Stuart says: Eight observations from Ipswich Town’s 5-2 thrashing of Sunderland
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Ipswich Town thrashed Sunderland 5-2 at Portman Road last night. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on a memorable night.
Front foot at last!
This was the Ipswich Town home display we have all been crying out for.
When everyone talked about the entertainment value at Portman Road being poor over the last 18 months, it wasn’t an unrealistic demand for sexy football on a shoestring budget. It was the simple desire for the Blues to play with vim and vigour from the outset and really look to stamp their authority on matches when out-of-form opposition arrived in Suffolk.
Too often, Mick McCarthy ran through the visiting’s team squad as if they were the Brazil side of 1970. Too many times last season he played with five defenders and two holding midfielders, regardless of the opposition. He’s admitted before that he couldn’t risk going 2-0 down inside the opening 20 minutes. What about trying to go 2-0 up? It was all too cautious. So many times struggling sides ended their bad runs here.
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How refreshing, therefore, to hear the Blues boss say on Monday that he hadn’t watched any of Sunderland’s games and instead was worrying only about what his side could do.
He decided to go with the attacking talent of Martyn Waghorn, Bersant Celina and David McGoldrick in support of Joe Garner, backing them to outscore the opposition. And that’s exactly what happened.
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Town burst out of the blocks and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck from the first whistle. It got the crowd quickly on side, demoralised the Black Cats and set the tone for the evening.
Prior to this match, Town had scored a first half goal in only 20 of their 54 home games. Only once in that period had they scored twice before the break on Suffolk soil (3-0 win against Wigan back in April).
This was only the second time the Blues have scored five during Mick McCarthy’s near five-year spell in charge (5-2 at Rotherham in November 2015). It was the first time they’ve netted five at home since Jay Emmanuel-Thomas inspired a 5-1 win against West Ham under Paul Jewell’s management back in January 2012.
Town are now the Championship’s leading scorers with 19 goals – and they’ve played one game less than most. Who would have thought we’d be saying that?!
There’s been a lot of talk about square pegs in round holes of late, but this Town team had a good balance and blend to it. Everyone seemed to be comfortably playing to defined roles for the first time in a long.
You need good full-backs in the modern game. Town muddled along with Luke Chambers at right-back for a long-time. Last night, Jonas Knudsen and Dominic Iorfa were exceptional bombing up and down the flanks.
Jordan Spence is really settling into the centre-back role nicely, while Waghorn – signed as a central striker – played the wide right role superbly.
Celina and McGoldrick rotated in the wide left and No.10 slot throughout.
After scoring four goals in his first four league games for the club and being named among the nominees for August’s Championship Player of the Month, Martyn Waghorn could count himself unfortunate to drop out of the team last weekend. Boy did he respond in the right manner though.
He was once again in the right place at the right time to deftly glance home Garner’s cross for the sixth minute opener. He delivered the corner from which Spence headed home the second. The flick he produced with his in-step leading to Celina’s goal was sublime. The pass he provided for McGoldrick’s goal was perfectly-weighted.
Perhaps he was fired up to prove a point to his boyhood club? Sunderland sold him to Leicester for £3m back in 2010 without ever really giving him the chance to shine at The Stadium of Light.
He was subbed to a standing ovation with 15 minutes to go, no doubt with Saturday’s visit of Bristol City in mind.
“We’ve got *clap, clap* Joey Garner”
At last Town have signed a genuine replacement for Daryl Murphy.
The former Preston man goes to war every time he takes to the field. He scraps for every ball, runs the channels and is every centre-half’s nightmare. It was his movement and tenacity which enabled others to play.
To have landed him and Waghorn from Rangers for a combined £1m is a robbery Dick Turpin would have been proud of.
McGoldrick’s on fire
When David McGoldrick is fully fit and firing, Town are a different animal. It’s no coincidence that a dire 18 months coincided with his injury frustrations.
‘Didzy’ is back at his talismanic best and already has six goals to his name in all competitions. It’s definitely helped having more attacking players taken the burden of responsibility off his shoulders.
In the past the 29-year-old has tried to do it all himself. Now he can concentrate on using his silky skills to knit everything together.
More in midfield
Tom Adeyemi is definitely going to provide Town with the box-to-box energy they lacked last season. He’s athletic and strong, puts his foot in at one end then busts a gut to join the attack. And having missed all of pre-season through illness, there’s definitely more to come from him.
Cole Skuse, meanwhile, has really taken his game up several notches this season. He’s always been a reliable, consistent protector of the back four, but he’s added some attacking energy and positivity to his game too. You can actually see him having a hand in goals now, which was not the case previously.
The whole team is just looking so much more dynamic.
I always remember back-to-back home wins against Wolves (2-1) and Watford (1-0) back in November 2014. It was a moment that made me think ‘there’s something special happening here’ as positive momentum really began to build. Town, of course, went on to claim a play-off place that season.
If McCarthy’s men can beat Bristol City at Portman Road on Saturday then the feelgood factor would well and truly be back.
There’s a sense that the Blues’ belief is building. There’s a sense that the close-knit spirit which swept them to a top-six finish is back.
Captain Luke Chambers admitted that the second half display at table-topping Leeds last Saturday convinced the players what they were capable of. They’ll all be feeling 10 feet tall now. Last night’s result will certainly have made others sit up and take notice.
If you’re one of the stay-away supporters (and I can fully understand why), then get yourself back down to Portman Road this weekend. Something special might just be building again.