Stu says: Teenage wall, Cotter’s comeback and Brett’s breakthrough – Observations from Town’s EFL Trophy win at Peterborough
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Ipswich Town are into the last 16 of the EFL Trophy following last night’s penalty shootout win at Peterborough. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
WINNING THE LOTTERY
Ipswich Town have won a penalty shootout for the first time in more than a decade.
Having lost at Exeter on penalties in the first round of the Carabao Cup last season (and also to Meppen in pre-season), you had to go back to August 2009 and a League Cup tie at Shrewsbury for evidence of the last time the Blues had triumphed in such nail-biting fashion.
Shane Supple, who had just turned 20, was the hero between the sticks at New Meadow that day. This time it was another young keeper, 19-year-old Adam Przybek, who took the headlines with two good saves from the spot.
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Incredibly, he becomes the third Town goalkeeper to save a penalty this season following on from Will Norris (v Lincoln's Tyler Walker) and Tomas Holy (v Wycombe's Joe Jacobson).
Town's penalties were good. Jordan Roberts emphatically found the top corner before Brett McGavin was denied by Aaron Chapman (a decent save by 6ft 7in keeper rather than a poor attempt). Myles Kenlock then rolled the ball home after a strange hip-swerving run up that led to boss Paul Lambert making John Travolta comparisons.
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Idris El Mizouni, whose rebound finish had given Town a first half lead, was perhaps a tad fortunate that Chapman could only push the effort into the inside of the side-netting. Then James Norwood, who had seen a powderpuff effort from the spot saved at Peterborough earlier in the season, emphatically slammed his high into the net.
Emyr Huws coolly converted in the first round of sudden death before Barry Cotter, after a confident run-up, finished the job.
Town's media man, Steve Pearce, joked to Lambert afterwards that it was past many of his players' bed-times. It was only 9.45pm. Nevertheless, the age of this team does need to be stressed.
There were 11 homegrown players in the 18-man squad. Five teenagers started the game in keeper Przybek (19), centre-back Alex Henderson (18), deep midfielder Brett McGavin (19) and attacking duo Idris El Mizouni (19) and Armando Dobra (18). Another then stepped off the bench at half-time when left-back Tommy Smith (18) replaced the injured Cole Skuse (knock to the hip).
Skuse had started the match as a centre-back. The enforced change meant Town started the second half with a back five who had an average age of just 19. Kenlock, the senior defender at the ripe old age of 22, moved inside to play out of position.
The writing looked on the wall. Peterborough's attack looked quick and direct. Henderson had got away with running across the heels of livewire front man Siriki Dembele inside the box early in the game and rushed out of position prior to Joe Ward putting a golden chance wide soon after the restart. Smith got beaten by marauding wing-back Idris Kanu a couple of times soon after coming on.
As their understandable nerves settled and the game wore on though, the young Blues looked more and more assured. Under-18s captain Henderson, who only played his first game of men's football last weekend after joining Bury Town on a work experience loan, made some important blocks. Smith settled nicely after picking up a booking, while Kenlock produced some timely interventions.
Posh boss Darren Ferguson, who had also named a 'reserve' side, was forced to bring on star strikers Ivan Toney and Mo Eisa in the 84th minute. But Town stood firm to see out a 90 minutes which they had spent the majority of on the back foot.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Barry Cotter had followed in the footsteps of his famous sound alike and gone away to Hogwarts (credit Amy Downes, @tractorgirlamy). After a 20 month absence he returned to the first team and produced a reminder of the wizardry in his locker.
For those who'd forgotten all about the Irish right-back, he was the one that sparked Mick McCarthy's table-thumping premature departure from Ipswich Town. Cotter had produced a superb debut in the 1-0 home win against Barnsley back in April 2018 only to be given the hook (he was 'goosed') in the 56th minute. Boos rang out around Portman Road and Mick, fed up of it all, bit back.
Cotter subsequently came on as an 89th minute sub in a 4-0 win at Reading under the caretaker charge of Bryan Klug. Then, under Paul Hurst and Lambert, he was very much back with the Under-23s.
