The Verdict: Relief is the buzzword but Town can’t bask in Swansea win... there’s still plenty of work to do
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Football writer Andy Warren gives his verdict at the end of a dramatic week for Ipswich Town.
Relief. It’s a word we’ve heard a lot since 4.54pm on Saturday.
You could feel it in the air as the final whistle went at the Liberty Stadium.
You could see it on the pitch as Luke Chambers embraced manager Paul Hurst before heading to the away support to thump the air with his fist.
You could hear it both in the crowd’s reaction and in Hurst’s words as he spoke post-match.
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I defy anyone not to feel pleased for the Ipswich Town manager after he finally got his first win in charge of his new side. It’s been a long time coming and there’s been plenty of scrutiny, questions and doubt along the way, but the monkey’s off his side’s back.
His players showed character in the extreme to secure victory against a good Swansea side. Character that has been questioned by those on the outside looking in, as well as internally, during the early weeks of Hurst’s reign. The scene at the final whistle was one of a manager, players and support united.
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But this was just game. One long overdue win.
The Ipswich manager was himself quick to insist, both pre and post-match, that securing a maiden victory doesn’t automatically mean the Blues are destined to shoot up the Championship table with ease.
It’s not ‘lift off’ just yet.
There is still an awful lot of work to do and, while it seems silly to say this given Ipswich have won just one of their 12 league games to date, feet must stay on the ground.
“We’ve certainly not cracked it” – were Hurst’s words on Saturday evening.
Reaching the second international break of the season without a win to their name was both unthinkable and worryingly probable prior to Saturday’s game and there’s no doubt those two weeks would have been extremely difficult for Hurst had that been the case.
That break can now be used to prepare for five games coming immediately after, that you feel could shape Ipswich Town’s season from this point.
The visit to Leeds aside, in many ways a free hit, the Blues face four sides in the bottom third of the table.
Games against QPR, Millwall, Preston and Reading give Ipswich an opportunity to build on the positivity of Saturday. Success would mean a move up the standings and the chance for Hurst to continue to build his foundations in the relative safety of mid-table. Disappointment would surely mean a relegation dogfight looms.
The hope has to be that the Ipswich players can benefit from playing without the winless weight round their necks, freed from the pressure the wait for victory had built above them.
Hurst’s Blues have had good spells and taken positives from the majority of their games this season but had not been able to put together complete displays – that’s the goal now they have proven to themselves they can win as a team.
The questions still remain despite Saturday’s win, though.
Can the players stepping up to the Championship for the first time produce on a consistent basis and en masse? Can the experienced players at the club step up and help them do it? Can Kayden Jackson and Freddie Sears, who was excellent in south Wales, shoulder the striking load in the absence of Jon Walters and Ellis Harrison?
A quarter of the season has now gone with three-quarters remaining and plenty of pieces of the puzzle to find.
A vital one was put in place on Saturday, much later than anyone dared imagine in August, with plenty of hard work still to come if Hurst and Ipswich are to get to where they want to go.
But let’s all another small step in the right direction, for two weeks at least.