Stuart says – Six observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-1 defeat at QPR
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Ipswich Town went down to a 2-1 Championship defeat at QPR this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Can’t blame the defence
I’ve seen a few comments along the lines of ‘that’s what happens when you don’t sign a centre-half’. Just as you couldn’t blame makeshift centre-backs Jordan Spence and Jonas Knudsen for the 2-0 home defeat to Fulham a fortnight ago, you can’t really point fingers at Dominic Iorfa and Spence today.
Mick McCarthy decided to drop Myles Kenlock, shift Knudsen back to his preferred left-back role, hand teenage Everton loanee Callum Connolly a full debut at right-back and put Iorfa as the left-sided centre-back.
Iorfa, who is 6ft 5in tall and quick, has all the tools to be a centre-back. After joining Town on loan from Wolves he said that he feels that will eventually be his best position. He didn’t do a lot wrong today, winning his headers and makings some vital interceptions. Spence, likewise, hasn’t let the team down in his three games as a centre-back.
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What was the problem then?
McCarthy admitted that Town made Fulham look better than they were by not closing down quick enough in that comprehensive home defeat prior to the international break. A lack of pressing, aggression and tempo was again the issue at Loftus Road.
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Town were too slow to stop the cross which led to Jamie Mackie’s opener just before the break. The entire team backed off in unison to allow Luke Freeman to toe-punt home the killer second soon after the restart.
The Blues simply didn’t win enough of the 50/50 duels.
Here’s where McCarthy can’t win. He stuck with a winning side for the visit of Fulham, keeping four strikers in the team, and that gung-ho approach was accused of being naive against a top footballing side. Today, he matched up the QPR formation and gets accused of worrying about the opposition too much.
In addition to the aforementioned change at the back, he dropped forward Freddie Sears and played the tenacious Flynn Downes instead.
Instead of 4-2-3-1, it was more of a 4-3-3. Grant Ward, Skuse and Downes were up against Luke Freeman, Massimo Luongo and Josh Scowen in the middle. Martyn Waghorn shifted from the right wing to the left, while David McGoldrick played a wide right role in support of central striker Joe Garner.
Just like against Fulham, Town looked vulnerable down the flanks. QPR had got plenty of crosses in the box during the first half, Town didn’t heed the warning and Pawel Wszolek was given too much time to provide the low delivery for Mackie to net the opener.
How did Connolly do?
It was a bold call for McCarthy to throw the deadline day signing straight in from the start. The 19-year-old Everyon loanee did spend the second half of last season on loan at Wigan in this division though and had impressed in training this week.
He switched off momentarily to allow Mackie to get ahead of him for the first goal and was given a tough time by the fiery Scottish international. The England Under-20 did get stuck in though, provided a decent cross in the second half and will be better for having an experienced figure like Luke Chambers alongside him. The latter may well be fit for next Saturday’s visit of Bolton.
Celina pushing for a start
A big criticism of McCarthy today is his use of substitutes. At 2-0 down he had nothing to lose – so why did the skilful Bersant Celina, clearly the best game-changing option on the bench, only come on as the third option?
Ok, so Celina has been ill for something like seven weeks since arriving on loan from Manchester City and been playing catch-up with his fitness. But we’ve seen plenty of evidence of his talent in Carabao Cup and Under-23 games. His Blues team-mates have been waxing lyrical about the skills and goals he’s been producing in training too.
He’s on Man City’s books, was at top Dutch side FC Twente last season and is a senior Kosovan international. He has pedigree and, listening to him speak afterwards, is not short of confidence either.
McCarthy brought on Sears and Adeyemi for Waghorn and Downes in the 66th minute though, waiting until the 76th minute before replacing Ward with Celina. The latter provided an instant spark with his direct-running and array of skills.
The goal was quality. Celina jinked inside, feinted twice to create half a yard of room before rifling a shot just inside the post from the edge of the box with barely any back-lift.
Bringing Celina on late brought back memories of last season’s defeat at Loftus Road. On that day, with the score 1-1, McCarthy chose to bring on Jonathan Douglas ahead of Andre Dozzell, much to the annoyance of the travelling fans. Today was another reminder of his cautious nature.
Round pegs in square holes
Options may be limited, but there’s been too many round pegs in square holes for too long now. This isn’t a new thing. Chambers and Sears were out of position for a long time before this season started.
Defensively, McCarthy is undoubtedly hamstrung at present. He does have natural wingers in Celina, Ward and Danny Rowe though. For whatever reason, few of his signings for this position have ever come off. Think Cameron Stewart, Alex Henshall and Dylan Connolly to name just three. He might need to trust in them just a little bit more. The three he’s currently got have shown they are good enough.