sunderland had an eighth minute lead.
Then, for the next half an hour, very little happened in this game.
It was Crewe manager David Artell who used boxing analogies at the weekend. Well if this was a bout between two supposed League One heavyweights then the they spent the opening rounds tip-toeing around the canvas, both scared to throw any real punches.
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Sunderland saw a couple of half chances glanced over from deep crosses. Andre Dozzell slammed a free-kick into the wall. That was it.
When they didn’t have the ball, Ipswich weren’t quick enough to close down. When they did have the ball, they moved it too slowly and predictably.
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The Blues had the majority of possession, sure, but so much of it was in their defensive third.
GOALS CHANGE GAMES
It’s amazing how a goal can completely change the dynamic of a game.
For the first time in the match, Town quickly switched up a gear when Gwion Edwards burst past his marker down the left before displaying excellent vision and composure to pick out a team-mate with a cut-back. Fire, then ice. It’s a dangerous thing.
Jack Lankester still had plenty to do, but made a difficult finish look easy. One touch, then bang. A low, angled shot flashed across the keeper and went in off the inside of the post. It was his first senior goal since January 2019.
Instantly, the Blues looked a different team. Their play went from passive to purposeful. Players started taking responsibility rather than waiting for others to make something happen.
Teddy Bishop danced down the right and saw a cross deflected behind. Luke Chambers produced a super switch and Stephen Ward’s low delivery was hacked away. Edwards’ silky pirouette and turn of pace won a free-kick. The half ended with Kayden Jackson robbing Denver Hume of the ball on the byline and creating panic in the box.
That momentum was carried into the second period.
Edwards intercepted high, but couldn’t quite fashion a chance. Moments later, Chambers intercepted high and worked the ball into the box. Lankester’s appeals for a penalty, after Bailey Wright’s slide tackle, were waved away. That did, to be fair, look the right call.
Then, in the 63rd minute, came the big chance. Alan Judge seized on a loose touch by Tom Flanagan and delivered from the right. Lankester took the ball on his chest at the far post, but the ball just wouldn’t sit for him and he fired over from close-range under pressure.
Sunderland weren’t able to deal with the quick feet and direct running of Teddy Bishop, Edwards and Lankester. Bishop’s close ball control, in particular, was particularly mesmerising.
Time and time again the trio were tripped, kicked and caught late. They finished the game having been fouled a cumulative 11 times.
There was no histrionics from them though. And there were no cards shown by referee Peter Wright.
It pains me to say it, but perhaps the Blues need to play the officials a little more. Sunderland’s players spent much of the game going to ground dramatically, clutching their faces and rolling around. In the end, one such incident drew the bait.
Wright failed to see Dozzell given a two-handed shove in the back a split second prior to him clattering into Grant Leadbitter in midfield. What he did see was Leadbitter writhing on the deck afterwards.
Players’ instant reactions you a lot. Sunderland players weren’t up in arms at the time of the tackle. Then there was genuine surprise all round when a red card was brandished.
Paul Lambert suggested afterwards that the club will look to get that decision over-turned. If an appeal is not successful it will be a major blow. Town don’t have any other available midfielders who can do the deep-lying playmaker role quite like Dozzell.
THEM’S THE (RIDICULOUS) RULES
So, onto the game’s defining moment.
Town had responded well to the red card. They continued to have a go at the Black Cats.
Then a ball came into their box, it struck McGuinness’ flailing arm and a penalty was awarded.
On first viewing, it looked like the young Arsenal loanee - who had been a colossus at the back - had hooked a clearance onto his own arm. That, by the laws of the game, would not have been a spot-kick offence.
On second look, it was Toto Nsiala’s header that preceded the handball though. Accidental or not, that, says the IFAB rulebook, is a penalty as long as the arm has ‘made the player’s body unnaturally bigger’ and/or ‘the arm is above/beyond their shoulder level’. Sadly, both were the case.
We’ve seen several of these ridiculous spot-kicks awarded in the Premier League this season but, despite managers, players, pundits and fans lobbying for change, there hasn’t been an amendment to the rules yet.
And rules are rules, I guess. Doesn’t mean we have to like them though.
Ex Town midfielder Leadbitter (who else?) converted the spot-kick to leave Ipswich Town players feeling a mighty sense of injustice.
These type of penalties are no way to decide football matches.
It’s often said that things even themselves out over the course of a season.
Town hadn’t deserved to beat Crewe 1-0 at Portman Road last Saturday. This was instant football karma, perhaps.
In terms of refereeing decisions, the Blues had more key decisions go against them than for them last season. And the same seems to be happening again, with this the second time in three weeks that Paul Lambert has been left spitting feathers about the referee.
If Ipswich want an improved standard of officials though then they need to get promoted back to the Championship. Simple as that.
As encouraging as some of the play was last night, the nagging doubts about always coming up just short against promotion rivals remains.
There’s now a 17 day gap until the Blues resume league action with back-to-back home games against Shrewsbury and Hull.
Before that, it’s cup action against Portsmouth (in the FA Cup on Saturday) and Crawley (in the EFL Trophy next Tuesday).