Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 home loss to Fleetwood

Luke Chambers has his head in his hands as Town manager Paul Lambert puts an arm around his skipper,

Luke Chambers has his head in his hands as Town manager Paul Lambert puts an arm around his skipper, as they walk off the pitch at the end of the 1-0 defeat by Fleetwood. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town went down 1-0 at home to Fleetwood last night, their sixth defeat in eight seeing them lose further ground on the League One places. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.

Town manager Paul Lambert and his players walk towards the Sir Bobby Robson stand, applauding fans,

Town manager Paul Lambert and his players walk towards the Sir Bobby Robson stand, applauding fans, but they were roundly booed by their supporters following the Fleetwood defeat. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

NO ENERGY, NO FIGHT, NO IDEAS

In what had been billed a do or die game, Ipswich Town simply never got going. Following such poor recent form, it was clear the onus was on the team to lift the crowd rather than vice versa - and rightly so. Yet they offered nothing in a pathetic first half performance that was completely devoid of energy, fight or ideas. No wonder the mood turned sour (more on that in a bit).

With experienced duo Glenn Whelan and Paul Coutts in centre midfield, Fleetwood had nous. With Barrie McKay and Wes Burns on the flanks they had players that could inject a turn of pace. The opening half an hour may have been uneventful, but you always sensed the visitors were the ones who could go up a gear.

A warning shot was fired in the 35th minute when Luke Chambers stabbed the ball against his own upright following an incisive Fleetwood move. The deadlock was broken five minutes later.

Skipper Luke Chambers clears a dangerous ball. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Skipper Luke Chambers clears a dangerous ball. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

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Ched Evans, on as an early replacement for Callum Connolly (facial injury), popped the ball back to McKay in a deep area and then immediately set off for the box. Chambers couldn't quite keep pace. Then goalkeeper Tomas Holy put his weight on his right foot when it was clear the only way Evans could score was a shot back across him. Town's keeper ended up sat on his backside, left leg splayed, as the ball hit the back of the net.

That was a problem, because, right now, it's hard to see Ipswich scoring more than once. Since the start of November, they've only done that four times (and one of those games was in the 5-3 loss at Lincoln).

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Things did improve after some changes at the break. Mind you, that's not saying much. Goalkeeper Cairns made a big double save in the 64th minute, clawing the ball off the line following Alan Judge's inswinging corner and then springing up to keep out Jon Nolan's crisp shot. He also pushed away a neat turn and shot in the box from teenage substitute Tyreece Simpson late on.

Everyone in the ground - fans and players - seemed to accept this game was up long, long before that though. That's the saddest thing of all.

SELECTION/TACTICS

Town had played pretty well in their gut-wrenching last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Blackpool three days earlier, so it came as a real shock when the teamsheets were revealed at 6.45pm - Paul Lambert had made six changes to his team.

Ched Evans beats Town keeper Tomas Holy to give Fleetwood a 1-0 lead. Picture Steve Waller www.st

Ched Evans beats Town keeper Tomas Holy to give Fleetwood a 1-0 lead. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Then more information emerged. We knew Flynn Downes was suspended. We didn't know that Cole Skuse (gashed shin) and Emyr Huws (toe injury) had picked up fresh injuries at the weekend. That meant a complete change to the midfield three. In came homegrown duo Andre Dozzell (for his first appearance since January 4), Brett McGavin (for his league debut), as well as Jon Nolan.

In addition, Lambert decided that it was too big a risk starting Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears for a second game in four days following their recent returns from long-term injuries. The only player dropped through choice, perhaps controversially, was defender Luke Woolfenden.

MORE: Barton on 'unproductive' Portman Road atmosphere, being inspired by Sir Bobby and 'testing the boundaries of Ipswich's psychology'

Lambert's options, without doubt, were limited when you consider that Kane Vincent-Young (groin), Tristan Nydam (ankle), Danny Rowe (knee), Kayde Jackson (suspended), James Norwood (groin) and Jack Lankester (back) were all out too.

Ched Evans wheels away after scoring to give Fleetwood a 1-0 first half lead. Picture Steve Waller

Ched Evans wheels away after scoring to give Fleetwood a 1-0 first half lead. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Returning to a wing-back system, when 4-3-3 had looked so much better at Bloomfield Road, seemed strange though.

That saw Alan Judge play up front alongside Will Keane - and neither of them are going to win you many headers. Time and time again Holy's giant kicks were headed away comfortably by giant centre-half Harry Souttar. It became a running joke as home fans 'woahed' in anticipation when the ball sailed through the air before ironically cheering the predictable outcome.

Fleetwood's extra numbers down the flanks pinned back Janoi Donacien and Luke Garbutt. Without Woolfenden, Town lacked a defender who could start attacks from the back. It was hard to see what the game plan was.

Sears replaced McGavin at the break. Town switched to a 4-3-3. They instantly looked better with an outlet down the side. By now though the die was cast.

