What did we learn from Ipswich Town’s defeat at Gillingham?
Ipswich Town lost 2-1 at League One side Gillingham on Saturday. Stuart Watson looks at what we learned from the first set-back of pre-season...
Plenty of positives
Ok, so no-one likes losing to a Gillingham side that recently avoided League One relegation by the skin of their teeth, but the focus should be on Town’s performance rather than the result.
The Blues dominated the first-half, kept the ball on the floor, moved it quickly and, just like at Peterborough last Tuesday night, were pretty easy on the eye. Some dramatic body-on-the-line defending denied the Blues on three occasions, while Freddie Sears put a good chance wide too.
Town conceded to a Tom Eaves penalty (53), harshly awarded after ex-Blues winger Lee Martin went down easily in the box, and a Scott Wagstaff wonder strike (78) after the break before Danny Rowe ghosted in at the far post to head home Conor McKendry’s inch-perfect cross (80).
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There were a couple of defensive lapses from skipper Luke Chambers, the tempo dropped a little in the second half, but overall there was more good than bad. The most encouraging thing is that Town will hopefully a bit more easy on the eye in 2017/18.
McCarthy said: “I’d had preferred to have got something, but there were positives. We’re trying to play more on the floor and I think we’ve been doing that in pre-season.
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“There were some good blocks, some saves, a couple of misses, but I was really pleased with the first half performance. Second half not much was happening until a penalty changes it. We didn’t move the ball as quick, didn’t create as many chances, they sat back at 1-0 looking to catch us on the break and got a wonder goal worthy of winning any game, in any league, in any country.”
Celina will excite
Tricky winger Bersant Celina has undoubtedly got another couple of gears in him yet.
The 20-year-old Kosovan international, on a season-long loan from Manchester City, missed a fair bit of training through illness and is only just starting to get up to speed.
He’s the sort of player that gets fans off their seats. There was one moment in the second half when he controlled the ball dead, jinked inside past two defenders and left the keeper rooted to the spot with a sublime curling effort that came back off the far post.
He spent most of the game drifting into central positions and time will tell if McCarthy allows him the freedom to roam and express himself. Celina dragging full-backs out of position and Myles Kenlock exploiting the space could be a dangerous weapon.
Midfield injury crisis
Midfield had looked the position in which Town were best stocked, but all of a sudden the door is open for academy graduates due to injuries and illness.
The Blues had six central players unavailable at Priestfield. Cole Skuse is the latest player in the camp to be ill, Tom Adeyemi has now not been feeling well for 10 days, while Emyr Huws continues to be left out as a precaution over his sore calf/Achilles.
Teddy Bishop has, rather worryingly, got another groin problem, Luke Hyam continues to be treated with kid gloves following a long-term ankle injury, while Town are also treading carefully with Andre Dozzell after he returned from the European Under-19 Championships requiring injections for an impact hip injury.
That meant that 18-year-old Flynn Downes partnered the transfer-listed Kevin Bru from the start. Downes, the undoubted star of this summer, once again caught the eye with his tenacious, positive, box-to-box play. Judging by Mick McCarthy’s comments, he might just have played himself into the team for the Championship opener against Birmingham, at Portman Road, in little less than a fortnight.
Bru looked more like the player who impressed early in his Town career and his impending exit looks to be on hold. McCarthy said: “Kevin Bru was available to go until I got five midfield players injured. Fair play to Kevin, he’s come back in good shape and played well.”
Town take on Essex neighbours Colchester United, at The Weston Homes Community Stadium, tomorrow night.
McCarthy says that many of the players who came on at Gillingham will start, including Dominic Iorfa, Adam Webster and David McGoldrick.
We’ll get a better idea of McCarthy’s likely opening day line-up when we see what team he picks for the final friendly, at Charlton Athletic, on Saturday.