I think the requirement for tonight
was clear: to demonstrate, through both the result and the performance, that
the points dropped at Morecombe and Shrewsbury will come to amount to nothing
more than a blip – and in tandem with this there is no fading of the positive
JJ impact, that the opposition weren’t starting to suss us out. To be fair we
didn’t know how Ipswich would shape up, having just got rid of their manager.
Fair to say we got what we wanted.
After an uncertain start, once we scored there was really only one team in it,
the only problem being that it took us until almost the end to make the points
safe. For that Ipswich’s keeper takes a good deal of the credit, although we
were not clinical enough in taking very good chances. That is, really, the only
criticism as we were dominant in all areas of the pitch and had the leaders. I
don’t know if Ipswich had a poor evening, if we made them look poor, or both.
If there was one area in which they let their fans down it was in their
reaction to going behind, it seemed to stun and undermine them rather than
prompt them to raise their game. And although they enjoyed a reasonable amount
of possession they had nobody able to provide the spark and galvanise others to
get back into the game. Quite frankly, they looked a lot like we did under
The team and squad was always going to
be about availability, as it is fair to say that if all are available we could
pretty much guess the starting XI. The return of Stockley was assumed, and it
had been indicated that Pearce would be available again (but that Blackett-Taylor
would be on the injured list). Both were indeed confirmed, with Clare retained
as the third centre-back rather than Gunter, Purrington and Jaiyesimi the
wing-backs, the midfield trio of Dobson, Gilbey and Lee, plus Stockley and
Washington up front. On the bench Elerewe and Soare provided the defensive
options, Watson and Kirk for midfield, plus Leko and Davison for the attack –
really a much better balanced mix than often of late, reflecting players being available
Ipswich did start the brighter and in
the first 10 minutes at least we struggled to put anything together, especially
as Lee began by sending a corner and a free-kick straight down their keeper’s
throat. We did get more into it after that, with a good run and cross from
Purrington on the left leading to DJ heading over. But let’s be honest, when we
took the lead on 25 minutes we can’t say it had been coming and there was no
inkling of the change to the game that goal would produce.
Washington, as he was to do all
night, found space between their defenders, timed his run well to just stay
onside, and was picked out with a ball from Dobson played into the channel on the
left side. He took it on and from a narrowish angle hit a shot which their
keeper parried well, only for Stockley to be first to the rebound and hit it
crisply low into the net.
Taking the lead inflated us, just as
it deflated them. For the remainder of the first half it was just a question of
whether we could take advantage of being on top to extend the lead. But a
succession of half-chances came and went. Washington showed great control to
take down a high ball and get a shot away, only for it to be blocked, Stockley
headed over from a corner, Gilbey played in Jaiyesimi for another effort
blocked. Washington this time (unlike against Rotherham) didn’t get away with a
push in the back to win the ball. Ipswich did have one or two dangerous
situations with balls into the box, but no actual attempts on target.
In the second half Ipswich did seem
to play more direct and did cause a few problems early on, although the
returning Bonne was cutting an increasingly frustrated figure. However, it was
us almost adding to the lead as Stockley played in Washington down the right,
his cross was deflected but bounced down and over their keeper, and Purrington
coming in at the far post seemed set to score, only for his header to be rather
too central, allowing their keeper to get across and save. And as Ipswich’s enthusiasm
seemed again to fade, a Purrington low cross evaded everyone, Lee saw an effort
blocked, as did Gilbey, then Lee had a close-range header saved after a
knockback from Purrington.
Just past the hour Ipswich brought on
another prodigal son, this time in the form of Pigott to partner Bonne. It didn’t
change anything as next Dobson won the ball, played it wide to Washington, and
his ball back across picked out Lee but his shot was too central and the keeper
saved again. Clare had a long range shot saved.
With about 20 minutes left, after
Pearce had unceremoniously pulled down their guy and jogged away with a yellow,
DJ was replaced by Leko. The next action was an astonishing run by Gilbey, who
almost made it through on his own. I remember thinking as the clock ticked down,
can we please just score again and put this game to bed, we all know what can
happen. The next big chance was route one as MacGillivray’s long clearance was
flicked on by Stockley and Washington seemed to be in. He hit a shot across
their keeper, who stuck out a leg to keep them in it. A Lee free kick near the
byline found Pearce whose knockdown was met by Washington but the shot turned around
for a corner. For good measure Leko got in on the act, running inside and
getting off a shot. Another save.
Just when we were starting to really
get concerned we did get the goal to put the game to bed. Washington managed to
keep the ball alive down our left and worked it back to Lee. He spotted a run
from Gilbey and picked him out. There was still plenty to do, but Gilbey nicked
it inside and went past their defender, now only the keeper to beat. And this
time he was given no chance, the ball planted into the far corner of the net.
Cue mass celebrations and considerable relief inside and outside The Valley.
If you were to be hypercritical there
were elements that weren’t perfect. DJ did his defensive duties well but seemed
a little hesitant going forward, while Leko will need more instruction in the
art of playing wing-back if he is to be considered for the role (presumably
Blackett-Taylor will be back). Lee had a less effective game than before,
wasted some set-pieces and didn’t convert some good chances; but he was still
able to pick out Gilbey for the decisive second. And Washington did everything
tonight – except put the ball into the net.
If we can end every game with just
such issues to point out we will all be very happy. In the end the performance
echoed that against Plymouth, we allowed them not a single effort on target all
night, with MacGillivray having not a shot to save. Famewo made the odd bad
choice (which did not escape Steve Brown) but generally dominated their forwards
physically, as did Pearce, while Dobson was once again quietly very, very
effective. Collectively they were up for it and clearly shared in the delight
of an excellent team performance. Another like that on Saturday please.