Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: Just another game? Come on, let’s give this Wycombe match the narrative it deserves

Luke Garbutt celebrates his equalising penalty during Town's 2-2 draw with Blackpool at Portman Road

Luke Garbutt celebrates his equalising penalty during Town's 2-2 draw with Blackpool at Portman Road Photo: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town remain second in League One following yesterday’s 2-2 home draw with Blackpool. STUART WATSON reflects on the action and looks ahead to Tuesday night’s visit of table-topping Wycombe.

Joe Nuttall wheels away after scoring to level at 1-1.
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.

Joe Nuttall wheels away after scoring to level at 1-1. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Saturday's press conference concluded with Paul Lambert asking if I had a wife. When I replied in the affirmative, he offered his sympathy to her for having to live with such a pessimist. Or words to that affect.

All I'd done is raise the fact that Wycombe had scored a stoppage-time winner to open up a five-point gap ahead of Tuesday night's top-of-the-table clash at Portman Road.

"It's a disaster! An absolute unbelievable disaster!" he jokingly declared, before stressing that titles can't be won or lost in November and that this is just the next game in a marathon that doesn't end until May.

He's right, of course. A look back at the last 10 years in this division tells you that.

Luke Garbutt fires the Blues level against Blackpool from the penalty spot.
Terry Hunt says he shou

Luke Garbutt fires the Blues level against Blackpool from the penalty spot. Terry Hunt says he should be Town's full-time penalty taker. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller


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Wigan, Bristol City, Wolves, Brighton and Leeds all kept hold of their grips on automatic promotion spots from this stage onwards, but more teams ended up blowing it from a position of power at this point of the campaign.

MORE: Sunday Snap: A Donaissance, Huws commiting a cardinal sin, Norwood's football friends and Lambert's German six-a-side adventure

Here's the thing, football is game of emotions. It's the job of managers and players not to get caught up in them. And it's the job of us watching on from the outside in to do exactly the opposite. They stay level, we all ride the rollercoaster.

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One minute we've all been waxing lyrical about the strength in depth of this Town squad, their mental strength to bounce back from relegation and have been getting so carried away that there have been discussions about whether this group is equipped for the Championship.

The next minute, after a minor set back or two, we've concerned ourselves about just how convincing performances have been, the dangers of squad rotation and whether this newfound joy is built on sand.

Such mood swings are ridiculous. Of course they are. But, as the one-size-fits-all cliche goes, 'that's football'. Whatever that means.

MORE: Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-2 home draw with Blackpool

Ipswich may go up, they may not. Right now, if I'm honest, the odds on that could be a flip of a coin. If you pushed me to give a prediction, I'd squirm uncomfortably before replying that, yes, they'll do it. I wouldn't be betting my life on it though.

Luke Garbutt is congratulated by teammates Flynn Downes and Cole Skuse after scoring from the penalt

Luke Garbutt is congratulated by teammates Flynn Downes and Cole Skuse after scoring from the penalty spot to earn Town a 2-2 draw. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Lambert should take that as a compliment. Turning apathy to angst (the best kind of hopeful angst) is his greatest achievement since taking charge of this club. Call me a pessimist if you like. I prefer the term romantic realist.

Saturday's topsy-turvy 2-2 home draw with Blackpool was enjoyable as a spectacle. It had swings in momentum, jeopardy, goals and moments of controversy. Blues fans might have left a little disappointed it wasn't all three points, but none of them will have felt short-changed.

MORE: 'We were the better side... That's the first time a team has defended as deep as that' - Lambert on 2-2 draw with Blackpool

In many ways, that 90 minutes could end up being a snap-shot of the season. Ups, downs, excitement, disappointment. Will it be enough? Let's just keep enjoying the ride. Let's keep analysing the minutiae of every team selection, every kick and every refereeing decision because, well, otherwise what's the point?

Jay Spearing clears off the line.
Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Jay Spearing clears off the line. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Football fandom is less about the destination, but more about the journey. And I'm enjoying this particular one.

Wycombe 'just another game'? Nah. Let's give it the narrative it deserves. This is top versus second. The favourites versus the surprise package. Medals might not be handed out for the victors, if indeed there is one, but my word it would feel pretty darn big.

MORE: 'That's a frustrating draw... but Tuesday's massive now' - Ipswich fans react to 2-2 Blackpool draw

Whenever there are two home games in quick succession like this I always think back to 2014. When Mick McCarthy's men beat Wolves and Watford in back-to-back matches at Portman Road in early November it felt like a major moment. Something special was in the air. There was a sense of lift-off. We all began to truly believe.

Luke Garbutt celebrates his equalising penalty during Town's 2-2 draw with Blackpool at Portman Road

Luke Garbutt celebrates his equalising penalty during Town's 2-2 draw with Blackpool at Portman Road Photo: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

Ipswich still need that moment this season, I think. And the Chairboys will be looking for that themselves following on from Saturday's last-gasp win versus Doncaster. After Tuesday, their set of fixtures between now and the end of the January reads: Burton, Oxford, Portsmouth, Coventry, Ipswich again, Peterborough, Sunderland, Rochdale, Coventry, Blackpool. Have this season's surprise package got staying power? We'll see.

Lambert's squad rotation will continue. Janoi Donacien's return to form is an example of how that policy can work. He rebuilt his confidence thanks to three successive outings in the cup and now the potential absence of Kane Vincent-Young for a top-of-the-table clash doesn't seem quite as big a disaster.

MORE: Ratings: How the Ipswich Town players performed in their 2-2 home draw with Blackpool

Mind you, James Norwood's injury set-back could be used as evidence against it. Would he have picked up this niggle had he kept on playing after the win at Rochdale? Maybe, just maybe, the body becomes deconditioned when you have a break so quickly after a return from the treatment room. Us outsiders can only speculate. That's what we do.

Luke Woolfenden with his arm round teammate Anthony Georgiou after the game.
Picture: Steve Waller

Luke Woolfenden with his arm round teammate Anthony Georgiou after the game. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Can this be Town's week? Will this be Town's season? Tune in for the next episode of this football soap opera.

Town manager Paul Lambert heads back to the dressing room at half-time.
Picture: Steve Waller w

Town manager Paul Lambert heads back to the dressing room at half-time. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

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