Stuart says: Five key talking points from Ipswich Town’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough

Martyn Waghorn vents his frustration with a refereeing decision at Middlesbrough Picture Pagepix

Martyn Waghorn vents his frustration with a refereeing decision at Middlesbrough Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough in a Championship match this afternoon. STUART WATSON analyses the action.

Bersant Celina gets behind the Middlesbrough defence during the first half Picture Pagepix

Bersant Celina gets behind the Middlesbrough defence during the first half Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Counter chumps

“When it works it’s good, but when it doesn’t then you look like a right bunch of chumps. I don’t want that to happen, but it hasn’t looked like happening.

“Even when we’ve had to defend, we’ve still looked a threat at the other end.”

Those were Mick McCarthy’s words in yesterday’s pre-match press conference when discussing the joy Ipswich Town have been having with a counter-attacking approach.

The Blues’ recent victories against Derby (1-0 away) and Nottingham Forest (4-2 at home) saw the opposition dominate possession (64% and 71% respectively), but a combination of some organised defending and clinical finishing proved the difference.

Town took the same approach into this match and – for 44 minutes – it was working.

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As soon as the hosts had possession, Town quickly got nine outfield players behind the ball and said ‘go on then, break us down’. Wide men Grant Ward and Bersant Celina dropped very deep, while Cole Skuse was right on the toes of the back four.

Boro – who came into this game on the back of three defeats from four – didn’t have an answer, gradually grew in frustration and that transcended to the stands.

Martyn Waghorn vents his frustration with a refereeing decision at Middlesbrough Picture Pagepix

Martyn Waghorn vents his frustration with a refereeing decision at Middlesbrough Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ben Gibson mis-hit a shot after Stewart Downing’s deep delivery fell at his feet in the box in the 18th minute, while Britt Assombalonga saw an angled attempt beaten behind by Bartosz Bialkowski in the 40th minute.

And that was the sum total of genuine first-half goalscoring chances until…

MATCH REPORT: Middlesbrough 2 Ipswich Town 0

Martyn Waghorn vents his frustration with a refereeing decision at Middlesbrough Picture Pagepix

Martyn Waghorn vents his frustration with a refereeing decision at Middlesbrough Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Return of the ‘soft’ goal

Boro broke the deadlock just seconds before the break.

Jonas Knudsen slid in far too prematurely and Stewart Downing twisted back the other way before standing up a cross from the right byline.

Patrick Bamford scores early in the second half against Ipswich Picture Pagepix

Patrick Bamford scores early in the second half against Ipswich Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ward stooped to head, Emyr Huws swung a leg and the result was the ball dropping nicely for Martin Braithwaite to ram home from close-range.

Mick McCarthy’s men had seemed to be cutting out the series of individual errors which had led to so many goals being conceded earlier this season.

This was another preventable goal leaked though. And the timing of it completely changed the half-time team talks.

REACTION: McCarthy rues ‘stupid’ goals conceded

No Joe

McCarthy made a big call in not putting the fit-again Joe Garner straight back in the team following his recovery from a foot injury.

You could understand the logic. As influential as the feisty front man had been in the opening weeks of the season, Town had won twice in his absence.

Martyn Waghorn had spearheaded the attack superbly, while Bersant Celina and Grant Ward had been providing some natural width.

If ain’t broke, don’t fix it – as they say.

Town didn’t pose the same counter-attacking threat on this occasion though. Waghorn looked too isolated up top. The Blues didn’t produce a single shot – on or off target – in the entire opening half.

McCarthy responded by bringing on Garner for Emyr Huws at the break.

Killer second

Town had to be more open in the search for an equaliser. Perhaps that is what led to Boro scoring their killer second just six minutes after the restart.

Patrick Bamford skipped inside from the right and was not closed down quick enough on the edge of the box. His low, crisp finish in off the base of the far post was pin-point accurate.

A comeback never looked likely from that point onwards.

Boro, in desperate need of a win, understandably took few risks in a search for more goals. Town, unlike them of late, continued to look toothless in attack and were restricted to ambitious long-range attempts.

Perspective

The two side’s respective form had boosted optimism that Town might leave the North East with something today, but let’s not forget how big a task this was.

Middlesbrough spent in excess of £40m on transfer fees alone following relegation from the Premier League. Their entire squad cost just shy of £100m to assemble.

Keeper Darren Randolph is a Republic of Ireland regular, centre-back Ben Gibson was in an England squad not that long ago, Stewart Downing has been a big-name in the top-flight, while striker Britt Assombalonga cost a Championship-record £15m. That’s to name just a few.

By contrast, Mick McCarthy, as we all know, has spent less than £5m over his entire five years in charge at Portman Road.

With the halfway stage of the season fast approach, Town are ninth and five points adrift of the play-off places. Not a position to be sniffed at.

Up next...

After a busy spell containing plenty of travel, Town now have five home games in the next seven – starting with the visit of Reading next weekend.

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