Town manager Paul Lambert pictured during his post match press conference following the Fleetwood de

Town manager Paul Lambert pictured during his post match press conference following the Fleetwood defeat. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

CROWD HAVE TURNED

A crowd of 15,678 (not helped by the fact that just 88 fans weer in the Fleetwood end) represented the lowest league attendance of the season. The next lowest was 17,536 for the clash with Accrington back at the start of January.

The mood started off flat, very flat, and increasingly became tinderbox as the game meandered. Luke Garbutt carried on where he left off at Blackpool by badly over-hitting a corner straight into touch. Soon afterwards, Josh Earl gave the ball away cheaply and then Holy slashed into touch. That proved the spark for the first chants of 'Marcus Evans get out of our club' from the Section Six area of the North Stand.

Town manager Paul Lambert pictured during the Fleetwood match. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwa

Town manager Paul Lambert pictured during the Fleetwood match. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Fleetwood's goal lit the blue touch paper. First there were brief chants of 'sacked in the morning' aimed at Lambert, but louder and longer was the call for Marcus Evans to 'get out of our club'. The Blues owner sat watching glumly from his box alongside general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill.

MORE: Ipswich Town fans' group stages banner protest over 'lack of leadership and ambition'

Towards the end, four banners were unfurled by the Blues Action fans' group - just as they had during the 1-0 home loss to Oxford - which read 'Unambitious', 'Underfunded', 'Underachieving' and 'Unacceptable'.

The toxic atmosphere was reminiscent of that which surrounded the 3-0 home defeat to Hull in March 2018. That day, Mick McCarthy gathered his players in a siege mentality huddle on the pitch. This time, Lambert made sure he led his players over to try and applaud supporters at the final whistle, as he always does.

Town manager Paul Lambert and his assistant Stuart Taylor discuss options during the defeat by Fleet

Town manager Paul Lambert and his assistant Stuart Taylor discuss options during the defeat by Fleetwood. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Those that had stayed let Lambert and captain Chambers know what they thought. Chambers was visibly disconsolate and Lambert put his arm around the skipper as the pair trudged all the way back to the tunnel.

A reminder that six of the last nine games of this season are at Portman Road.

DOZZELL, MCGAVIN AND SIMPSON

Tyreece Simpson is pulled back by Fleetwood scorer Ched Evans. Photo: Steve Waller

Tyreece Simpson is pulled back by Fleetwood scorer Ched Evans. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

This was Andre Dozzell's first senior outing since the EFL Trophy defeat at Exeter on January 4. It was only his ninth league appearance of the campaign.

You have to feel for the 20-year-old. How often do we see him parachuted in from the cold and asked to hit the ground running? Given the circumstances, the England youth international did well. He was, probably, the best of a bad bunch on the night. At times swatted away a little too easily, yes, but on the ball his talent is beyond question. Whether it be a zipped pass into feet, a no-look reverse or through the eye of a needle, perfectly-weighted through ball, he has it all in his locker.

Only a run of games is going to see him develop the other parts of his game, but you fear that time may have passed. He's out of contract in the summer and, given how his career at his hometown club has drifted, you'd imagine he won't be itching to sign an extension.

MORE: Ratings: How the Ipswich Town players performed in their 1-0 home loss to Fleetwood

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill look on. Pic

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill look on. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Brett McGavin, only drafted into the team on the morning of the game, certainly wasn't the worst performer in the first half. For him to get the hook at the break ahead of the ineffectual Nolan seemed harsh. Hopefully it doesn't rock the 20-year-old's confidence.

Then Tyreece Simpson replaced Will Keane just after the hour. Keane screwed his face and turned his palms up towards the bench when he saw his number was up, but the front man could have no complaints. Simpson, who only recently turned 18, is raw, but he provides something that Ipswich have lacked up top all season - some physicality. The powerful teenager bumped and backed in. The shot he saw saved late on was of his own making after a back to goal spin in the box.

Armando Dobra not getting any game-time after his lively display at Blackpool was a surprise.

Ipswich's season looks to be over now, so there's every chance we'll see more minutes given to academy graduates over the coming weeks.

Town manager Paul Lambert and his players walk towards the Sir Bobby Robson stand, applauding fans,

Town manager Paul Lambert and his players walk towards the Sir Bobby Robson stand, applauding fans, but they were roundly booed by their supporters following the Fleetwood defeat. Picture Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

IT'S OVER

Let's be honest, Town aren't finishing in the play-offs.

They would need six or seven wins from their remaining nine games to stand a chance of scraping in. They've won four of their last 24 in all competitions.

Fleetwood, up into sixth, have moved six points clear. Ipswich have played at least one more game than everyone else in the league now. In many cases two.

If Doncaster, Gillingham and Burton win their games in hand, Town could actually slip into the bottom half. A return of 25 points from 24 games is relegation form over more than half a campaign. It's probably just as well the games are running out.

The Blues were top following their 4-1 win against Accrington Stanley on January 25. How on earth has to come to this?

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