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Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 0-0 home draw with Gillingham

PUBLISHED: 20:00 26 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:34 27 December 2019

James Norwood after a missed opportunity.  
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.com

James Norwood after a missed opportunity. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town have now gone six games without a League One win following this afternoon’s 0-0 home draw with Gillingham. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.

James Norwood at full stretch as he tries to get on the end of a Kayden Jackson cross.  
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comJames Norwood at full stretch as he tries to get on the end of a Kayden Jackson cross. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

RECURRING THEME

Not for the first time this season, Ipswich managed to go through an entire home game without producing a single shot on target.

Their big chance in this one came just before half-time. After Kayden Jackson blazed past his marker down the left, Town suddenly had a golden two-v-one overload opportunity. James Norwood was too eager to make his run though and the cut-back went behind him.

That was as good as it got in an attacking sense.

Gillingham keeper Jack Bonham punches clear as James Norwood looks to get his head on the ball.  
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comGillingham keeper Jack Bonham punches clear as James Norwood looks to get his head on the ball. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

The Blues huffed and puffed in the second period. Alan Judge was particularly eager to get on the ball, Jackson was a willing runner down the channels, but it was hardly ever the Alamo.

A couple of shots deflected wide or just beyond an attacker, a few crosses caused brief danger, while on more than one occasion players tried an intricate last pass rather than pulling the trigger.

Ultimately, Will Norris was by far the busier keeper. Gillingham had hustled and bustled in the early exchanges before it increasingly became clear they were happy for a point. Yet they still could have won it towards the end given Thomas O'Connor saw a golden chance deflect narrowly wide and Luke Garbutt had to clear one off the line.

FANS' FRUSTRATIONS

In the swirling wind and the rain, Paul Lambert's men got dragged into an exchange of long balls during a scrappy first half.

As the unforced errors began to mount up, frustration turned to fury among a bumper Boxing Day crowd of 22,082.

There were groans when Brandon Hanlan got by Toto Nsiala far too easily in the box, the latter forced into a last-ditch recovery slide tackle. There were sighs when the first decent move of the game ended with Cole Skuse giving the ball away cheaply.

Freddie Sears returns to the first team for the first time since his injury as he comes on for Janoi Donacien
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comFreddie Sears returns to the first team for the first time since his injury as he comes on for Janoi Donacien Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Gwion Edwards and Jon Nolan both produced loose touches in quick succession. Shortly afterwards, keeper Will Norris got away with presenting the ball straight to the feet of striker Mikael Mandron. That sparked an angry response from the stands.

There were more than a smattering of boos at the full-time whistle.

BRAVE ON THE BALL

James Norwood was deemed to have fouled Connor Ogilvie in this challenge.  Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comJames Norwood was deemed to have fouled Connor Ogilvie in this challenge. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Lambert was right to give credit to his players for not going hiding.

Town did start to get the ball down and probe towards the end of the first half. They were the side that enjoyed the lion's share of possession after the break too. There was never any end product though.

The pressure that has come with this recent slump in form perhaps had an affect on decision-making in the final third.

Jackson and Norwood messing up that big chance just before half-time was the prime example. Another was Judge attempting a disguised return pass to Jackson inside the box when a shot was the better option.

Skuse badly slicing a 25-yard shot badly wide summed up the afternoon.

SEARS' RETURN

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was when Freddie Sears was introduced in the 81st minute.

Luke Woolfenden looks to get his head to the ball during injury time, but was deemed to have fouled Barry Fuller.  
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comLuke Woolfenden looks to get his head to the ball during injury time, but was deemed to have fouled Barry Fuller. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

It was the front man's first senior appearance since undergoing surgery on a cruciate knee ligament injury he sustained at Norwich back in February.

He was deployed on the right side of a 4-4-2 system in the closing stages and produced a couple of energetic runs.

It's important not to expect too much too soon, but Town could do with the experienced forward providing a spark over the coming weeks.

Gwion Edwards with his hands on his head as a decision went against Ipswich.   
Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comGwion Edwards with his hands on his head as a decision went against Ipswich. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

UP TO SECOND!

A draw was actually enough for Town to move back into second spot given Peterborough lost 3-0 at home to Doncaster. It's closing up behind them though, with seven sides within six points now.

That's now nine games without a win in all competitions. Even if you put the recent raft of FA Cup and EFL Trophy games to one side, it's six without a win in the league and 10 points claimed from the last 10 games. A point a game is relegation form.

The Blues have claimed just 14 points from a possible 30 at Portman Road. That puts them 17th in the home table. Conceding only nine times on Suffolk soil is impressive, but the fact that only Burton, Lincoln, Rochdale and the bottom three have scored less on home turf is a worry.

It's hard to know whether it's down to rotation of personnel and system limiting chemistry (three changes to the team on this occasion), opponents raising their games at Portman Road or the players simply not being as good as we thought. One thing is for sure, it certainly feels like the season is unravelling.

Town need to get back to winning ways and fast. Their last league win (1-0 at Rochdale, on November 5) already seems a long time ago. Their last home league win (4-1 v Tranmere on September 28) seems like an eternity.

On Sunday they travel to Lincoln - a team who also struggle for goals - and then it's a trip to league leaders Wycombe on New Year's Day.


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