An injury to Kane Vincent-Young has opened the right-back door. And while Janoi Donacien has very much taken his chance during a recent six-game run of starts, Cotter put his name back in the frame with this display.
He oozes confidence, both as a player and a person, and that looks like it could be both a blessing and a curse. A lackadaisical wait for the ball to reach him could easily have been punished by Dan Butler in the second half, but it was also exciting to see him galloping forwards with the ball whenever he got chance.
When Lambert gathered his players in a huddle to ask who fancied taking a penalty, Cotter made sure he was front and centre, hand held high. Tucking away the winner from the spot was certainly not a bad way to celebrate his 21st birthday.
This was Brett McGavin's third senior start following on from outings against Colchester and Lincoln. On every occasion the boy from Bury St Edmunds has looked very much at home in first team football.
The 19-year-old midfielder, who has had brief loan spells at Bury Town and Concord Rangers, plays with a maturity beyond his years. Sitting deep, he has that quality you can't teach - an ability to see the wider picture and be one step ahead with his reading of the game.
Calm in tight spots, he uses his body cleverly to shield the ball and turn out of danger. On several occasions he flighted some lovely balls over the top with a touch of back spin.
Lambert wasn't exactly short of central midfield options as it was. He's now got himself another one.
HUWS' BABY STEPS
At what stage is it fair to want to see a little bit more from Emyr Huws?
Last night was a game you'd expect a player of his calibre to be bossing. There was, not for the first time this season, an element of frustration about his body language though. His passing was hit and miss, while he committed some niggly little fouls after often being a split second late on the scene.
Any criticism has to be tempered by the never to be underestimated caveat that the midfielder was sidelined for two whole years. That was a nightmare for him, both physically and mentally.
The Welshman got a whole pre-season under his belt though and now has 10 starts to his name this campaign. I guess it was always going to be baby steps of progress. The very fact that (touch wood) his body is no longer breaking down is major in itself.
The way he finished this game, getting in the box to test the keeper, seeing a swerving free-kick tipped over and the making a vital block at the death, was certainly encouraging.
NORWOOD NOT RIGHT
James Norwood, suspended for Saturday's league trip to Coventry, was passed fit for this one. To be honest, just like in the recent goalless draw with Wycombe, he didn't look 100%.
His usual all-action energy was tempered. We didn't see him crashing into centre-backs, chasing seemingly lost causes and hollering at officials and team-mates alike.
When half-chances came he snatched at them. To be fair, Norwood was not alone in failing to really get hold of efforts from outside the box. Ipswich - as has been the case in recent games - carved open very little from open play. El Mizouni's against the run of play opener had come after two big errors from Peterborough; first a mis-placed pass by Niall Mason and then a poor spillage of Norwood's shot by keeper Chapman.
Is Norwood worried that his groin problem, for which he's recently had surgery, could flare up again (like Vincent-Young)? Or is he simply just shaking off the rust off following such a stop-start schedule?
Since the 1-0 win at Fleetwood on October 5, the front man has started just four of 12 games.
THREE WINS FROM WEMBLEY
There was a great irony that Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony took to Twitter to complain about 'Ipswich fans gloating about beating our kids and reserves' given a) The average age of Town's team, and b) The fact he himself has been moaning about the injustice of certain teams, Ipswich included, having had the benefit of playing Bolton's kids early in the campaign.
Anyway, Town are into the last 16 of the EFL Trophy, the draw for which is on Sky Sports News from 7.15pm tonight. There is one more regionalised round, followed by the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Ipswich, one of only eight clubs among the 91 never to have played at the new Wembley (Accrington Stanley, Blackburn Rovers, Colchester United, Crawley, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Port Vale the others), are now just three games away from playing under the famous arch.
The southern section teams Town could be drawn against later are: Stevenage, Walsall, Newport, Portsmouth, MK Dons, Exeter or Bristol Rovers.
As a little aside, Paul Hurst's Scunthorpe are still in the competition on the northern side of the draw.