Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic
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Wigan Athletic striker Joe Garner scored a stoppage-time equaliser against his former club Ipswich Town this afternoon. STUART WATSON reflects on a game in which the Blues played with 10 men for more than an hour.
DITCHING THE DIAMOND
Paul Lambert ditched the diamond. For the first time in a long while we saw Ipswich Town play with wing-backs.
There was an element of pragmatism (soft rather than ultra) about the switch.
Wigan had forced Stoke to abandon a diamond system midway through a clash at the DW Stadium last Wednesday. Ipswich then looked vulnerable to Stoke’s width at Portman Road.
With a lack of genuine wingers in the squad, 3-5-2 was the formation of choice – and it worked a treat.
The Blues got so much joy down the right side in the opening half an hour. Jon Nolan, Alan Judge and Collin Quaner were all involved in so many slick one-touch moves that always seemed to involve James Bree.
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Nolan put a good headed chance wide, while Will Keane and Trevoh Chalobah both saw low attempts tipped around the post as the Blues began to purr.
KNUDSEN SEES RED
Ipswich do love to shoot themselves in the foot.
In the 25th minute, Jonas Knudsen was dismissed for desperately tugging at the shoulder of Leon Clarke following a long ball over the top.
Had the striker been ‘denied a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity?’ I’m not convinced. He still had loads to do after heading the ball on. Blues skipper Luke Chambers, you could argue, was there to cover.
That said, sympathy for Knudsen has to be limited. It was a needless foul. Like with his error against Stoke, there wasn’t enough awareness shown for his surroundings.
The bottom line is, however, that one straight ball over the top, against a back three marking a lone striker, should never have led to that.
FINALLY SOME LUCK
Town have been on the end of some controversial refereeing decisions this season. They were finally the beneficiaries of one here.
Collin Quaner was heading away from goal inside the box when Chey Dunkley ran across his heels. It looked like the Blues striker made the most of minimal contact to win the spot-kick.
Keeper Jamie Jones dived the right way early at full stretch, but Keane’s penalty was so accurate it squeezed in off the base of the left post for his third goal in nine games on loan from Hull.
IT HAD TO BE GARNER
Lambert will have hated watching this game from up high in the directors’ box due to his two-game touchline ban.
The second half was a tense watch as the Blues soaked up pressure.
With two organised banks of four parked behind the ball, and Matthew Pennington immense at the back, the Blues looked to have ridden the storm.
Clarke - who scored 19 goals for Sheffield United – failed to take several big chances as cross after cross peppered the six-yard box.
When Bartosz Bialkowski made a fine reaction stop from Joe Garner in the 86th minute it felt like the job was done.
Then, just as the clock ticked past 90, impressive Chelsea loanee Reece James and Garner converted from close-range.
The former Blues man, who wanted to move back to his native north west last summer, thought about celebrating but then stopped and held up his hands in an act of respect.
Not that it made the moment any less heartbreaking.
This was a major missed opportunity. The gap to safety remains at nine points after Rotherham and Reading drew.
Had it been cut to seven there would have been huge anticipation heading into next Saturday’s home game with the Royals.
The games are rapidly running out.
KILLER FOR KEANE
Will Keane pulled up clutching his left hamstring and had to be withdrawn in the 64th minute.
That blow came after Teddy Bishop missed out through illness off the back of impressive displays against Derby and Stoke.
The footballing Gods really haven’t been kind to Ipswich Town this season.
On a more positive note, Gwion Edwards produced an encouraging cameo for the second game running.
The Welsh winger, who replaced Quaner at the break, is beginning to look like the player we saw at the start of the season again.