Stuart says: Six observations from Ipswich Town’s goalless draw with QPR
PUBLISHED: 20:00 26 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:01 26 December 2017
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town played out a goalless draw with QPR at Portman Road today. STUART WATSON looks at some of the key talking points.
Boxing Day borefest
This was a Boxing Day bout that lacked punched and many inside the boosted 18,696 crowd must have wished they’d stayed at home for a cold meat buffet and festive film.
Town have been good to watch at Portman Road this season, but today the entertainment value dipped back to the low levels of a forgettable 2016/17 campaign.
Unforced errors from both sides and some pedantic refereeing meant this game, particularly in the second half, never had any momentum.
Mick McCarthy made five changes to the team which narrowly lost 1-0 at Championship leaders Wolves on Saturday. Out dropped Jordan Spence, Myles Kenlock, Kevin Bru, Grant Ward and Bersant Celina to be replaced by Dominic Iorfa, Jonas Knudsen (fit-again after illness), Teddy Bishop, David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears.
You could see the logic given Town, who have festive games against Derby (h) and Fulham (a) coming up, are in the middle of a demanding festive schedule containing four games in 11 days.
Ward and Celina have put in some real shifts on the flanks recently, while Bru, who has had limited game time, looked knackered at Molineux.
On paper this was the most attacking Ipswich Town line-up seen in a long, long time. Four strikers up top and two adventurous midfielders in support was an exciting prospect, but offensively they just did not click.
In hindsight, it was too many changes and more evidence that square pegs in rounds holes doesn’t work. McGoldrick and Sears are wasted on the flanks and Town lacked natural width.
Tale of two penalties (not given)
As poor as they’d been, Town should have been awarded a get out of jail free card in the 90th minute when Joe Garner’s goalbound header was stopped by the out-stretched arm of Jack Robinson in the box.
Then again, the Blues probably got away with one themselves moments later when Iorfa stooped to unconvincingly deal with a cross from the right. Referee Andy Davies ruled it had hit his chest, though there may have been an arm involved too.
McCarthy was honest enough to say that both should have been spot-kicks.
‘It’s a point in our pocket’.
We’ve heard that Mick McCarthy mantra, or variations of it, on numerous occasions during his five-year spell in charge of the Blues.
A draw was the fair result today, and Town weren’t at it, but it probably wasn’t wise for McCarthy to make such a big deal about how he was ‘happy to take the draw’ in the closing stages.
Seeing out a point away from home against in-form opposition is one thing, but at home against a side struggling in 18th (and with just one win on their travels all season) is entirely different.
This game was crying out for a spark, yet McCarthy waited until the 84th minute to introduce skilful Manchester City loanee Bersant Celina to the biggest cheer of the afternoon.
The Kosovan international had an instant impact, curling a free-kick narrowly over and then taking on his marker before providing the cross which led to the Garner header and penalty appeals.
These are the sort of games that Town really need to win in order to stand any chance of sneaking into the play-offs.
More often than not they have come up short on their travels against the division’s leading lights, so dropped points at home in ‘winnable’ fixtures will always be costly.
Town remain 10th in the Championship table, but the gap to the top six has widen to five points with some tough games against Derby (h) and Fulham (a) next up.
It was heartbreaking to see Teddy Bishop limp off with a hamstring injury in the 41st minute seemingly on the verge of tears.
The 21-year-old had looked Town’s brightest spark in what was only his second senior start of 2017. There was a lovely spin on the halfway line that drew acclaim and a few driving runs that got people off their seats.
You just begin to wonder whether the talent homegrown player is ever going to be able to stay fully fit for a long enough spell to rediscover his impressive form of 2014/15.
And central midfield was the last position that Town needed any more injuries. They now have eight – yes, eight – sidelined for that slot.
Emyr Huws (knee) and Andre Dozzell (knee) are out for the season, while it’s not clear when Cole Skuse (foot), Tom Adeyemi (hamstring), Luke Hyam (knee), Flynn Downes (calf) and Tristan Nydam (hip) will be available again.
Mick McCarthy says Skuse – whose defensive cover was missed today – is ‘doubtful’ for the weekend visit of Derby.