Stuart Watson’s Sunday Verdict: ‘A frustrating draw – but the right kind of frustrating’
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town drew 1-1 with Sunderland in their opening home game of the season yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his final thoughts on the action.
A frustrating draw - but the right kind of frustrating.
Not frustrating in the sense that it was safe, attritional, boring and predictable. And not frustrating in the sense you left the ground feeling like it was a complete waste of time and money.
Instead, frustrating in that Town had been the better side, the side who had shown more attacking intent and who had, somehow, managed to drop two points.
It was far from perfect. There were mis-placed passes, over-hit set-pieces and long punts that drifted out of play. But there were also driving runs, moments of skill and, at times, a wonderful controlled chaos about it all.
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This was engaging. It was high-octane. It was real rather than robotic. 'Rock and roll' football, as Paul Lambert dubbed it afterwards.
It wasn't that long ago that crowds of around 13,000 ironically cheered Town's first shot on target late in games at Portman Road. Yesterday, more than 24,000 enjoyed seeing their side produce 17 shots on goal and force eight corners.
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The feeling at the full-time whistle was temporary deflation, rather than deep-set disillusionment.
Okay, actually I retract the 'not predictable' part of that earlier statement. Playing well, not scoring a killer second and shooting themselves in the foot with a defensive error is Town's new predictable. That happened so many times as the Blues slipped to relegation under Lambert last season.
That's a predictable with light at the end of the tunnel though. A predictable that, hopefully, can be fixed.
Luke Chambers messed up. He knows that. No-one will be more frustrated than himself, trust me.
There will be some who write him off. Now he needs to respond. I'll stick my head above the parapet here and say he will. That costly moment aside, he had a pretty solid game.
James Norwood had a slightly frustrating day at the office. He fought for every aerial ball, tried to link up play and, whenever a sniff at goal did come, there was always traffic in the way.
This, remember, is a man who has never played at this level before. Let's give him time to find his feet. The goals, I am confident, will come.
Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes look an excellent pairing in midfield. Luke Garbutt has scored two in two. Danny Rowe, full of trickery, looks ready to finally make his mark in a blue shirt.
There's still Alan Judge and Emyr Huws to get back up to speed. There's still Toto Nsiala, Jon Nolan and Gwion Edwards - all proven at this level - to come back, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
The likes of Teddy Bishop, Freddie Sears and Jack Lankester will hopefully be like proverbial 'new signings' later in the campaign.
I must admit, I raised my eyebrows when Lambert made such a big thing of his need to sign three more players recently. This is a good squad.
The injuries are stacking up though and, if the Blues are to be serious promotion contenders, then there probably does need to be some more competition in certain areas.
A striker to help take some of the pressure of Norwood's shoulders would be nice.
A winger now looks a must as we wait for the prognosis of Garbutt's knee injury.
Don't rule out a versatile full-back either. Someone to keep Myles Kenlock and Janoi Donacien on their toes.
Back to yesterday. Sunderland - the bookies' favourites for promotion - barely laid a glove on Town. It was all pretty comfortable.
This could and should have been back-to-back wins (the things that put you in the promotion mix) and back-to-back clean sheets (the things that win titles).
If Burton and Sunderland are yardsticks for good teams in this division, then League One really shouldn't hold much fear for the Blues.
The losing habit has hopefully been shaken off. Now Town just need to find a winning one.