Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 home defeat to West Brom
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town lost 2-1 at home to West Brom in a Championship clash on Friday night. STUART WATSON highlights five key talking points.
Ways to lose
As Paul Lambert has said, there are ways to lose football matches. This was a prime example.
Ultimately, West Brom’s greater class showed. And so it should. They’ve just spent eight consecutive seasons in the top-flight. They had seven senior internationals in their starting line-up. They were able to bring Dwight Gayle and Gareth Barry off the bench for goodness sake.
And yet they left Suffolk knowing full well they’d been in a game. Let’s be honest, that probably wouldn’t have happened a few weeks ago.
The Baggies’ incisive counter-attacking play was impressive throughout. They took the lead when Jay Rodriguez finished off a cross from close-range in the 26th minute and doubled their advantage when Harvey Barnes streaked away to score in the 77th minute.
Credit to the Blues for sticking with it during a tough first half. Credit to the Blues for their response after the restart. And credit to the Blues for producing a strong finish when it would have been easy to fold.
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Substitute Kayden Jackson capitalised on a glaring Tosin Adarabioyo error to set up a grandstand finish with five minutes to go. Goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski joined the attack in the closing moments as the North Stand attempted to suck the ball into the goal. Jack Lankester then shaved the outside of the post with a sublime free-kick attempt in stoppage-time.
If you make mistakes against good sides you get punished.
West Brom were clinical when it mattered, but Town will look back at both goals and see them as preventable.
Both full-backs are under the spotlight for the first. Jordan Spence didn’t stop the first cross and then simply switched off for the return ball back into the area. On the other side, Jonas Knudsen was too far away from Hal Robson-Kanu when he swung in the second delivery.
West Brom’s crucial second came directly from a Town corner. Teddy Bishop and Gwion Edwards got in each others’ way, the counter-attack was rapid and livewire Leicester loanee Barnes beat Bartosz Bialkowski at the near post.
There is still a lot of room for improvement at set-pieces, both in an attacking and defensive sense.
One of the loudest cheers of the night was to greet the sight of Teddy Bishop entering the fray in the 63rd minute. It was the midfielder’s first Championship appearance since rupturing his hamstring on Boxing Day 2017.
It would have been easy for Lambert to ease the 22-year-old back into action out on the flank, but the Scot put him right in the thick of the midfield action.
There were some natural signs of ring-rust, but the sight of Bishop breaking the lines with some twinkle-toed footwork and earning a free-kick towards the end was very exciting though. He could, to use the cliché, be like a new signing. Let’s keep everything crossed his body doesn’t let him down again.
Town’s other two subs also had a big impact. Striker Kayden Jackson played with conviction we’ve not previously seen and quickly had Town on the front foot. A goal, off the back of a hat-trick in a recent behind-closed-doors game, will do him the world of good.
Academy graduate Lankester again produced a confident cameo epitomised by that late free-kick. The 18-year-old always wants the ball and tries to make things happen. He looks ready for the big stage. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make his full debut on Wednesday night.
Work in progress
Lambert’s clearly instructed his centre-backs to split down the sides of the box at goalkicks and for Cole Skuse to drop deep and show for the ball. Town didn’t look entirely comfortable trying to play out of the back, especially as West Brom were wise to the tactic. It didn’t help that Bartosz Bialkowski’s distribution was poor. This way of playing will take time to get used to.
Flynn Downes has been assigned to corners under Lambert. His deliveries were hit and miss. Again, work in progress.
Trevoh Chalobah looks a player who can create a goal, but also cost you one. The Chelsea loanee has huge potential, but his raw edges will take time to smooth.
Jordan Roberts, after two very impressive displays leading the line against Preston and Reading, wasn’t able to have the same impact against stronger opposition. Realistically the winger signed from Crawley is not the long-term answer to the lone striker role.
As Lambert keeps saying, the lads need a bit of help. A couple of experienced signings in January could go a very long way. It’s vital Town, who could end this weekend eight points adrift, have still got a fighting chance by then though.
Together as one
For the first time in a long time this felt like a proper occasion at Portman Road.
Ok, so ticket prices were slashed on ‘Black Friday’ to a maximum of £10 but for Ipswich to attract a crowd of more than 22,000 for a televised game on a Friday night was still mightily impressive given the team’s current predicament.
Clap banners (yes, I know they split opinion) on every seat, plus clips of excitable commentary over the top of dramatic music helped build the atmosphere pre-match. Lambert had issued a rallying cry to the fans in the build-up and boy did they respond.
From the first to the last whistle the Blue Army were supporters in the true sense of the word. And that’s because they now see a team set-up to provide entertainment value.
Lambert’s positive words and energy on the touchline are both infectious. He’s managed to galvanise the players and fans alike.
Together Town will be stronger. Hopefully many fans will return for Wednesday night’s visit of Bristol City. The proverbial 12th man could make all the difference for the relegation fight ahead.