Stu says: Eight observations on Ipswich Town’s 4-0 home defeat to Aston Villa

Luke Hyam argues with the ref after Grant Ward is sent off. Picture: Steven Gardiner

Luke Hyam argues with the ref after Grant Ward is sent off. Picture: Steven Gardiner

Ipswich Town lost 4-0 at home to Aston Villa this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.

Grant Ward walks off after being sent off for a tackle on Neil Taylor - Picture: Steven Gardiner

Grant Ward walks off after being sent off for a tackle on Neil Taylor - Picture: Steven Gardiner

Tough task

A glance at Aston Villa’s multi-million pound array of substitutes showed the gulf in resources between the clubs.

Steve Bruce had Chris Samba, Robert Snodgrass, Henri Lansbury, Scott Hogan, James Bree and Albert Adomah as options for change.

And that’s not even taking into account that John Terry (injured) and Jonathan Kodjia (only recently back from injury) weren’t even in the 18-man squad.

Ipswich caretaker manager Brian Klug (centre) before the championship match between Ipswich Town and

Ipswich caretaker manager Brian Klug (centre) before the championship match between Ipswich Town and Aston Villa at Portman Road on Saturday 21st April 2018 - Picture: Steven Gardiner


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In contrast to that embarrassment of riches, injury-hit Town had inexperienced youngsters Michael Crowe, Chris Smith and Ben Folami on their bench.

Encouraging start

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There had been signs of a subtle style shift in the 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest and, following a week of work on the training field with caretaker boss Bryan Klug, Town looked to build on a bolder, braver, more positive approach in possession.

Myles Kenlock sliced a good chance wide early on, while Town had some decent spells of play in the opening exchanges. A bumper crowd voiced their appreciation.

Body blow

Villa broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when Lewis Grabban got the better of Jordan Spence to cut inside from the left. His shot took a huge deflection off of Cole Skuse, came back off the inside of the post and Conor Hourihane gobbled up the rebound.

And another

There is no doubt that Grant Ward raking his studs down the planted leg of Neil Taylor looked nasty.

Villa’s players reacted angrily en masse and quickly surrounded referee Simon Hooper. Well-placed to the incident, he did not hesitate to show the red card.

In Ward’s defence, he only had eyes for the ball as it dropped out the sky. He was over-stretching, it was clumsy, but there was certainly no malice.

That’s why Town’s right wing-back shook his head on the long walk back to the dressing room. And that’s why the home crowd booed the decision.

It was a red card in today’s game though and it made an already tough task even tougher.

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Villa, who still have an outside chance of automatic promotion, may still rely on goal difference – so it was no surprise that they went for the jugular with their extra man advantage.

Town certainly did not help themselves with some poor defending that ultimately led to ex-Norwich players netting three goals.

Lewis Grabban lost Myles Kenlock and then rolled Jonas Knudsen in box before firing in off the post (57).

The man who scored twice against the Blues in Canaries colours back in 2014/15 then caressed home his second after Cameron Carter-Vickers gave the ball away cheaply at the back.

Finally, Henri Lansbury was afforded too much space to glance home Birkir Bjarnason’s deep delivery not long after stepping off the bench.

The damage could have been greater too, with Scott Hogan going close twice in the closing stages.

Risk versus reward

It would have been easy for caretaker boss Klug to focus on damage limitation in the second half. Instead, he made offensive substitutions and brought on strikers Freddie Sears and Ben Folami.

It left the Blues more open, but there was nothing to lose and the fans appreciated the intent.

Ultimately though it was another blank (the ninth of this calender year) and another game where just one shot on target was registered (produced in the 60th minute). The comprehensive nature of defeat – the biggest since a 5-1 loss at Reading in September 2015 – was a stark reminder of the task facing the 16th manager in Town’s 82-year professional history.

Crowd

A lot has been said about the atmosphere being a mixture of apathy and anger at Portman Road over the last two years, but it was anything but that today.

In the first home game since Mick McCarthy’s departure, a bumper crowd of 20,034 (including, ironically, 1981 away fans given these two clubs battled for the title that year), provided incredible support.

Glorious weather and a ticket offer helped boost numbers, but it was the attitude they brought which was so encouraging.

If anything, the noise levels went up a notch when the third and fourth goals went in. It was a rousing and refreshing show of unity and support as the Blues wait to usher in a new era.

Pride to play for

Town have dropped to 14th and can finish anywhere between 12th and 17th heading into their final two games – at relegation-battling Reading and home to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough.

Last season’s 16th-place finish was, remember, the lowest in 58 years. Aim one is to beat that.

Aim two is to finish above Norwich for the first time in a long time. Daniel Farke’s men played out a goalless draw at Preston today to leapfrog the Blues. They finish with games against Leeds (h) and Sheffield Wednesday (a).

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