Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 home defeat to Reading
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town are almost certainly heading for League One after losing 2-1 at Reading at Portman Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
LEAGUE ONE HERE WE COME
We’ve seen this coming a long time. There were fewer and fewer believers by the week. Now, finally, I think we can all be in agreement that Ipswich Town will soon be playing third-tier football for the first time since 1957. Sad times.
Paul Lambert and co will – and correctly so – talk about not giving up on the ‘great escape’ until it’s mathematically confirmed.
They are now 12 points adrift of both Reading (21st) and Rotherham (22nd) though. They have a significantly worse goal difference than both too.
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Two big opportunities against relegation rivals have slipped by. Two weeks in a row a killer goal has been conceded in the last minute. Next up is away trips to high-flying West Brom and Bristol City.
This, remember, is a team that has won just three games all season. There’s only pride to play for now.
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This was the same old story.
Two really poor goals conceded. Several golden chances not taken at the other end.
Town may have played with energy, endeavour and positivity since Paul Lambert took charge – hence the continued support of a crowd numbering 23,009 today – but they continue to fall short at the business ends of the pitch.
Winger Garath McCleary ghosted in behind Luke Chambers several times in the first half. One long ball over the top led to him pulling the ball back for Nelson Oliveira to open the scoring in the 19th minute.
The late winner came after Toto Nsiala lost a battle he looked favourite for on the halfway line, with Mo Barrow getting the better of Chambers before firing across Bartosz Bialkowski.
Reading were clinical, Town were not.
Jon Nolan spurned a gilt-edged opportunity just before half-time when firing straight at keeper Emiliano Martinez from close-range following good work by Collin Quaner and Teddy Bishop in the box.
Reading, to be fair, had looked the more dangerous side between opening the scoring and interval.
Town’s second half efforts were rewarded in the 84th minute when Gwion Edwards converted at the far post after Cole Skuse and Quaner had helped the ball on.
Then, during the six minutes of stoppage-time, there were three big openings.
Martinez – arguably the man-of-the-match – did superbly to tip over Edwards’ rising effort, then both Luke Chambers and Quaner planted golden headed opportunities wide.
Town started with a wing-back system again.
Teddy Bishop looked to have been tasked with playing as a makeshift striker up top alongside Collin Quaner, though the midfielder’s natural instinct was to drop off or drift wide.
Alan Judge – operating in his favoured No.10 slot – wanted to take up similar positions. James Bree was far less effective than he had been at Wigan down the right. It was all a little confused.
It therefore came as a surprise when Lambert decided on a straight swap when James Collins went off injured in the 40th minute, introducing Toto Nsiala and sticking with a back three.
Then, at half-time, he used his remaining two substitutions – Skuse and Edwards replacing Bree and Trevoh Chalobah – to go to 4-3-3.
A penny for Kayden Jackson’s thoughts. One of only two fit strikers at the club and he couldn’t get any game time.
Last week there was a horrible sense of inevitability about Joe Garner scoring against his former club. This week it had to be Nelson Oliveira, didn’t it?
The Norwich City loanee – who raised temperatures ahead of an East Anglian derby in 2017 by saying the Canaries were a ‘better club’ – played up to the role of pantomime villain.
With his every touch booed, the Portuguese striker was booked for a dive in the box in the 15th minute. Four minutes later he was striking a provocative pose in front of the North Stand after opening the scoring. The rules state he should have been shown his second yellow, but he escaped punishment.
The masked man’s afternoon was ended just before the hour mark when he pulled up with a hamstring injury.
At least it wasn’t his goal that effectively sent Town down. Small victories, I know.
Following a five-game absence, James Collins picked up where he left off. The veteran defender made big blocks, cool interceptions and looked so assured on the ball.
Then he limped off with a calf injury five minutes before the break.
Town knew the risks when signing likes of him, Jon Walters and Will Keane this season given their injury records. All have ended up backfiring.
As previously stated, the Blues aren’t where they are due to bad luck. Far from it.
Nevertheless, it has felt like everything which could go wrong has gone wrong in this sorry season.
There are currently 11 players – Collins, Callum Elder, Tom Adeyemi, Emyr Huws, Jack Lankester, Grant Ward, Freddie Sears, Will Keane, Ellis Harrison, Ben Folami, Ben Morris – sidelined. That’s not taking into account Walters and Tayo Edun’s loan ending injuries from earlier in the campaign. Or the fact Chambers is playing with foot/wrist injuries. Or that Skuse is only just back from knee surgery.
The end of this torturous campaign – the worst in the club’s history using any metric – can’t come soon enough.