Stu says: Seven observations following Ipswich Town's 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough
PUBLISHED: 17:28 06 May 2018 | UPDATED: 20:39 06 May 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town’s season ended with a 2-2 home draw with Middlesbrough today. STUART WASTON gives his thoughts.
Patrick Bamford’s headed equaliser came after the five minutes of allotted stoppage-time were up. Referee David Coote had allowed play to continue because there had been a booking in added time and felt there had been some time wasting.
It was a tough one to take, but even though Town had twice led a draw was certainly a fair reflection.
Promotion-chasing Middlesbrough – who now face Aston Villa in a two-legged play-off semi-final – had been banging the door down at the death after more than playing their part in a thoroughly entertaining end-of-season affair.
Freddie Sears’ goal drought lasted 38 games and more than a calendar year. Now he’s ended the season with two goals in two games. Insert your own London buses gag here.
His late goal at Reading was down to classic perseverance when he charged down the goalkeeper before nodding home from close-range. And with that monkey finally off his back, he suddenly looked like the Freddie of old.
It’s amazing what a bit of confidence and playing in your best position can do.
The front man took his eighth minute opener superbly on the angle after latching onto Martyn Waghorn’s quick throw up the line and out-muscling Ben Gibson down the flank.
He then combined well with strike partner Waghorn on several occasions throughout the game. Running off the last shoulder alongside someone who can occupy centre-halves is what gets the best out of the former Colchester striker.
Ex-England winger Stewart Downing rifled through a crowded box to equalise in the 71st minute after a corner was half-cleared, but Town refused to go into their shell against dangerous opposition.
Shane McLoughlin, the versatile Irish youngster who was introduced for his league debut, had an immediate impact in winning a penalty through sheer determination, first charging down Daniel Ayala and then nicking the ball ahead of a lunging Ben Gibson.
Martyn Waghorn coolly converted what was only Town’s second spot-kick of the campaign (David McGoldrick had one saved at Hull). It was his 16th goal of what has been a superb debut season for the club.
With 11 assist to his name too, the front man must go down as one of the bargains buys of the year at £250k from Rangers. Ordinarily he’d have picked up several end of season awards as well, but...
We are beginning to take Bartosz Bialkowski’s brilliance for granted somewhat. The Polish international signed off for the World Cup by producing strong one-handed stops from Britt Assombalonga and the livewire Adama Traore during the second half.
Callum Connolly hacked one off the line in the first half, several Blues players needed to make last-ditch blocks during the course of this game, while Muhamed Besic struck the bar with a fine long-range effort late on.
Mind you, Boro keeper Darren Randolph was in equally excellent form. He produced two stunning saves to tip over well-struck volleys from Waghorn and Cole Skuse within the space of a minute.
Waghorn also struck the woodwork direct from a corner.
No-one will have left Portman Road feeling short-changed and that’s not something you have been able to say too often over the last two years.
The reason attendances had dropped to near 20-year lows, and that the atmosphere had become often apathetic and sometimes poisonous, is that so many games were simply blending into one under Mick McCarthy’s management.
Caretaker boss Bryan Klug has reduced the uninspiring, predictable percentage play and encouraged the players to be braver and more expressive on the ball. He’s addressed the broken balance between graft and guile. Avoiding defeat is no longer the over-riding motivation.
It was so refreshing to see the team get on the front foot from the start, defenders backing themselves to play out of danger, midfielders gambling on getting forwards and the ball generally staying on the deck a lot more.
Ok, so the one-touch passing and bold runs might not always come off but the intent is much appreciated. Town fans don’t want for much really. It’s imperative that owner Marcus Evans appoints a manager that builds on the principles of the last few weeks.
Luke Hyam was introduced in the 77th minute for his 126th and possibly final appearance for his hometown club. The tenacious midfielder has not had the 12-month extension clause triggered in his contract,
Manchester City loanee Bersant Celina was left out of the squad and it looks highly unlikely he will be returning next season.
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham) and Connolly (Everton) both started though and Klug says the club would jump at the chance to bring them back. You sense too that they would both be open to a return.
Those decisions will, of course, come down to the parent clubs and whoever is appointed as Town’s next boss.
PRIDE OF ANGLIA
Ipswich have finished above Norwich for the first time in eight years.
It’s not something to shout too loud about given that they eventually edged a mid-table battle on goal difference, but Blues fans should be afforded a wry smile after Daniel Farke’s men were thrashed 5-1 at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Canaries have been rather chirpy in recent years, mocking Town’s 16-year stay in the Championship. But while Town fans are excited about a summer of change, Norwich fans will be concerned that star men will be flogged now their Parachute Payments have run out.