Today the question was would we have a performance like that delivered away at Portsmouth (determined, committed, effective, 3 points), or that away at Gillingham (could have been better, could have been worse, take the draw), or at Burton (error-strewn, complacent, played crap and lost)? Both teams were going into the game on the back of disappointing midweek defeats (Ipswich losing 0-3 at home to Hull) and will have been keen to get back on track.
In the event I’d say it was something between Portsmouth and Gillingham. No way around the fact that the defence is not going to be as solid as when we had either or both of Innis and Famewo, at least not until Pearce (and Oshilaja) are back, we coughed up some chances in the first half in particular which Ipswich failed to take. If they had scored first the game would have been different. But also we cut out the truly bad errors seen against Burton and put in a much more disciplined performance, while let’s face it Burton had players that caused us far more problems than Ipswich did. We were perhaps a little fortunate to be ahead at the break but the second goal effectively killed the game off and we saw it out without serious alarm, no question that by the end we merited the victory.
The team looked like a 4-4-2 (or however that is described these days, a diamond midfield), with an unchanged defence in front of Amos (Matthews, Gunter, Pratley and Maatsen), in midfield Watson in front of the back four and Shinnie and Morgan (given the start which his display on Tuesday night merited) either side of him and Williams given a start to form the point, while Aneke started instead of Bogle alongside Smyth. Gilbey and Morrison dropped to the bench.
One thing was clear from early in the game, that Amos was under different instructions and his kicking out seemed an indication that after Tuesday we’d adopt a more basic approach. And in a broadly even first 20 minutes Ipswich looked the more dangerous, especially as when their guy got goalside of Gunter only to shoot over, while we almost forced an own goal as an Aneke flick on was almost met by Williams only for the defender to get there first but force a save from his own keeper. So it was a little against the balance of play that we took the lead. Aneke won the ball on the edge of the area and fed it into Shinnie, whose ball back in took a deflection but sat up for Morgan to hit on the half-volley into the net.
That helped to settle us and Ipswich’s cause was not helped by an injury to their forward, who went off. Amos saved well from a flick from a free kick and then turned one over the bar after Pratley had failed to usher the ball out for a goalkick and was caught out. Just before the break Smyth seemed to be sent clear by another Aneke flick and went down under the challenge. If the ref had given a foul it surely would have been a red card too, but decided there was not sufficient contact.
At the break you felt that we would need to score again to win. They were edging the stats on possession and shots, we had the goal in the bag but had still allowed chances resulting from defensive errors. We were doing OK, Morgan was doing good work (at this point I had him down as man-of-the-half, not just for scoring), Williams was causing them problems, while Aneke was as ever a handful. Perhaps most important Watson seemed to be providing good cover, while Shinnie was more prominent in this formation than out wider in a flat midfield four.
The second half continued in a similar vein, with Ipswich not surprisingly starting with more intent, probably after a bit of a call for more effort from their manager. Not long into the half rather surprisingly Gilbey came on for Williams. Perhaps it was a knock or Bowyer feeling he was running out of steam. But the formation stayed the same. Then after the hour we had a further change as Smyth tried to retrieve a ball he’d lost and stayed down, obviously in some discomfort. The commentators thought it might have been his ankle or knee and when the motorised stretcher came out it looked pretty bad. He did leave the pitch, but was at least sitting up as it drove off. Bogle replaced him, which meant the first time he and Aneke would be paired.
That pairing didn’t last long, but before Aneke departed we scored again. A long throw dropped to Pratley, who hit it across goal and glory be Bogle got on the end of it to score at last. Hopefully the first of many.
It was Purrington who replaced Aneke, with Maatsen moving further forward, creating a kind of front three with Gilbey and Bogle. It was a little unbalanced but that really didn’t matter. In the final 20 minutes (and seven minutes of stoppage time) it was all about not letting them back into the game. And that was achieved well enough, only one or two anxious moments.
By the end it was a hard-earned victory, albeit at the cost of Smyth being added to the injury list and Maatsen getting another yellow and a one-game suspension. It was a job done well enough, not perfect but enough.
Amos – 8/10. Why given anything less when the guy has made two excellent saves and dealt with everything else that came his way?
Matthews – 7/10. Another efficient and decent performance.
Gunter – 6/10. Was done once by their guy and that almost cost us a goal, otherwise not bad, if the mark was for attitude and effort in an unfamiliar position the score would be much higher.
Pratley – 6/10. As for Gunter. If Ipswich had scored from the chance that came from his mistake the game would have been different, but we are asking him to do a job.
Maatsen – 6/10. Think today he was trying to stick more to basics after the errors on Tuesday night. Also think the one-game ban will do him no harm, he could use the rest, perhaps needs a break to come back as fresh as when he started.
Watson – 8/10. Over the 90 mins I’d make him man of the match. Today he showed what we expected from him, in terms of protecting the defence and keeping the midfield functioning going forward.
Shinnie – 7/10. Decent performance, involved in our first goal, tidy and effective.
Morgan – 8/10. Excellent first half, less prominent in the second, perhaps as the personnel changes caused some confusion.
Williams – 7/10. Thought he played well in a position which suits him, caused them problems. But didn’t last the hour.
Smyth – 7/10. Slight concern that he bungled a first-half chance which came his way, went down under the challenge when it looked like he was through on goal. Have to hope the injury proves not to be serious.
Aneke – 7/10. We saw today what Bowyer has been talking about regarding it being tougher against central defenders before they start to tire. Decent game, caused problems.
Gilbey – 6/10. Came on shortly before we went two ahead and the rest of the game was about shoring things up not looking for more.
Bogle – 7/10. Now he has the first in the bag we hope for more.
Purrington – 7/10. Did well, broke up attacks. He will presumably have the opportunity to impress over 90 minutes in midweek.