Stu says: Seven observations on Ipswich Town’s 2-2 draw with Millwall
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town drew 2-2 with Millwall at Portman Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the game.
Well that was fun. Town abandoned their usual caution and went toe-to-toe with the Championship’s most in-form side.
The result was more entertainment across ninety-five largely pulsating minutes than dozens of previously drab home games combined.
Goals, end-to-end drama, intensity and an encouraging league debut for homegrown striker Ben Folami.
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Yes, the Blues could easily have ended up with nothing to show for their efforts after a late onslaught, but even if that had been the case they would still have been roundly applauded off at the end.
There have been several times in the past where fans have left the ground feeling flat after a draw or even a win. That is ultimately what’s led to dwindling attendances, increasing apathy and, ultimately, Mick McCarthy’s impending departure as manager.
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No-one who watched this game will have left feeling short-changed in the slightest. So when people talk about ‘what do Ipswich fans realistically expect’? The answer is this.
Martyn Waghorn had a strong penalty shout waved away in the third minute after Liam Cooper ran across his heels. He was soon denied by a close-range double save from Jordan Archer after Adam Webster’s sumptuous pass.
Cole Skuse played with box-to-box energy and saw a low cut-back scrambled behind, while Mustapha Carayol rifled a long-range effort inches over the bar as the dynamic Blues, operating with a 3-4-3 system, made a real attempt to play out from the back.
Millwall took the lead against the run of play when Ben Marshall worked himself half a yard of room down the left to cross for defender Cooper to firmly head home. It could have been 2-0 moments later when George Saville put the ball over on the stretch at the far post.
The first half finished on a flat note, but was soon to burst into life after the restart. McCarthy introduced striker Ben Folami for the left-sided Myles Kenlock at the interval, matching up the visitors’ 4-4-2 set-up…
Folami hails from Sydney, Australia. The 18-year-old joined the club as a scholar two years ago and made an encouraging first team debut in the League Cup defeat at Crystal Palace last August.
He immediately set the tone with a driving run from deep that had the crowd off their seats. Moments later he charged down a clearance.
The youngster was involved in the 52nd minute equaliser, showing a neat touch before laying the ball off for Skuse to shoot. Folami may have made a hash of the rebound, but he got involved in the almighty goalmouth scramble which followed and eventually the ball ended up in the end.
The big screen credited Folami with the last touch, but the goal was eventually awarded to Waghorn – replays showing he scooped the ball towards goal while lying on the deck.
Having waited 525 minutes to see their team score at home, Town fans got two in two minutes.
Following Webster’s ball up the channel, Cooper made a hash of his back-pass and the alert Waghorn nipped the ball around the keeper before coolly converting. It was his 14th goal of the season. Include his eight assists and no player has been involved in more Championship goals this season.
The players celebrated with pure unbridled joy - probably a mixture of relief and a show of support for their popular outgoing boss.
Town could easily have ended up losing this. Millwall’s equaliser arrived on the hour mark through George Saville’s superb angled finish. The play-off chasing Lions – who came into this game having won seven of their previous eight – then really went for it.
Lee Gregory miscued after bursting into the box before Bartosz Bialkowski came to the rescue with three outstanding stops in the closing stages.
First he saved from Gregory with his legs at close-range, with Saville subsequently striking the base of the post.
The next stop was even better, a strong left arm keeping out Mahlon Rome’s drilled effort. A double-handed save from Jed Wallace’s fierce strike was just as impressive.
You shudder to think where Town would be without their big Pole in the goal.
A big criticism of Town has been the lack of attacking thrust, creativity and goal threat from central midfield.
A big factor in today’s entertainment was Cole Skuse playing like man possessed. Instead of simply sitting in front of the back four, he provided genuine box-to-box energy.
You had to do a double take to check it was him on a couple of occasions.
There was the moment he was slipped in by Bersant Celina to pull the ball back from the by-line. There was also an attempted Cruyff-style flick on the edge of the opposition box that almost came off before the break, as well as crowd-pleasing flick that found his man after the break.
As usual he got stuck in and ended up leaving the field with his head heavily bandaged. It was an individual performance which adds weight to the theory these players can play if the shackles are loosened.