Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Ipswich Town aren’t bottom because of referees and bad luck
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Ipswich Town remain seven points adrift of safety at the foot of the Championship table following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa. Chief football writer STUART WATSON has his final say on the weekend.
Time to pick your own ‘luck’ cliche.
‘You never get the rub of the green when you’re down at the bottom’.
‘Luck evens itself over the course of the season’.
‘You make your own luck (and the table doesn’t lie)’.
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It’s a debate pertinent to Ipswich Town after a fourth penalty was awarded against them in five league leagues.
Alan Judge certainly wasn’t afforded the luck of the Irish when he was punished for the crime of standing a little bit close to an opponent in the Aston Villa penalty box on Saturday.
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Referee Keith Stroud bought John McGinn’s dramatic arms-spread aeroplane impersonation hook, line and sinker. Tammy Abraham sent Bartosz Bialkowski the wrong way form the spot. 2-0. Game over. Or so it seemed.
That’s generally been the script for Town (who have lost by that scoreline seven times on their travels this season). Not on this occasion though. They rallied. Villa wobbled.
Stroud then ignored Town’s appeals for a penalty of their own after Collin Quaner rounded the keeper and saw his low shot blocked by the trailing arm of a sliding Tommy Elphick.
Freddie Sears scored a 25-yard screamer, Trevoh Chalobah hit the post and the Town players walked off feeling mightily aggrieved at the man in black.
Paul Lambert, once again sans coat and wet right through, displayed steam-out-of-the-ears, high-pitched animated anger which was almost cartoon-like.
He stormed off and was spotted turning the air blue in the tunnel on his way to seek out Stroud. It’s just as well he didn’t see/hear Villa boss Dean Smith’s subsequent perplexed expression when quizzed about the two major incidents during his own press conference.
Lambert’s ‘it wouldn’t look out place in the NBA’ was countered with ‘I didn’t see anything wrong with that’.
Lambert’s ‘that’s never a penalty for Villa’ was countered with ‘Judge grabbed him around the neck’.
Football. It’s certainly a game of opinions.
Right now it feels like everything that could have gone against Ipswich has done this season; Tayo Edun’s red card against Villa at Portman Road, two heavily deflected goals at Derby, Toto Nsiala’s ridiculous dismissal at Sheffield Wednesday, Jon Walters’ injury against Bolton...
And that’s before we get onto the recent penalties – all of which are of varying degrees of ‘soft’.
However, for context, 14 teams have conceded more spot-kicks than Ipswich (5) in the Championship this season. Wigan (12), Blackburn (12) and Swansea (10) are all into double figures.
Ipswich Town aren’t bottom of the Championship and seven points adrift of safety because of referees and bad luck.
They are where they are because they failed to beat 10-man Bolton and Preston at home, because they managed to lose from winning positions against both Bristol City and Millwall at home, because they’ve conceded so many goals away... the list goes on.
All the talk about Stroud this weekend rather overlooks the fact that Villa had 23 shots, Bartosz Bialkowski made 11 saves and the Blues’ purple patches in the game were just that.
That’s the galling thing – Town have proved they can play, sadly just for not long enough in games. Spells of pressure are rarely sustained. And the fine margins at the business ends of the pitch continually tip the wrong way.
It looks like someone will stay up with one of the lowest points totals in recent history.
Town can’t rely on referees and they can’t rely on others to get themselves out of this hole. What they can do is use any sense of injustice and the gap having not widened as motivational fuel for the 17 games ahead.
It was a spirited finish to Saturday’s game. Now we need a spirited finish to the season.