Stuart says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw at Bolton
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Ipswich Town drew a scrappy Championship match 1-1 at Bolton Wanderers this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.
Littered with errors
Town fans have endured some pretty dire halves of football during the second half of the Mick McCarthy era, but the first period here may just have eclipsed them all.
It was stop-start, scrappy, littered with unforced errors and completely devoid of any kind of entertainment.
The tone was set from kick-off when Bolton quickly pumped the ball forwards, Town were at sixes and sevens defensively only for Bartosz Bialkowski to get his team-mates out of jail by saving from Josh Vela with his legs.
There were long bouts of head tennis and, when the ball was on the floor, players from both sides would give the ball away cheaply. On several occasions passes went straight out of play, while there were some wild slices too.
Bolton had a bit more get up and go about them and at least created some half chances. Town, meanwhile, struggled to get into the final third.
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The Blues’ one threatening moment came in the 37th minute when Martyn Waghorn’s corner delivery came off the thigh of Luke Chambers at the near post, forcing keeper Ben Alnwick into a reflex stop.
There was a lot of talk about Town being a more entertaining side with an improved goal threat in the first half of the season, but they’ve looked pretty toothless over the turn of the year.
After Gary Madine ghosted in at the far post to break the deadlock in the 53rd minute there was little reaction from the visitors.
As the game drifted into the final 10 minutes a home victory looked assured. Town players’ body language was not great, with too many looking at each other with hands on hips rather than taking personal responsibility.
Then the Blues produced their first real bit of quality to equalise with a fine goal. Stephen Gleeson (more on him later), Waghorn and David McGoldrick were all involved in a sharp one-touch move in the final third, with the latter’s low cross-cum-shot bundled home inside the six-yard box by an alert Joe Garner.
Town finally came alive and Waghorn rattled the woodwork with a super 20-yard angled strike in the last minute of the game.
It was too little, too late.
The Blues have scored just four goals in their last seven games – half of them direct from set-pieces. More worryingly they have produced, on average, just two shots on target per game during that spell.
Cameron Carter-Vickers and Stephen Gleeson only completed their moves to Town yesterday, but both were handed their debuts after just one training session with their new team-mates.
Young Tottenham loanee Carter-Vickers started and showed encouraging signs. At 6ft he is not the biggest centre-back around, but he’s quick, athletic and battles. He’s also not afraid to chest the ball down and try to play out from the back either.
More impressive was Gleeson – who has joined on a free transfer from Birmingham until the end of the season.
The 29-year-old replaced Cole Skuse at half-time, the latter having hurt his troublesome ankle when caught by a naughty Madine late tackle.
McCarthy enthused that Gleeson was ‘a mile above everyone else’. The Irishman wanted the ball and when he got it tried to play positively. Just as importantly he tried to organise and gee up others around him. Town have lacked a player like that for so long.
Another unnecessary dig
McCarthy is right when he says Town have no divine right to win at Bolton. Phil Parkinson’s resurgent relegation-battlers have beaten the likes of Hull, Norwich, Barnsley, Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday at The Macron Stadium in the last three months. This was always going to be tough against a side containing Championship hardened pros like Madine, David Wheater and Karl Henry.
The Blues boss is correct to be honest and realistic. He should be forging a ‘them and us’ mentality at a club battling against the odds. The only problem is that he repeatedly makes Town feel excluded rather than included in such a siege mentality.
The oft-used ‘point in my pocket’ phrase may be unpalatable, but it’s also understandable. The ‘that’s they are the fans and why I am the manager’ comment was wholly unnecessary though and drives another wedge into an already broken relationship.
For someone who is at pains to say he doesn’t take any notice of social media, why has he decided that fans are ‘underwhelmed’ by the signing of Gleeson? Some were, yes, but McCarthy shouldn’t be tarring all with the same brush.
Gleeson did all the talking that was required today.
Evans in attendance
There were 645 hardy Town fans high in the away end. Also in attendance, interestingly, was owner Marcus Evans.
None of the above will have been left too impressed. Indeed, Evans departed with 15 minutes to go and missed the one period where the Blues actually played some football.
McCarthy insists his incoming January business is done, with Tommy Smith on his way to Colorado Rapids and Kevin Bru also likely to depart.
Evans, if he didn’t realise already, must know the size of the rebuilding job that is required this summer – be that with or without McCarthy.