Stuart says: Six observations on Ipswich Town’s 1-0 home defeat to Wolves
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town lost 1-0 to Championship league-leaders Wolves at Portman Road today. STUART WATSON gives a few thoughts.
Another soft goal
Town have shot themselves in the foot defensively too many times this season and today’s deciding goal – scored by Matt Doherty in the 15th minute – is yet another which can be described as sloppy.
Not for the first time it was a collection of errors which added up to the ball ending up in the back of the net. Callum Connolly had done well to race back and make a tackle in his own box, but Town then switched off. David McGoldrick didn’t track his runner to allow Barry Douglas to stand up a cross to the back post, Bersant Celina and Jonas Knudsen both failed to contest the aerial ball and Doherty’s scruffy downward header bounced up off the wet and muddy surface into the top corner. Keeper Bartosz Bialkowski probably couldn’t have kept it out had he tried, but nevertheless he simply watched the ball go in.
Gulf in class
Forget the narrow margin of victory, there was a clear gulf in class here.
We’ll come onto Town’s performance in a minute, but first and foremost it needs to be said ‘full credit to Wolves’ – they are champions in waiting.
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So often when a club spends millions and millions of pounds they can end up with a collection individuals. Nuno Espirito Santo has forged a proper team though. Their star quality blew teams away in the summer/autumn months, while their cohesion, organisation and team spirit has seen them find different ways to get results over winter.
Wolves simply squeezed the life out of this game in the second half. It was a classic away display. They took few risks, left no gaps to exploit and proved too strong in the 50/50 battles. Everyone, clearly, knew their roles.
Ipswich’s attacking play had a feeling of huff and puff, while Wolves could clearly move up a gear when required. On several occasions they carved Town open with two or three incisive passes and only several smart stops by Bialkowski, fresh from signing a new two-year deal, kept the scoreline down.
Spirited but sloppy
Town’s first-half performance was actually much-improved in comparison to recent displays.
Full debutant Stephen Gleeson always wanted the ball and got stuck in (how he got booked for a full-bloodied but fair 50/50 challenge is a mystery), Celina caused problems with his direct running, while skipper Luke Chambers led by example.
Come the break the possession was pretty equal, while Ipswich led in terms of shots and corners. Granted, many of their attempts were audacious efforts but at least there was a bit of zest and intent, something that had previously been lacking.
As good as Wolves were in the second half, Town didn’t help themselves with some sloppy passing. Too many times they gave the ball away cheaply when the opposition needed no extra help.
Limited options for change
Many supporters have pondered why McCarthy left it until the 83rd minute before making any changes with his side trailing. In truth, he had very few game-changers on the bench such is the thinness of his injury-hit squad.
Grant Ward is not fully fit having only just returned from a groin tear. Then there was midfield destroyer Luke Hyam, the transfer-listed Kevin Bru, defenders Myles Kenlock and Adam Webster (again, not fully fit) and Freddie Sears – a confidence-shot striker who has not scored, or looked like scoring, for quite some time.
‘My goalscorers were all on the pitch,’ said the Blues boss afterwards – and he’s right. The only question mark is why 19-year-old striker Aaron Drinan, who has reportedly been catching the eye in training following his recent move from Irish side Waterford, wasn’t among the subs.
Chucking him on might just have lifted the crowd. The counter-argument, one presumes, is that McCarthy felt he needed two central midfielders on the bench given Gleeson’s lack of games this season and the fact Connolly had picked up a knock the previous weekend.
David McGoldrick again looked completely wasted in a wide right role. For long periods of the game he was virtually right-back. Talk about not playing to his strengths.
The problem is that Martyn Waghorn wasn’t particularly good wide right earlier in the season either. Town were often overrun down that side when he was there.
McCarthy is trying to crowbar two No.10s into the team and it’s not working. Square pegs in round holes has been a recurring theme.
McGoldrick’s body language wasn’t great. For all his undoubted quality, he’s struggled with injuries and consistency for a while now. The 30-year-old is out of contract in the summer and it seems to be a question of when, not if he leaves the club. Don’t be surprised if the Blues accept a cut-price offer for one of their highest earners before Wednesday night’s 11pm deadline.
Pride to play for
Soon we can forget about the unrealistic talk of a play-off push. Town have won just once in their last eight games across all competitions, scoring just four times during that run. They have claimed just three points from a possible 33 against teams currently in the top eight. They remain 12th in the Championship table but the gap to the top six has widened to eight.
Next up is games against lowly Sunderland (a) and Burton (h) before the cross-border trip to Norwich. The Canaries won 1-0 at Brentford today and are only behind the Blues courtesy of goal difference.
Regional bragging rights is about all Town have got left to play for this season.