Stu Says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 loss at Sunderland
Ipswich Town were beaten 1-0 at Sunderland this afternoon. Here, Stuart Watson gives his thoughts.
NO KILLER INSTINCT
'Ipswich Town were made to pay for their profligacy in a classic game of two halves'. It's not the first time those words have been uttered this season.
Sometimes it has happened in reverse. Win, lose or draw, more often than not the Blues have struggled to put together a convincing 90 minute display.
The biggest frustration of today is that the Blues were well in this game. Unlike against Rotherham and Peterborough previously they gave themselves a fantastic platform.
Operation make the 30,000+ home crowd edgy worked a treat for the opening 45 minutes. With Cole Skuse sitting and protecting, Town committed men to the attack and Sunderland were pinned in their own half for long spells.
Wing-backs Janoi Donacien and Myles Kenlock bombed on, wide centre-backs Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden supported when possible, Flynn Downes was a driving force in the middle, while the movement of advanced trio Jon Nolan, Will Keane and James Norwood was constant and clever.
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The Blues pressed high, bossed possession and worked some really good positions in the final third. The last ball was often lacking though. And when the chances came they were squandered.
Keane headed over from a Woolfenden cross and saw another effort inside a crowded box blocked. Norwood saw a clipped one-on-one effort blocked by the on-rushing keeper (when he might have been better served going around him) and rifled another attempt wide. Nolan snatched at a couple of chances in decent positions.
After the break, Norwood spurned another golden opportunity when Sunderland were penalised for a back pass. Blacks Cats players lined up on the goalline to defend a free-kick from just eight yards out, Skuse tapped it off, but Town's No.10 pulled his shot off target. Was he trying to find Donacien with a disguised pass? Either way it was not good enough from a man who was recruited to produce in big moments.
Even at the very end, when 1-0 down, substitute Kayden Jackson failed to pull the trigger in a great position and Downes volleyed over after a long throw was flicked on. Both were great opportunities to snatch a draw. To not work the keeper with either rather summed up Town's afternoon.
MADE TO PAY
Sunderland were never going to be as flat after a half-time reset. You see it so often when a team scrapes into the break level.
The tone was set within a minute of the restart when Donacien had to make a last-ditch block on Denver Humes.
Moments later, Lynden Gooch weaved his way past three players before firing against the post.
The Black Cats were now the team very much on top. The difference was, their dominant half always looked more likely to produce a goal than Ipswich's.
Chambers had to foul Charlie Wyke as he raced towards the box, Donacien made another big block on Hume and then Tomas Holy clawed a Max Power attempt out the top corner.
After Norwood's big free-kick chance, Sunderland's dominance resumed as Bailey Wright side-footed against the crossbar. When Maguire guided a crisp low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box it was, sadly, no surprise.
It's no excuse, but Ipswich have certainly had their fair share of big decisions from referees going against them this season.
After Wright had rattled the bar, Lambert brought on Emyr Huws and Kayden Jackson. Within seconds, Huws had won a header in the box only to be clattered late by punching keeper McLaughlin.
Lambert's right. Anywhere else on the pitch and that's a free-kick.
Accrington, Wycombe, Oxford... There are plenty of fine margin games that could have swung in Town's favour had some big calls gone their way.
First Rotherham, then Peterborough, now Sunderland.
That's three defeats on the spin. Three defeats against promotion rivals who, on every occasion, have leapfrogged Ipswich in the table.
For the first time since August, the Blues have dropped out of the top six.
Yes, there are still 42 points still to play for, but the following statistics give cause for concern.
Town's record against the current top eight now reads: P11 W0 D6 L5. Their record across all competitions since the middle of October reads: P26 W6 D9 L11. It's five wins in 19 in the league. All of a sudden, the encouraging start to 2020 seems like the anomaly rather than a genuine corner turned.
Also worrying is the fact that the four teams immediately above and seven immediately below all have at least one game in hand to come.
FIGHT FOR THE SHIRT
Donacien, in for the suspended Gwion Edwards, did well at right wing-back. He pressed high first half and made some big blocks in his own box.
Kenlock, in for the injured Luke Garbutt, produced a fine pass for Norwood's one-on-one chance, but on other occasions he wasn't instinctive enough in the final third. Then a lot of Sunderland play came down his side after the break.
Tomas Holy, back between the sticks following Will Norris' error against Posh, did alright. He just about got to the ball first following a charge that saw him almost reach the dugouts. He also made that really good save from Power. Expect him to keep his place at AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday.