Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 home win against Shrewsbury
PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 November 2020
Ipswich Town came from behind to beat Shrewsbury 2-1 at Portman Road yesterday, Jack Lankester scoring the winner deep into stoppage-time. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
SMASH AND GRAB
Mick McCarthy used to have a phrase for occasions like this. It went ‘I can hear the sirens coming, there’s been a robbery’.
When Jack Lankester stooped to head in a rebound winner, in the seventh minute of stoppage-time, it brought an involuntary laugh rather than a joyous fist-pump from this observer. How on earth had Town managed to win this game?
The stats suggest Town deserved this win. The lion’s share of possession, plus more corners and more shots than the visitors. Forget the numbers though. Anyone who watched this with their own eyes will tell you it was a poor display.
Contrary to Paul Lambert’s assessment, it never felt like Ipswich were continually knocking on the door.
Having trailed to Oliver Norburn’s fourth minute penalty, the Blues lacked the urgency, tempo, spark, aggression, physicality or dynamism required to break down a lowly Shrewsbury side looking to protect their lead.
The big goalscoring chances came from nowhere rather than as a result of sustained pressure. And when those big chances arrived, they weren’t taken. Jack Lankester and Freddie Sears were crowded out from close-range just before the break, then Alan Judge scrambled onto the post after sliding in on the stretch not long after the hour.
It looked for all the world like this game was drifting. Had there been supporters in the ground, then they would undoubtedly have made their frustrations known. And then Ethan Ebanks-Landell sliced a hopeful Keanan Bennetts cross past his own keeper in the 75th minute to give Town a life line.
Still, Ipswich didn’t spring into life. The body language wasn’t good. You couldn’t see or hear anyone geeing up their team-mates. Even the usually vocal Luke Chambers was quiet.
Yet an unlikely three points were bagged when Lankester reacted quickest after Alan Judge’s shot was parried at the death.
A win’s a win, as they say. Town were due some good fortune, you could argue. It’s also often stated that the sign of a good side is one that can finds a way to victory when not playing well.
It’s hard not to look back at the last eight games, which have included five defeats and three unconvincing wins against Crewe, Gillingham and Shrewsbury, and not fear that things could be about to unravel in the same way they did last season though.
One thing’s for sure, Ipswich are going to have to play much, much better against table-topping Hull and fifth-place Charlton at Portman Road over the coming days.
Teams have worked out that you can let Ipswich have the ball.
Lambert keeps talking about how his team ‘dominate’ possession, but so much of that possession is in their own defensive third under zero pressure.
With no Luke Woolfenden in defence (he had to make do with a place on the bench after returning from a period of isolation) and no Andre Dozzell at the base of the midfield (still suspended), Town lacked players who were comfortable playing out the back. Veteran full-backs Chambers and Stephen Ward didn’t offer the same attacking threat they had done in the early stages of the campaign either.
Teddy Bishop’s dribbling and Jack Lankester’s purposeful through balls looked to be Town’s only real sporadic attacking weapons. Kayden Jackson was a willing runner up top, but there wasn’t enough spark around him.
Down the flanks is where you need a bit of X-Factor in games like this. That’s when you need a winger who can beat a man with pace or trickery. Judge and Sears don’t offer that though.
It’s the same old frustrations with them. Sears always works hard up and down the left, but you never feel confident that he’s going to go past his marker with a moment of magic. Judge is capable of a killer cross, but he’s not a one-v-one runner either. And he drifts all over the pitch too.
Neither, in fairness, are really wingers. Nevertheless, it’s not unfair to expect more from two players who have played at a higher level for most of their careers and who are still only in their early 30s.
There was a feeling after Ipswich got relegated that the likes of Sears, Judge and Emyr Huws should be ‘too good for League One’. That’s not proving to be the case though.
It wasn’t just attacking inadequacies which were a concern.
Shrewsbury’s opener came after a ball over the top. Shaun Whalley darted inside and Mark McGuinness ran clumsily across his heels to concede a stonewall penalty. Norburn slammed home the spot-kick and Ipswich had conceded their first league goal at Portman Road this season.
To be honest, that clean sheet record had always felt a little mis-leading given how the team had ridden their luck at times – chances conceded against Wigan and Crewe certainly spring to mind.
After that, Town continued to struggle with the ball being dropped behind their back line from deep. McGuinness could have conceded a second spot-kick when tangling with Marc Pugh.
Even after the score went 2-1, Town had some nervy moments. Toto Nsiala got away with a desperate tackle in the box following a McGavin midfield slip and, moments later, Chambers headed off the line following an almighty scramble.
HARSH ON MCGAVIN
First, Lambert admonished BBC Suffolk interviewer Brenner Woolley for asking, both gently and very reasonably, if it was ‘fair to suggest that you weren’t at your best this afternoon’. Too negative, apparently.
Then, in the next breath, Lambert wasn’t happy with a question about Brett McGavin ‘justifying his selection’. Too positive, apparently.
Are there things McGavin needs to improve on? Yes, of course, but it’s about context. This is a 20-year-old making only his second ever league start. He started the game really well, produced some fine switches and, even though he faded, still was probably one of the better performers of a bad bunch come the final whistle.
So why did Lambert feel the need to do him down in his post-match interview?
For those that haven’t read or heard it, Lambert said: “My standard is maybe a little bit different from yours. There were some good things there and there were some things that he’s got to get 100 times better with. The kid came in and done a good game. He’s got big shoes to fill. He’s got a really good range of passing and I think he’s better than what he showed today. But that’s what we’ve got that position at the moment.”
How demoralising must that last line be for McGavin? This is a young man that’s going to be needed again on Tuesday night for a big game against table-topping Hull, given Dozzell will still be suspended, and his manager has just told everyone that he’s ‘all we’ve got’.
That’s how not to do man-management.
This is the same McGavin who was hooked at half-time of his league debut against Fleetwood back in March. He felt like an easy target that day, too. If you’re going to dig out anyone in public Paul, then do it to your senior players.
INJURY TOWN FC
This is getting ridiculous now.
Just as one batch of injuries was starting to clear up, along comes a second wave.
Gwion Edwards (hamstring) and James Wilson (knee) have both suffered injuries in training. Oli Hawkins, also left out the 18, has, by the sounds of things, been carrying a few niggles ever since he arrived in the summer.
Then, during the game, Jon Nolan (groin) and Teddy Bishop (ankle) both limped off. Bishop’s injury, which he suffered when an opponent trod on him as he twisted out of a tight spot, ‘looks a bad one’ according to Lambert.
‘It happens with a schedule like this’ was Lambert’s explanation. Yet this was Nolan’s second start in 28 days, while Wilson had gone almost a month without a game.
Every team is suffering injuries in this strangest of years, but Ipswich have been getting more than most for some time now. It’s been going on for too long and with too much regularity for it to feel like pure bad luck.
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