Town lose again
CALL it a blip if you will, or a crisis if you must, but don't say it's irretrievable.The Blues, and their followers, today have a stark choice – do or die.
CALL it a blip if you will, or a crisis if you must, but don't say it's irretrievable.
The Blues, and their followers, today have a stark choice – do or die.
They can throw their arms in the air, aghast at Town's first back-to-back defeats of a season that has entered the final quarter, and cry 'the wheels are coming off'.
Or they can face the problems squarely in the face, realise there are 33 points to play for and quite simply be positive and get on with finishing the job so ably started.
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There is no doubt that in the dressing room this morning the coaching staff and players will not be throwing in any towels, except for the ones used to wipe off the sweat from the hard work needed to put things right.
Quite what it is they have to do to put things right is not so straight forward.
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Eradicate the errors, put away the chances, show more imagination in midfield.
East to say not so easy to execute – especially when the opposition have you sussed.
There is no getting away from the fact that Town were pretty abysmal against a QPR side who arrived at Portman Road with a game-plan, got a lucky break, and then stuck to their task.
Kelvin Davis, so often the reason why Town have won this season, had one of those days we all dread, but will try to banish from memory from this day forth.
As Rangers players glared at referee Andy D'Urso for awarding a free kick against them when they thought Richard Naylor had barged over Paul Furlong, who stumbled and handled the ball, Davis was taking the free kick.
The keeper slipped on the soft surface, the ball flew into the middle of the retreating Furlong's back, and as stunned as he was, it fell invitingly back down on to his head and perfectly into his path. The striker's finish from 16-yards was as true as it was fortuitous and his third goal in two games against Ipswich, help make up his 16 goals for the season.
There were still 86 minutes for Davis's team-mates to bale him out, as he has done them so often, but, unlike Tuesday's defeat against Watford when they created a raft of chances, the Blues never got into their stride.
That said, Simon Royce, who used to ply his trade with Ryman League club Heybridge Swifts, needed to make sharp saves from Darren Currie, Darren Bent and Pablo Counago.
But for the most part Town were stifled in midfield, looked edgy at the back and lacked conviction up front.
QPR's front two Kevin Gallen and Paul Furlong took it in turns to drop back and help to double-team Jim Magilton. Martin Rowlands sat on Currie although he, with assistance from David Unsworth, did get free on occasions to play some balls into the area.
But for the most part Town resorted to pumping balls up to James Scowcroft who battled to win the flick-ons for a hard working but fairly ineffectual Bent to try and get on to.
Tommy Miller tried to support from wide right but his only opportunity ended up sailing over the bar.
Bent started going wide in search of the ball, and when he put it into the box there was no one where Bent should have been, to finish off.
The call from the fans to introduce Pablo Counago, and then Dean Bowditch, were answered by the manager, but neither were to be the saviours the Town faithful hoped for.
Counago did sting Royce's hands with a powerful shot and did well to pull a ball back for Bowditch but his touch deserted him and he sliced a left-foot shot wide.
Expectancy was already giving way to an air of resignation when Town were totally deflated by a bog-standard free kick, 15 minutes from time.
Martin Rowlands floated the ball in from 30 yards, Davis called to collect but didn't as Danny Shittu rounded off a terrific performance with a powerful header from six yards. Worryingly Ipswich could easily have already been two-down as Marc Bircham had a 22nd minute goal disallowed when Furlong was ruled to have pushed David Unsworth as he headed back across goal a Lee Cook cross, during one of Rangers' frequent counters.
That Shefki Kuqi was missed is without question but this Ipswich team have enough good players, with enough skill and quality, that they should be able to do without him.
What they appear to lack is quickness and sharpness, especially in midfield, to escape close attention and worry the opposition. Then when pressed, as they have been in recent weeks, lack the guile and craft to break teams down. Town have not been at anything like their best since they beat Wigan on December 21 to go top, but they have also shown in the recent past that they are at the best and most dangerous when their backs are against the wall.
Going to the league leaders on Saturday without the suspended Jason De Vos and James Scowcroft, both who have reached five bookings, will add to the woes.
To slip out of the top two, where they have been for around three months, may be of concern to some but the truth is, they are level on points with Sunderland and Wigan, who they still have to play.
It is by no means certain those two clubs will beat everyone else, who would have thought Wigan would be beaten by Gillingham or Sunderland would lose against Brighton?
It won't be easy but automatic promotion, and indeed the title, is still very much up for grabs.
It may be time for Town to get back to basics, rediscover the hunger and meanness that took them top in the first place and show that the indefatigable team spirit that is much-vaunted, can produce something tangible.
There may just be three wheels on the wagon now – but Town are still rolling along.