Stu says: Five observations after Ipswich Town start season with 2-2 home draw against Blackburn Rovers
PUBLISHED: 18:36 04 August 2018 | UPDATED: 18:36 04 August 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town started their new Championship campaign with a 2-2 home draw with Blackburn Rovers at Portman Road. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.
A major criticism in recent years has been that, no matter the opposition, the Blues rarely seemed to really want to grab home games by the scruff of the neck. Last season they scored a first half goal in just six of their 23 league games on Suffolk soil.
It was therefore so refreshing to see Town burst out of the blocks and play with energy and positive intent from the off. They were rewarded with a fifth minute lead as Gwion Edwards – a livewire throughout – ghosted in at the far post to expertly head home Freddie Sears’ well-flighted cross from the left.
Last season, Town kept finding new ways to concede rubbish goals. The two that turned this game on its head midway through the first half certainly fall into that category.
The first: A deep free-kick, uncontested header back across goal, flicked on at the near post, Bartosz Bialkowski clawed at the ball, it strikes Janoi Donacien and Danny Graham converts.
The second: Jordan Spence misses a tackle high up the field, Donacien gets dragged out of position, Rovers find the space down the left and Derrick Williams crosses low for Bradley Dack to do what he does best – arrive late to convert from close-range. None of the midfielders reacted quick enough to the danger.
In defence of Spence, he had been involved in a heavy collision moments earlier and, not long after the goal, was substituted in a daze. In defence of Donacien, he was playing two levels up without any pre-season minutes alongside his new team-mates.
Work in progress
This was a young Town team that had four debuts from the start and one off the bench. Three of them hadn’t started a single pre-season game for their new club. Those that remain from last season are all learning a new way of playing under Paul Hurst too. Plenty more new signings are in the pipeline. This is very much work in progress.
What a contrast to a well-oiled, experienced Blackburn side that has been together for a while. All but one of their team started the first game of last season. This was the side that was fielded most as they finished second in League One last season. It’s no wonder that Town found it hard to break them down after the restart.
For a long time it looked like a goal would never come. Indeed, the game could have been killed off had Kasey Palmer not fluffed his lines after Donacien presented him with a golden chance.
Town never stopped trying though. And they stepped things up at the death. Substitute Ben Morris was denied by a lunging block after producing smart turn and shot in the box. Then keeper David Raya saved an angled Edwards effort with his feet after the flying Welsh winger produced a dazzling run.
The Blues were eventually were rewarded for their perseverance when Tayo Edun’s deep cross evaded everyone in the box, skipped off the surface and crept over the line after kissing the post.
We’ve seen enough of Ellis Harrison and Edwards in pre-season to know what they are all about.
Harrison hustled and bustled as the lead striker, but it was Edwards who stole the show. Rovers boss Tony Mowbray called him ‘Billy Whizz’ afterwards. The flying Welsh winger tried to take on his marker at every opportunity down the right. The back-heeled flick and spin that saw him race away in the latter stages was a thing of beauty.
Trevoh Chalobah started the deepest of the central midfield trio as Hurst kept Andre Dozzell wrapped in cotton wool. You’d never have guessed the Chelsea loanee was just 19 and making his first ever senior appearance at any level. He battled, he was neat and tidy and, though there was the odd lapse in concentration and mis-placed pass, the signs were highly encouraging.
Donacien, as previously mentioned, started at centre-back (the position he played in for most of last season at League Two champions Accrington Stanley), before being shifted to right-back (the position Hurst believes he is best suited to) after Luke Woolfenden replaced Spence.
The 24-year-old had good and bad moments. It was interesting to see that his long-throws could be a weapon too. It’s far too early to make any real judgements on him yet.
And what about the match winner? Edun was introduced on the hour mark little more than 24 hours after joining on loan from Fulham. The diminutive 20-year-old went wide left, always wanted the ball and showed a lovely low centre of gravity when on it.
His goal was an attempted cross, no doubt about it. And, quite frankly, who cares?!
Paper thin squad
Seeing this opening day 18-man squad really put into focus just how much further signings are needed in the coming days.
Martyn Waghorn was left out entirely as owner Marcus Evans continues to negotiate with Derby, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United over a potential £8m sale.
Grant Ward was serving the final game of a three-match suspension, while Joe Garner, Emyr Huws, Teddy Bishop and Tom Adeyemi – all back in training – weren’t deemed fit enough to be involved following long-term injuries.
Waghorn’s sale, plus other potential departures, could start the domino effect.
Shrewsbury duo Toto Nsiala and Jon Nolan should arrive regardless of outgoing business. It remains to be seen if deals can be done for Curtis Tilt (Blackpool), Kayden Jackson (Accrington Stanley), Omar Bogle (Cardiff) and others.
The window for permanent transfers shuts at 5pm on Thursday, though loan signings can be made until the end of August.