Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 3-2 FA Cup loss to Portsmouth
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle courtesy of a 3-2 extra-time defeat to Portsmouth, at Portman Road, yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
In what is becoming a recurring theme, Ipswich Town started this match slowly. Plenty of possession, but all behind the halfway line. The play lacked intensity and sudden changes in tempo. The Blues knock it around the back four for a spell then eventually drift a long ball to the opposition or out of touch.
So when Portsmouth scored two quickfire goals, in the 11th and 13th minutes, it looked like the writing was on the wall.
This was a match-hardened Pompey outfit, unchanged from their 3-1 win at Lincoln on Tuesday night, up against a much-changed Blues team that was both unbonded and rusty.
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Before we move on, let’s take a look at the goals conceded.
For the opener, Mark McGuinness mis-timed his slide tackle to concede a free-kick. The greater crime was Town’s poorly constructed wall. Ronan Curtis was able to bend a low ball through the gaping gap between Jon Nolan (who turned away) and Freddie Sears, the ball squeezing into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of David Cornell.
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The second was also soft. Andy Cannon somehow had the time to take a touch and turn inside the box following McGuinness’ clearing near post header. He pulled the ball back and Tom Naylor’s sweeping first time effort was deflected past Cornell by McGuinness.
Town continued to look nervy. Captain for the day Toto Nsiala got away with a short back pass to Cornell and, in trademark fashion, gave away a silly free-kick for barging an opponent as he was being funnelled away from goal.
One long ball forwards, Jon Nolan’s headed knock down came back to him off a defender and he was able to find the bottom corner. From nowhere, Ipswich had scored with their first shot on target. That changed the half-time mood.
Town were a different beast after the restart. They played with energy and purpose.
McGuinness’ fine through ball led to a corner. Nolan’s shot was deflected just wide. Brett McGavin’s inswinging corner was blocked on the line by the keeper’s legs.
Then came big penalty appeals (more on that to come). McGavin’s low cross was begging to be attacked. Freddie Sears’ cross was beaten away at the near post.
The 66th minute breakthrough was therefore deserved.
James Norwood, who had replaced the hard-working Oli Hawkins in the 62nd minute, took Sears’ first time ball on his chest and coolly rolled the ball into the bottom corner under pressure from the on-rushing keeper.
Fellow substitute Gwion Edwards injected further spark. He stung the hands of Craig MacGillivray. Later, he couldn’t quite generate enough power on a far post header to beat the keeper.
In an entertaining end to normal time, Ipswich were on the front foot with Pompey always looking a threat on the counter.
Both teams had big chances to win in stoppage-time. Norwood couldn’t quite hook home from close range following Edwards’ cross and Huws’ nod down. At the other end, Ben Close blazed over from 12 yards following Marcus Harness’ cut-back.
With replays axed in the FA Cup this season, it meant we headed into extra-time.
Those second half exertions had taken their toll. Adrenaline had only taken Town’s fringe players so far. Pompey took control.
Ryan Williams tested Cornell from range, Harness hit the outside of the post with a side-footed effort, then ex Blues striker Ellis Harrison, on as a sub, headed straight at Cornell.
Norwood pulled up lame with cramp in his hamstring (with Town having used all their subs).
Ipswich were clinging on for penalties. Then controversy struck.
SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SPECSAVERS
Right, this is what you’re here for – analysis of yet more key refereeing decisions going against Ipswich.
First of all, how Andy Haines or his linesman on the near side didn’t award the Blues a penalty early in the second half was staggering. Rasmus Nicolaisen clearly dragged Hawkins to the ground by his shirt in the box. It was as stonewall as you can get.
Now, onto Portsmouth’s 111th minute winner... The initial free-kick given against Janoi Donacien was debatable. Ex Norwich defender Sean Raggett is then very obviously offside when he stabs home, virtually on the goalline, following Nicolaisen’s knock down.
Ipswich’s staff and players were incensed and surrounded the officials at the final whistle.
It’s the third time in five games that the Blues have felt hard done by.
Should it have been a penalty against Toto Nsiala in the 1-0 loss at Lincoln? You’d want it if was against your team (though Teddy Bishop was clearly fouled in the build-up).
Should Andre Dozzell have been sent off at Sunderland? Soft, yes, but again, one that’s open to debate. Should it have been a penalty at the Stadium of Light when Nsiala’s clearing header hit McGuinness on the arm from close-range? A case of ridiculous rules being applied would be the case for the defence there.
On this occasion, however, there is no debate. None whatsoever. Haines and his assistants got two big calls wrong. That’s a fact.
If decisions really do even themselves out over time, then Ipswich are due plenty of luck in the months to come. They were already in credit from last season.
CHANCES TAKEN (AND SQUANDERED)
Brett McGavin may just have cemented his place in the team for the upcoming home league games against Shrewsbury and Hull.
The 20-year-old, playing as the deep-lying playmaker in the absence of the suspended Andre Dozzell, sprayed some lovely long passes and was a consistent threat with his set-piece deliveries.
Ahead of him, Nolan and Huws were quiet. The latter was pretty anonymous in the first half actually. Yet to reignite following his long-term injury woes, Huws may not have many more chances given Jack Lankester has been used ahead of him in the middle recently and the likes of Flynn Downes and Cole Skuse are to return over the coming weeks.
Janoi Donacien had a solid game at right-back, Hawkins battled hard up top and won plenty of defensive headers, while it was good to see Norwood looking like the pest of old when he stepped off the bench.
Keanen Bennetts showed, on his full debut, that he’s clearly got talent. Every time he gets the ball he wants to run at people and produce a trick. He’s fun to watch. The Town coaching staff hollered at him to do more work off the ball at times though. It will be interesting to see how big a role the Borussia Monchengladbach winger plays got going forwards.
CUP HALF FULL
Ipswich have fallen at the first hurdle in the FA Cup yet again (it’s now one win in 19 games in the world famous competition), but few tears should be shed.
As frustrating as the late goal was, it could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Without fans being able to attend, the prospect of a drawing a big Premier League club away has lost its lustre. All that was to be gained from a cup run was a little bit of prize money.
One less fixture in this most relentless of schedules is probably a good thing.
The Blues may yet use FA Cup second round weekend (November 28) to re-arrange a league game. With Charlton exiting the competition, that match (scheduled for Tuesday, December 22) could yet be brought forward to ease the load heading into the always critical festive period.