Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw at West Brom
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Ipswich Town drew 1-1 at high-flying West Bromwich Albion this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
HEARTENING AT THE HAWTHORNS
Four minutes on the clock. Town trailed.
A poor header inside from Myles Kenlock, a foul by Jonas Knudsen and then Stefan Johansen’s harmless looking free-kick hit Knudsen square in the chest to wrong-foot Bartosz Bialkowski. Here we go again.
Part their own making, part misfortune. That just about sums up the Blues’ season.
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And so the understandable cynicism started. ‘We’ll play alright, not take chances, concede a second and end up comfortably beaten’. That’s so often been the script.
Not this time.
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Town played some lovely stuff between the boxes and finished the first half arguably the better side.
They were certainly the better side after the break.
The Baggies crumbled under growing promotion pressure and made several unforced errors. The Blues, shackles off with their own fate all but sealed last weekend, really enjoyed themselves.
Jon Nolan’s expert headed finish came soon after the restart.
He was outstanding, Teddy Bishop bamboozled with some driving runs, Alan Judge played nominally on the left but popped up everywhere, Cole Skuse looked much more like his pre-injury self.
It ended all square, and the scoreline could have been anything given the chances at both ends, but if anyone deserved to win this game it was Paul Lambert’s men.
They produced 22 shots on goal against the division’s fourth-placed team.
What a heartening afternoon at the Hawthorns.
NOD TO NOLAN
Jon Nolan, starting a fifth game in a row, has got better and better in recent weeks. Today he produced a midfield masterclass.
His headed finish was superb. Not only did he arrive at the far post just in time, but he had to generate his own power on James Bree’s cross and then accurately find the bottom corner from near the penalty spot.
The Liverpudlian produced some silky touches under pressure, was so assured in possession and provided some fine forward passes, including a lovely flighted chip for Collin Quaner in the first half.
BART IS BACK
Dropped three times during a season to forget, Bartosz Bialkowski offered a timely reminder of those shot-stopping skills which routinely got the Blues out of jail under Mick McCarthy’s management.
Just before half-time he was at full-stretch to push Jacob Murphy’s angled side-footed attempt around the post. From the subsequent corner he reacted well to bat away Tosin Adarabioyo’s glancing header.
After the break, the Pole showed cat-like reflexes to scoop away Dwight Gayle’s stabbed close-range effort at a corner.
Collin Quaner is yet to hit his stride since joining Town on loan from Huddersfield.
An early shot lacked conviction. One drive down the right led to a Gwion Edwards shot being blocked. He was then denied by Sam Johnstone’s legs after a heavy touch on the chest and well-hit angled attempt.
The German was withdrawn at the break, seemingly hobbling, and replaced by Kayden Jackson.
The former Accrington Stanley man provided much more of a threat with his pace.
He probably should have been braver when a short back pass left him in charging down keeper Johnstone. He later raced onto a Myles Kenlock pass, cut inside and saw a shot saved. Kenlock was again the provider when Jackson spun in the box to again be denied by Johnstone (again with the legs).
There’s a player there with all the raw attributes. Like Nolan, he might benefit from a run in the team.
Paul Lambert keeps talking about how the support his rock-bottom side is getting is ‘not normal’. He went as far as saying it was world class recently.
That sounds like an exaggeration. It wasn’t. Name me another team in the predicament the Blues are in with such a feeling of positivity and backing. I’ll wait.
The 1,246 travelling Blues fans did not stop singing from start to finish. They stayed behind long after the final whistle. There will be some hoarse voices at work on Monday morning.
It’s like a weight has been lifted. They know their team is down, but they are enjoying watching them again.