Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 defeat at Rotherham
Ipswich Town slipped out of the League One automatic promotion places following last night’s 1-0 defeat at Rotherham United. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Three days on from a 1-0 thrashing of Lincoln at Portman Road that was settled by a set-piece, Ipswich Town suffered a 1-0 thrashing at Rotherham that was settled by a set-piece.
The Millers play a good old-fashioned 4-4-2. They work hard, win battles, then quickly get it wide or forward. No-one should turn their nose up at it. They are far from thugs. Newcastle loanee Dan Barlaser sprayed some sumptuous passes from deep. Wingers Chiedozie Ogbene and Hakeeb Adelakun were direct and skilful. It's hardly anti-football. It's a game plan that plays to their strengths. And it works.
Town should have stuck to their own strengths and seen whose style came out on top. Lambert says that was the plan. Instead they got dragged into a frantic affair that was only going to suit one team.
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Time and time again, Blues players rushed to send a ball over the top for Kayden Jackson to chase. Perhaps they'd studied how Peterborough had got joy against the Millers with pace in behind at the weekend. The problem was, the long balls lacked composure and quality.
Alan Judge, who should have had extra room in a three versus two scenario in the middle of the park, ended up being bypassed. It was only when James Norwood came on and Ipswich switched to 4-4-2 that they got some late joy.
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In the final 10 minutes, Jackson spurned a good chance, Daniel Iversen made a super save from Luke Garbutt's free-kick and Norwood somehow hit the inside of the post from the acutest of angles. Had Town snatched a point it would have been an absolute robbery given Rotherham rattled the woodwork in either half, saw a goal disallowed and spent most of the game camped in the Town half.
Lambert said the Lincoln win was among the top three displays of the season. This quite possibly goes down as the worst.
Wycombe, Accrington, Rotherham... Town appear to have a real Achilles heel when it comes to dealing with teams that play effective, direct, physical football.
NOT BEATING RIVALS
And so, another game goes by in which Town have failed to beat a promotion rival. Their record against the current top nine reads: P10 W0 D7 L3.
Having waited 69 days to reclaim top spot in League One, the Blues have quickly slipped out of the automatic promotion places again.
Several of the chasing pack - Coventry, Portsmouth, Oxford and Doncaster - have not one, but two games in hand to come.
Up next... At home to a rejuvenated Peterborough on Saturday - they've just won three on the trot. Then away to Sunderland - they are currently eight unbeaten (W4 D4).
It'll be tough, but Town could really do with winning at least one of those matches.
It's been so heartening to see Emyr Huws finally looking like his old self at the start of 2020. A sixth consecutive league start sadly appeared to be one game too many.
He lost too many physical battles and was poor in possession (though wasn't alone in that) and was guilty of losing Michael Smith at a corner ahead of the goal.
The Welshman's night ended when he limped off in the 68th minute. Given his fitness record that sight was obviously a concern. Word is it's an ankle injury. Let's hope it's not too bad.
Lambert was in a bit of a lose-lose situation really with last night's team selection. Changing a winning formula would have brought grumbles after the big squad rotation debate from earlier in the season and the encouraging recent form. Hindsight suggests he could have done with freshening up one or two positions.
EMERGING WITH CREDIT
James Wilson is turning out to be the unsung hero of this campaign so far.
On a night when rising star Luke Woolfenden was off colour, the free agent addition was once again rock-solid at the heart of a back three. Without his numerous vital interceptions, blocks and clearances the Blues would have suffered a far greater margin of defeat.
Keeper Will Norris deserves praise too. To criticise him for the goal would be harsh. Yes, the ball popped up off his knees prior to Woods' header but there was little more he could do given Kyle Vassell blocked the line of sight.
After that he made some solid stops and punches, including an excellent reaction to keep a deflected Michael Ihiekwe effort out of the bottom corner.
One small positive to take out of this game was Norwood's lively late cameo.
He replaced the ineffective Will Keane in the 67th minute and immediately won a free-kick after a spot of grappling.
It was his bustling run that won the free-kick from which Garbutt went close. It was his presence that forced a late corner. And it was his refusal to give up on a ball that appeared to be drifting out of touch that led to a physics defying hooked effort coming back off the inside of the post in stoppage-time.
Don't be surprised to see the 10-goal man restored to the starting line-up on Saturday.