Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 4-0 defeat at Preston North End
Ipswich Town suffered their heaviest defeat of a miserable campaign this afternoon – 4-0 at Preston North End. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
BAD DAY, BAD TIMING
With relegation finally confirmed, Town owner Marcus Evans started the week by declaring that ‘the fightback starts now’. Senior duo Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse insisted players would not be ‘on the beach’ during their four end-of-season dead rubbers. They said they had to repay their loud and loyal support.
After all the talk, the Blues simply did not turn up at Deepdale.
For the third successive game, Town were outclassed by mid-table opposition. Against Brentford and Birmingham they at least produced gutsy second half responses. Here they were second best in all departments from start to finish.
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This was the 24th league defeat of a tortuous season. Remarkably, given the gap to safety, it was the first time they have lost by four clear goals. The margin could easily have been bigger.
And the timing couldn’t have been worse, coming just two days after season ticket prices were announced.
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This perverse feelgood factor Lambert has generated is built on fragile foundations. It’s vital the Blues don’t play like this again when Swansea visit on Easter Monday.
PULVERISED BY PRESTON
Preston came into the match off the back of a four-game losing streak. They took charge from the get go. Time and time again their passing and movement left the Blues chasing shadows.
The deadlock was broken in the sixth minute. Ryan Ledson zipped a pass into the feet of Callum Robinson and he turned on a sixpence before rifling into the top corner from 20 yards out.
Alex Neil’s men doubled their lead in the 22nd minute. It was another super strike from Robinson, a touch on the thigh and emphatic volley into the same top corner as before, but Town did not help themselves.
Not enough pressure on Joe Rafferty’s deep cross from the right, Toto Nsiala’s stretching header only diverted the ball into danger, Luke Chambers was out of position and Josh Emmanuel’s clearing header landed straight at the unmarked forward’s feet. A culmination of small errors ultimately punished. That’s been the tale of Town’s sorry season.
Ben Davies had thumped a header against the base of a post in between those goals. Manchester City loan striker Lukas Nmecha almost sprung the offside trap om several occasions. The half ended with Bartosz Bialkowski making an excellent double stop from another rasping Robinson effort and Nmecha’s follow-up header.
For the third, Bialkowski should have done better when spilling Robinson’s effort. Nmecha gobbled up the rebound.
The fourth arrived with 15 minutes to go. Robinson had bags of time and space to deliver a low cross from the left, the ball travelling all the way through the area before Nmecha produced another poacher’s finish.
There was still time for Bialkowski to deny sub Jayden Stockley with his legs.
Preston were potent, Town were profligate.
Paul Lambert’s men actually produced more efforts on goal over the 90 minutes – 18 compared to 17.
Yet you never really felt like they would carve something open.
Chambers had a couple of headed attempts at corners, while Teddy Bishop saw a good long-range effort fly just wide in the first half.
The moment which just about summed things up came on the hour mark when defender Jordan Storey collided with keeper Declan Rudd on the edge of the box. Kayden Jackson cut inside, shot at the unguarded net only to see the ball come back off the underside of the bar.
Town’s number one priority this summer will be to sign a proven goalscorer.
Until then, Jackson is not a lone striker. After linking up nicely with Collin Quaner in the second half against Birmingham he was back to having little impact up top alone.
Evans and Lambert have made it clear that the plan is to trust in the homegrown youngsters and, with the support of the crowd, stick with them through the inevitable ups and downs.
It was perhaps surprising, therefore, to see Josh Emmanuel hauled off at the break. Lambert said he felt the young right-back ‘struggled’. That statement could have applied to several.
His replacement, James Bree, was spun on the halfway line by Sean Maguire ahead of the third goal.
Lambert has said the club will be taking the one-year extension option in Emmanuel’s deal, a player who has gained League One experience at Rotherham and Shrewsbury, but it’s clear he’ll be shopping for a right-back this summer. Let’s hope this afternoon’s substitution motivates rather than demoralises.
Meanwhile, in a starting XI that contained not a single loan player, Idris El Mizouni made his full debut. The French-born 18-year-old was operating out of position on the right and really struggled to get any sort of foothold in the game. This was not a day to judge his true potential.
THREE TO GO
The sooner this season finishes the better.
The potential to damage confidence – both in the stands and on the pitch – outweighs the benefits of developing individuals.
Swansea are at Portman Road on Monday. Then Town face automatic promotion vying duo Sheffield United (a) and Leeds (h). Three tough games. Some more chastening defeats would see anxiety begin to compete with anticipation as Town head off to lick their wounds.