Stuart says: Seven observations from Ipswich Town’s 1-0 win against Birmingham City
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town beat Birmingham City 1-0, courtesy of Joe Garner’s debut goal, in their Championship opener today. STUART WATSON gives seven observations on the game.
Devastating for Dozzell
Talk about going from ecstasy to agony.
Andre Dozzell played a key role in England’s triumph at the European Under-19 Championships this summer, ripped it up in training upon in his return and subsequently got the nod for the league opener.
The 18-year-old was undoubtedly Town’s brightest player in an otherwise damp squib of a first half. He was the one demanding the ball off the back three and, on the rare occasion he got it, he tried to make things happen.
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It was so refreshing seeing him take a pot-shot from range early on, there was an attempted pass over the top which almost came off and a wonderful moment when his give-and-gos took Town from the edge of their own box to the other.
To say it was heartbreaking to see him stretchered off with his right leg in a brace and an oxygen mask on during first-half stoppage-time is therefore an understatement.
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The teenager had required treatment in the 37th minute after appearing to twist his knee slightly. He carried on though, seemed to be moving okay, but then his leg collapsed in an innocuous coming together.
Mick McCarthy must be feeling like the footballing Gods are conspiring against him with yet another central midfield being unavailable. Emyr Huws (Achilles), Tom Adeyemi (illness) Teddy Bishop (groin) and Luke Hyam (ankle) were already sidelined.
Flynn Downes was the undoubted star of pre-season and was perhaps unfortunate not to start. Boy did he take his chance when replacing Dozzell though. The 18-year-old academy graduate instantly looked at home in senior football. He was assured on the ball, communicated well with his team-mates and really got stuck in. One crunching tackle following by a towering header typified his gutsy display. The fans loved it.
Mick McCarthy said a wing-back formation ‘saved our season’ when the going got tough back in February. He spent the whole of pre-season operating with a 4-4-2 formation, but a host of injuries and illnesses meant options were limited for this opening game. A return to 3-5-2 may not have inspired pre kick-off, but it was the sensible approach given Bersant Celina (illness) and David McGoldrick (calf) were deemed only fit enough for the bench and Luke Chambers (illness) isn’t 100%.
Garner’s a warrior
There were question marks about Joe Garner’s goalscoring record at Championship level when he arrived from Rangers for a £750k fee earlier this summer, but showed a finisher’s instinct with a well-timed run on the blindside to convert the winner. It follows six goals in pre-season too.
And he’s a warrior. The ex-Preston man never gives his opponent a minute’s peace and made some brave defensive interventions at the other end. He’s added some much-needed fire to this team.
Would Clayton Donaldson have been in the clear had he not been cynically tugged back by Jordan Spence in the 48th minute? The rules state you have to see red if denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. He escaped with a booking, Town lived dangerously at the free-kick and moments later they were in front.
A poor final ball was a criticism levelled at Jonas Knudsen last season, but the Dane – who kept Myles Kenlock out of the team – provided some brilliant crosses from left wing-back. Fully justified his selection.
All about the result
Given the gloom which followed last season, and last weekend’s 6-1 friendly defeat at Charlton, Town desperately needed to get off to a good start in order to prevent the atmosphere turning sour. There will be tougher challenges ahead than Birmingham, so getting three points on the board was vital.
The damp squib of a first-half display left us fearing it would be the same-old, same-old, but McCarthy’s men stepped up a gear after the break. With plenty of key men to come back into the fold, it’s an encouraging start.