Stuart says: Seven observations from Ipswich Town’s thrilling 4-3 win at Millwall

Martyn Waghorn celebrates one of his first half goals at Millwall. Picture Pagepix

Martyn Waghorn celebrates one of his first half goals at Millwall. Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town are third in the Championship table following last night’s thrilling 4-3 win at Millwall. STUART WATSON highlights a few key talking points from the game.

Great entertainers!

Last season’s 16th place wasn’t the main factor behind around 2,000 Portman Road season ticket holders choosing not to renew, rather the cautious, passive, forgettable footballing fare they had been dished up. So many games blurred into one.

McCarthy vowed that his team would try to be easier-on-the-eye this season and that’s certainly been the case so far.

Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser for Ipswich against Millwall

Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser for Ipswich against Millwall - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It’s not all been sexy, one-touch, on the floor football, but it has been far more positive, aggressive and dynamic.


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Some bold team selections have helped that. McCarthy started with four strikers last night with Martyn Waghorn, David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears in support of Joe Garner. At last, Town are worrying less about the opposition and more about their own game.

Who’d have thought we’d be making comparisons with a McCarthy side and Joe Royle’s ‘we’ll score more than you’ buccaneering Blues outfit of the early noughties?!

Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser for Ipswich against Millwall

Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser for Ipswich against Millwall - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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This was only the ninth time during Mick McCarthy’s 237-game Ipswich Town reign that the Blues had scored four or more goals in a game.

Feb 2013 – Boro 4-0 (h)

Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser for Ipswich against Millwall

Joe Garner celebrates his equaliser for Ipswich against Millwall - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Oct 2014 – Derby 4-4 (a)

Dec 2014 – Leeds 4-1 (h)

Dec 2014 – Brentford 4-2 (a)

Luke Chambers with his now customary celebration at Millwall Picture Pagepix

Luke Chambers with his now customary celebration at Millwall Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Feb 2015 – Birmingham 4-2 (h)

Aug 2015 – Doncaster 4-1 aet (a)

Nov 2015 – Rotherham 5-2 (a)

Joe Garner strikes back for Ipswich within minutes against Millwall Picture Pagepix

Joe Garner strikes back for Ipswich within minutes against Millwall Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Aug 2016 – Barnsley 4-2 (h)

Aug 2017 – Millwall 4-3 (a)

Mick McCarthy hugging Terry Connor after the win at The Den Picture Pagepix

Mick McCarthy hugging Terry Connor after the win at The Den Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Good omen?

The last time Town won their opening four games was the promotion campaign of 1999/00. They beat Brentford 2-0 at home in game five that year. Who’s next for Mick’s men? That’s right… Brentford at Portman Road on Saturday.

Tom Elliott equalises for Millwall making the score 3-3 against Ipswich Picture Pagepix

Tom Elliott equalises for Millwall making the score 3-3 against Ipswich Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

And with 10 out!

The number of unavailable players reached double digits last night.

Dean Gerken and Bersant Celina are the latest players to go down poorly. Man City loanee Celina brought the virus into the camp and can’t seem to shake it off.

Ipswich Town players celebrate Jordan Spence's late winner at Millwall in midweek. Photo: Pagepix Lt

Ipswich Town players celebrate Jordan Spence's late winner at Millwall in midweek. Photo: Pagepix Ltd - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Flynn Downes (calf) failed a late fitness, but should be back on Saturday, while Andre Dozzell had surgery on his knee yesterday.

Emyr Huws (Achilles) is hoping to return to full training tomorrow, Luke Hyam (ankle) made his long-awaited comeback for the Under-23s on Monday, while Tom Adeyemi is slowly recovering from the illness that wiped him out for so long. They are all targeting next Tuesday’s Carabao Cup game at Crystal Palace.

Teddy Bishop (groin), Tommy Smith (hamstring) and Adam Webster (ankle) will be out for a number more weeks yet.

Dominic Iorfa celebrates Jordan Spence's goal at Millwall Picture Pagepix

Dominic Iorfa celebrates Jordan Spence's goal at Millwall Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

“We’ll probably be rubbish when they all come back,” quipped McCarthy.

Let’s not get carried away though…

Jordan Spence strikes a pose after scoring the winner for Ipswich at Millwall Picture Pagepix

Jordan Spence strikes a pose after scoring the winner for Ipswich at Millwall Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

All credit to McCarthy and his players for this start. The pressure was on after last season, even more so after that 6-1 friendly defeat at Charlton, so it wouldn’t have taken much for the mood to turn sour.

However, at risk of sounding like a killjoy, it’s not been perfect and there will be tougher tests ahead.

Birmingham, Barnsley and Millwall – the latter two both among the favourites for the drop – have all given Town a torrid time in spells.

Jordan Spence scoring the winner for Ipswich at Millwall

Jordan Spence scoring the winner for Ipswich at Millwall - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Wins are wins and the focus, rightly, should be on the character shown by the Blues to dig in and get the job done.

Better teams may not be so profligate though. The next three games – Brentford (h), Crystal Palace (a) and Fulham (h) – will be a step up in class.

Martyn Waghorn puts in a first half cross Picture Pagepix

Martyn Waghorn puts in a first half cross Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Centre-back required

Jordan Spence gave his all alongside Luke Chambers in central defence, but that’s not his strongest position.

Town’s injury-hit defence has looked shaky at times. With Steve Morison bullying their back line and an aerial bombardment causing problems, last night was the first time that Christophe Berra’s battling qualities were evidently missed.

McCarthy will step up his search for some experienced cover.

Ward’s central role

I’ve made Grant Ward my man-of-the-match on both the occasions he’s started for Town this season.

He impressed in the opening weekend 1-0 victory over Birmingham, sat out the wins against Luton and Barnsley with a calf injury, then came back with a bang at The Den.

The 22-year-old enjoyed an encouraging debut season following his £600k switch from Tottenham last summer, making 46 appearances in what was a difficult campaign for the team, and was Mick McCarthy’s choice in the player of the year awards.

It very much looked like he’d be playing on the wing for Town this season, but his two outings so far have come in a central role due to a whole host of injuries.

He shone as a No.10 versus Birmingham, having finished last season in that slot, but operated in a deeper role alongside Cole Skuse last night – a position he played a fair bit when on loan at Rotherham.

Ward’s relentless energy wears the opposition down. Being able to nick the ball deep and then drive forwards can turn defence into attack in an instant. Single-handedly he drags his team-mates up the field.

And there were two fine assists. He twisted and turned before providing a sumptuous outside of the boot cross for Martyn Waghorn’s first, then won and delivered the late free-kick from which Jordan Spence headed home the winner.

Shackles off Skuse

Everyone knows that Cole Skuse does a fine, consistent, fuss-free job of covering the full-backs, intercepting and recycling the ball. Last season, however, supporters increasingly questioned whether that was enough.

The former Bristol City man has really bought into Town’s more dynamic approach at the start of this season and no longer looks like he’s going to get a nose-bleed when crossing the halfway line.

Town just seem to have a better balance about them at the moment.

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