Stuart says: Seven observations from Ipswich Town’s 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United
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Ipswich Town lost 1-0 at Sheffield United in a Championship match this afternoon. STUART WATSON analyses the action.
Bodies on the line
Sheffield United have the reputation of attack-minded, fluid, crisp movers of the ball. They went into this game with the Championship’s best passing stats and you could see why as they dominated possession in the opening exchanges – at one stage it was almost 75%.
Ipswich had done their homework though. They knew that the Blades’ one Achilles heel was dealing with sides who sit in and look to counter. That’s how Norwich ground out a 1-0 win at fortress Bramall Lane recently.
Time and time again the hosts zipped the ball about, got it into feet in the final third, delivered a dangerous cross into the box and forced several corners. On every occasion the Blues defence dealt with the danger though.
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They reached half-time without Bartosz Bialkowski having had to make a save of note, while also having looked a threat on the counter themselves with David McGoldrick shooting just wide and Martyn Waghorn forcing a smart save out of the keeper.
At that stage you began to wonder if Town might grind something out.
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Caught cold after the restart
Having put in all that hard graft during the opening 45 minutes, Town switched off five minutes after the restart.
John Fleck was able to get to the byline and cross, with midfielder Chris Basham beating Myles Kenlock in the air to emphatically head home from a central position. It was a well-worked goal, but too easy from a Town point of view. That’s 17 shipped in 11 league games.
Searching for a system
Mick McCarthy has been a lot bolder with his team selection and tactics this season, but resorted to type and matched up the opposition’s formation for this tough away test.
Following a 3-1 home defeat to Bristol City prior to the international break, the Blues boss dropped Jordan Spence and Bersant Celina, while the injured Joe Garner also missed out with a knee injury. In came the fit-again Adam Webster, as well as Myles Kenlock and Grant Ward.
It simply didn’t work. With left-sided centre-back Jack O’Connell continually supporting impressive left wing-back Enda Stevens in attack, Dominic Iorfa was regularly overloaded.
Midway through the half, during an injury break, McCarthy had a long chat with his players on the sidelines. The result was a switch in formation to 4-1-4-1.
Webster - making his first league start since January – pushed forwards into a holding midfield role. Ward moved to the left, while Martyn Waghorn was shifted to the right.
McCarthy shuffled his pack again during the second half, shifting to a 4-3-3 system. It did little to help Town find any rhythm.
Woodwork rescued both sides
Waghorn plucked a brilliant pass from Tristan Nydam out the sky, cut inside and curled a shot against the crossbar in the 53rd minute.
At the other end, Leon Clarke rattled the bar with a dipping volley following Basham’s fine pass.
Beyond those two chances, neither side came close to scoring in a scrappy second half that never really got going.
Nydam’s growing by the game
He doesn’t turn 18 until next month, but academy graduate Tristan Nydam looks like he’s been in senior football all his life.
The England Under-19 international took all the corners and free-kicks on his full league debut at Barnsley, he did superbly at a hostile Elland Road and was arguably Town’s best player in the recent 3-1 home loss to Bristol City after replacing warm-up injury victim Tom Adeyemi moments before kick-off.
Again, he wasn’t overawed and didn’t look out of place.
At one stage the diminutive midfielder dumped towering centre-back Jack O’Connell on his backside.
And then there was his sumptuous ball over the top from which led to Waghorn hitting the bar.
McGoldrick wrapped in cotton wool
David McGoldrick has been in talismanic form for the Blues this season, so there was great concern when he went away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland with a tight hamstring.
As one mesmerising piece of silky footwork in the first half shows, he is the team’s most talented player.
So why take him off in the 72nd minute with just a goal in it? He’s clearly being wrapped in cotton wool.
It’s a shame because it would have been nice to see him and his replacement, Bersant Celina, link up again. Those two seem to be in the same wavelength.
Coming up just short
Sheffield United are flying. They won League One with 100 points last season, while this was their eighth Championship win from 11th. They are now joint-top.
Just twice have Chris Wilder’s men lost a league game at Bramall Lane this season. It’s slightly depressing to see a side come up from League One and overtake a Town side treading water.
The Blues have now lost five of their last seven in the league. Once again they have come up just short against one of the division’s leading lights.
Next up…. Norwich City at Portman Road next Sunday.