Stu says: Seven observations from Ipswich Town’s 3-0 home win against Preston
PUBLISHED: 18:47 04 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:16 05 November 2017
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town beat Preston North 3-0 at Portman Road in a Championship match this afternoon. STUART WATSON analyses the action.
FORGETTABLE FIRST FORTY-FIVE
Let’s get the negatives out the way first.
We’ve seen some pretty forgettable halves of football at Portman Road over the last two years, but this first period was right up there with the dullest.
Preston were happy to contain and attempt long balls up to lone striker Jordan Hugill, while Town lacked any creative spark or ideas. The ball was in the air a lot more than on the floor.
Things weren’t helped by the constant punctuation of the referee’s whistle and several injury stoppages. Things just never got started.
By the time the game reached stoppage-time, neither team had registered a shot on target. And there was only one off-target attempt apiece too.
Yes, it really was that bad.
WAGHORN STRIKES AGAIN
Many expected Bersant Celina to step up when Town won a free-kick on the edge of the Preston box in first-half stoppage-time given his late set-piece winner at Burton last weekend.
Instead, Martyn Waghorn coolly caressed the dead ball into the far corner of the net. The wall was poorly placed, keeper Chris Maxwell took a step in the wrong direction, but who cares? If ever a game needed a goal…
Waghorn has now scored eight goals in 10 league starts and three substitute appearances since his summer arrival.
And it was his driving run and slick interplay with David McGoldrick and Bru which had led to the free-kick in the first place.
McCarthy claims he signed Waghorn and Joe Garner for a combined £1m from Rangers. If Garner was £750k, that makes Waghorn £250k. What a bargain!
GOALS CHANGE GAMES
It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Scoring first in the Championship is so vital.
Waghorn’s strike prevented a cacophony of boos at the half-time whistle.
It will have made McCarthy’s team talk a lot easier too.
Then McGoldrick expertly headed home Jordan Spence’s super cross less than five minutes after the restart. You had to double check it was the silky forward climbing above his marker at the far post to convert like an old fashioned No.9.
That really took the edge off of any anxiety and meant Town’s front four could begin to express themselves against a Preston side that went into the game with six defenders sidelined and then saw right-back Darnell Fisher limp off early on.
Callum Connolly had an attempt cleared off the line, Jonas Knudsen twice went close, then Bersant Celina netted number three in style.
CELINA’S SEALED HIS SPOT
The confident Kosovan smashed an unstoppable shot high into the net on the acutest of angles in the 64th minute.
It was the Manchester City loanee’s sixth goal in six starts and seven substitute appearances across all competitions for the Blues.
He’s now netted three games in a row. How good to see him doing his talking on the pitch, rather than on Twitter.
It took talented Leicester loanee Tom Lawrence until the middle of September to become a regular last season.
Celina looks like he’ll be following in his footsteps, as well as Bournemouth loanee Ryan Fraser previously, to add the X-Factor to Town’s attack this season.
Back in the summer, midfield had looked the position that Town were best stocked in.
By the 31st minute they had a central duo comprising of Everton loanee right-back Callum Connolly and the transfer-listed Kevin Bru.
Connolly had been given the nod as Mick McCarthy felt that homegrown teenagers Flynn Downes and Tristan Nydam needed to be taken out of the line of fire following tough games against Cardiff and Burton respectively.
Bru came on just after the half hour mark to replace the injured Cole Skuse, the latter walking off gingerly wit is lefts sock rolled down.
Town had gone into the game with five central players sidelined too, remember, in Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Teddy Bishop, Luke Hyam and Andre Dozzell.
Many questioned why Bru was ahead of Nydam and Downes in the pecking order, but the Mauritian international proved why with a performance of calm, assured, positive passing.
He was involved in the one piece of first-half quality which led to Waghorn’s free-kick goal. And it was him who sprayed a pass out wide leading to McGoldrick’s crucial second.
Full credit to a man who started the season on the transfer list and without a squad number.
He’s kept himself in shape and motivated when others wouldn’t have. He made a difference when coming on at Burton last week and was one of Town’s better players in the first half at Cardiff in midweek.
There were chants of ‘Bruuuuuu’ from those in the North Stand when the players came over to applaud at the end.
Maybe there is still a way back for the Parisian.
At last, Town go into a two-week international break on a high.
For all the talk about McCarthy’s future and a club treading water, Town – now 22 games without a draw – are seventh in the Championship table, one point off the play-off places and with a game in hand on most.
Oh, and they’ve leapfrogged Norwich City too after the Canaries slumped to a third straight defeat, losing 2-1 at lowly Bolton.
Are there tougher tests ahead? Yes. It doesn’t matter who they’ve beaten though, Town have got the points on the board.
And there are some good players to return from injury yet too.
You can’t underestimate how important this victory was for the overall mood.