Stu says: Five observations after Ipswich Town’s relegation to League One is confirmed by Birmingham draw
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town’s relegation to League One was confirmed with a 1-1 home draw against Birmingham City this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the game.
That’s that then. Ipswich Town Football Club officially have (R) next to their name. A draw was not enough. Thirteen points adrift with 12 left to play for.
A 17-year stint in the Championship has come to an end. The Blues are heading for League One. They will be playing third-tier football for the first time since 1957.
The writing has been on the wall for a long time. Arguably since the 3-2 home loss to Bristol City in late November. Almost certainly since the New Year’s Day home loss to Millwall by the same scoreline.
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We have had time to get our heads around it. It still hurts though. The fixture list coming out this summer will probably be the moment it feels real.
‘Don’t worry about a thing, cos everything little thing is gunna be alright’... Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ has become the anthem in recent weeks as Town’s incredible supporters have backed their club to the hilt.
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It was played over the PA system as Paul Lambert, Stuart Taylor and the players showed their appreciation to those in the North Stand before taking a long reflective walk back towards the dressing room.
Town will be playing the likes of Fleetwood, Oxford United and Shrewsbury next season.
It could be unbelievably amazing. It might be utterly disastrous. We’re heading into the unknown.
ABJECT FIRST HALF
A smattering of boos greeted the half-time whistle. Ipswich Town, it looked, were going down with a whimper.
Birmingham took the lead in the seventh minute when advanced right-back Maxime Colin breezed past Myles Kenlock before picking out Lukas Jutkiewicz for a simple close-range finish.
From there on the visitors were quicker to loose balls, stronger in the 50/50s and far sharper in possession. Town players were hesitant on and off the ball. You’d never have guessed they had an extra man in midfield.
It’s not often in modern football you see a proper strike partnership. Wily target man Jutkiewicz and powerful youngster Che Adams caused Town all manner of problems.
Jota saw a cross flash just beyond the stretching Jutkiewicz and saw an effort pushed around the post by Bartosz Bialkowski. Kerim Mrabti didn’t get hold of a shot in a good position.
Three home players – James Collins, Cole Skuse and Luke Chambers – were all booked for desperate fouls on Adams in the closing stages of a one-sided half.
Town’s only real sight on goal was Judge’s curling free-kick which was comfortably tipped over.
Just like against Brentford, Derby and Stoke here, the Blues roused themselves for a second half fight back.
Andre Dozzell was replaced by striker Kayden Jackson at the break. Lambert matched up the opposition’s 4-4-2 system and instructed his side to go direct. It paid instant dividends.
The equaliser came within seconds of kicking off. The ball was worked back to Luke Chambers, he sent the ball up the line, Jackson checked back to bend in a deep cross and Gwion Edwards produced a fine cushioned side-footed finish on the run at the far post.
Wave after wave of attack followed. The difference from the first half was chalk and cheese.
Alan Judge met Josh Emmanuel’s cross with a cute angled volley back across goal. The ball struck the inside of the far post, trickled along the line and was hacked clear by Harlee Dean. Moments later, Jackson curled an attempt inches wide after a cross has half cleared.
Town had woken up and the crowd responded.
Birmingham continued to pose a threat. Adams should have done better when firing straight at Bialkowski. He hit another shot across the face of goal, while Mrabti curled an attempt narrowly over. The game was finely poised.
Ipswich lived dangerously at a couple of corners. They also gave Birmingham some nervy moments when going direct at the death.
A win would have provided Town with a stay of execution. As the fat lady warmed up her vocal chords there was a late bombardment. Judge saw a first-time shot pushed away though and the final whistle blew.
KIDS NEED PATIENCE
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the club’s plans to build around youth.
The last couple of games have provided a timely reminder that there will be ups and downs with them as they learn on the job.
Myles Kenlock has come on leaps and bounds during an extended run in the side at left-back, but he was beaten far too easily for the opener today.
Andre Dozzell, for all his vision and technical ability, looked a little lightweight as Town got bullied.
Josh Emmanuel can provide power and threatening moments from right-back, but there are raw edges to round off there too.
With the support of the crowd they can come through difficult moments and be stronger for it. They’re getting that right now. It’s vital that leeway continues.
JUDGE COULD BOSS LEAGUE ONE
Alan Judge dragged Town back into this game in the second half.
He was here, there and everywhere. The Irishman led both by example and verbally. There were raking long balls, dangerous crosses and several attempts on goal. He must be wondering just what he has to do to get his first goal for the club.
This, remember, is a player who had a move lined up to the Premier League before breaking his leg at Portman Road in 2016. To get him signed up for a campaign in League One is a major coup. He really could boss that division.
There are continued signs too that some of Paul Hurst’s lower league recruits from last summer are coming good. Gwion Edwards started the season on fire, had a major dip in form but is back at it now. The Welsh winger, now top-scorer on seven, has already shown he can terrorise League One defences.
Jackson made a huge difference when stepping off the bench. This afternoon was a reminder that his best work comes when playing alongside a strike partner. With Collin Quaner producing his best link-up play yet, the pair combined nicely.
Toto Nsiala replaced James Collins in what looked a pre-planned substitution on the hour. He’s looked far more solid in recent games and knows exactly what it takes in League One too.