Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough
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Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough in a Championship match this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
PAYING THE PENALTY
The referee was a certain Jeremy Simpson. You might recognise him from such infamy as sending off Toto Nsiala at Sheffield Wednesday and leaving Mick McCarthy in a ‘murderous rage’ after awarding three penalties in a 2-1 defeat at Reading back in 2016.
And it was him pointing to the spot which led to the game’s crucial opener here.
After the evergreen Stewart Downing stood up a cross to the back post, Jordan Spence tried to charge in front of Jordan Hugill to win the header. He misjudged the flight of the ball (which had taken a slight deflection) and ended up twisting Hugill in the air with an outstretched arm.
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It was, on one viewing, a decision which probably goes in the ‘soft, but probably was a penalty’ bracket.
Former Town target Hugill converted straight down the middle to settle the nerves of an out-of-from home side and their edgy fans.
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NOT RUTHLESS ENOUGH
At 0-0, in the 26th minute, Darren Randolph sprung to his right to push Trevoh Chalobah’s headed attempt at a corner around the post. He made an equally impressive stop on the stroke of half-time, but maybe shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to do so.
Kayden Jackson had turned on the after-burners and forced a mistake out of Aden Flint down the channel. Suddenly Town had men over in the attack... Jon Nolan probably would have been better off playing the slightly squarer pass to Gwion Edwards. Instead, Randolph was able to rush off his line and block Freddie Sears’ effort with his legs.
The problem is, as it has been all season, that Town just aren’t ruthless enough in either box.
It’s been a season of chopping and changing goalkeepers. Yet again there’s a decision to make for the manager.
Dean Gerken’s reaction to conceding Middlesbrough’s killer second said it all. He instantly had his head in his hands after being beaten at the near post by substitute Marcus Tavernier’s stabbed outside of the boot effort.
It comes three days after there were question marks over him pushing Nahki Wells’ shot back into danger ahead of QPR’s opener.
To be fair, Gerken did make two fine saves in the closing moments as the home side finally found some rhythm. First he beat away Adam Clayton’s stinging effort and then, in stoppage-time, was at full-stretch to claw Hugill’s header out the top corner.
The damage was done by then though.
Worryingly, this was the 12th game that Town have conceded two or more goals on the road.
Could it be a case of 150 games and out for Jonas Knudsen?
The Danish international dropped to the bench for the first time under Paul Lambert just two days before the transfer window opens.
He’s now in the final six months of contract and has said, in various diplomatic ways, that he would consider a fresh challenge.
You can’t blame him. He’s 26, recently became a father and is well within his rights to see if anything better comes along for him – both geographically and financially.
Likewise, you can understand why Ipswich haven’t rushed into offering a new deal given the uncertainty of what league they will be playing in next season.
He’s scored two crucial goals against Norwich, has always spoken with genuine affection about the fans, always given his absolute all for the cause, but for some reason it’s felt like he’s never really fully won people over.
Maybe it’s because he’s followed on from the left-back success stories of Aaron Cresswell and Tyrone Mings? Maybe it’s because he aligned himself so closely to former boss Mick McCarthy? Maybe it’s simply because people simply don’t think he is good enough?
You don’t play in a World Cup last 16 match by fluke though. You get consistently get picked by three successive managers for a reason too. Lambert has said he wants to keep him, remember.
Does he switch off from time to time and have some poor games? Yes, but he is far from alone in that regard when looking back at Town’s games over the last few years.
Myles Kenlock came into the side and, just as he’s always done in the past, didn’t look out of place despite the first team ring-rust.
Millwall beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 at home today. Reading drew 0-0 at QPR. Bolton had a goalless home draw with Stoke.
The gap to safety remains at seven points. But the gap to 20th has widened to 10 points.
Town now host fellow relegation-fighters Millwall and Rotherham at Portman Road either side of an FA Cup third round trip to League One side Accrington Stanley.
To describe the next fortnight as huge is an understatement.