Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 1-1 home draw with Derby County
PUBLISHED: 09:19 14 February 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town drew 1-1 with promotion-chasing Derby County at Portman Road last night. STUART WATSON reports.
Just like at Carrow Road on Sunday, Town found themselves behind with less than two minutes on the clock.
Bradley Johnson’s dinked diagonal was headed back into the danger area and former Blues loanee Tom Lawrence’s scuffed volley deflected off the back of Jonas Knudsen to wrong foot Bartosz Bialkowski.
Just like at the weekend, Paul Lambert’s men responded superbly.
In a half of very few clear-cut chances, Town entered the interval with a strong claim for having been the better side following plenty of energy and positive intent.
Alan Judge (more on him later) and Teddy Bishop provided plenty of spark. Will Keane and Collin Quaner hustled and bustled up top. James Bree got forwards from right-back.
Play well but trail was a familiar feeling. This time, however, it was to be different…
Point to go with performance
Jon Nolan stepped off the bench in the 53rd minute and scored with what could well have been his first touch moments later.
It was a crisp, low finish into the bottom corner from just inside the area following Collin Quaner’s driving run and lay-off.
Both teams could have won in an enthralling second half.
Knudsen’s right-footed volley beat the keeper in the 68th minute only to see Duane Holmes head off the line.
At the other end, Bartosz Bialkowsi made a reaction save from Richard Keogh’s close-range diving header.
Town played with such heart. Even nemesis David Nugent couldn’t spoil things, the substitute striker seeing a stoppage-time header deflected onto the bar.
When the equaliser went in those behind that goal in the North Stand erupted. Portman Road erupted.
The cheers and excited buzz which followed the final whistle said it all. This was a performance and point to take a hell of a lot of positives from.
It just reward for Town’s shackles off approach and the unrelenting support which has backed the team from the first to the last whistle week-after-week.
As Lambert keeps saying ‘it’s not normal’ for a team cut adrift at the foot of the table and almost certainly heading for League One.
How on earth have Ipswich Town managed to sign a player of Alan Judge’s quality in this situation?
Playing in front of watching Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy, who was back at Portman Road for the first time since his dramatic desk-thumping exit, the five-cap Dubliner produced another eye-catching display.
His clever movement, tenacity, neat footwork, vision and ball-striking technique was a joy to watch. This is, remember, a player who was on the verge of a Premier League move before breaking his leg at Portman Road back in April 2016.
The 30-year-old looks so much better through the middle rather than stuck out wide.
Just like at Carrow Road on Sunday he was deployed at the tip of a diamond midfield.
This is the system that Paul Lambert utilised when guiding Norwich City from the third tier to the Premier League. Wes Hoolahan was the key man in that team.
Judge – who Town have the option to keep for another year – could well be a star man in League One next season.
This was, remarkably, only the second time in six seasons that neither Luke Chambers or Cole Skuse started a league game for Town (the other was a 4-0 win at Reading last April). Both missed out through injury.
In their absence, Bartosz Bialkowski captained the team. Knudsen, who looked to have played his last game for the club not so long, ago started at centre-back and was the outfield player with the most appearances for the club.
This was a team made up of the aforementioned Judge, two ‘stalwarts’, five loanees and three homegrown players.
It will need another sizeable rebuild in the summer, but Lambert has players to build around.
Whisper it quietly, but Bishop finally looks like he’s getting back to his durable, driving, twinkle-toed best following all that injury hell.
Flynn Downes and Myles Kenlock played with freedom too, while Andre Dozzell had a really positive late cameo.