Stuart says: Six observations from Ipswich Town’s 3-1 defeat at Cardiff City
PUBLISHED: 09:44 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:44 01 November 2017
Ipswich Town lost 3-1 at Cardiff City in a Championship match last night. STUART WATSON reflects on both the action and the bigger picture.
Mick McCarthy summed it up best when saying his side took conceding soft goals to a ‘whole new level’.
Junior Hoilett was afforded far too much time and space to volley Cardiff into a 12th minute lead. There hadn’t been enough pressure on the cross either.
Conceding less than 30 seconds after their own second-half kick-off was disastrous and unforgiveable. Yes, it was slickly worked home move which led to Omar Bogle’s one-on-one finish, but too many men in red shirts weren’t switched on.
Then, having pulled one back through Bersant Celina in the last minute, the defence was at sixes and sevens for Danny Ward’s stoppage-time clincher.
Dominic Iorfa was caught out of position too often, Tommy Smith was ring-rusty in only his sixth senior start of 2017, while skipper Luke Chambers had too many sluggish moments.
There was a lot of talk earlier in the season about Town’s increased goal threat this season, but they are also looking worryingly more porous too.
That’s now 22 goals conceded in 14 league games. It was December 13th – a full 21 games into the campaign – before that tally was reached in 2016/17.
Once again, Town can reflect on ifs, buts and maybes after coming up just short against one of the division’s leading lights.
The Blues responded well to going behind and gave as good as they got in an even first period in South Wales. Smith miscued at the far post after Joe Garner had helped on a corner, while Flynn Downes’ briefest hesitation allowed Joe Ralls to produce a last-ditch block just as a goal looked certain.
It could have been a different story. But it wasn’t. Town’s first shot on target didn’t arrive until the 84th minute. They could easily have conceded more too. The bottom line is they weren’t good enough. And that’s becoming a recurring theme.
Town’s seven wins have come against the teams currently placed 24th (Bolton), 23rd (Burton), 22nd (Sunderland), 21st (Birmingham), 19th (Barnsley) 18th (Brentford) and 16th (Millwall) in the table.
Their seven defeats have come against 2nd (Cardiff), 3rd (Sheffiled United), 4th (Bristol City), 6th (Leeds), 9th (Norwich), 12th (QPR), 15th (Fulham).
They are what they are – too good to go down, nowhere near good enough to challenge for promotion.
Too many alterations?
McCarthy made six changes to the team which started the 2-1 comeback win at Burton on Saturday.
It seemed a lot, but when you go through the alterations there was logic behind the decisions.
Jordan Spence had endured two tough afternoons against Norwich and Burton, so it was no surprise to see Dominic Iorfa return at right-back.
Tristan Nydam had a difficult day at The Pirelli Stadium. Taking the 17-year-old out the line of fire and giving fellow academy graduate Flynn Downes another opportunity wasn’t that controversial.
Adam Webster and David McGoldrick have both had their injury problems. A second game on four days was probably not a risk worth taking with them..
Swapping strikers Freddie Sears and Martyn Waghorn with more natural wide players in the form of Bersant Celina and Grant Ward also made sense.
For the first time in a while there were no square pegs in round holes. It was far from a negative system either, with Ward and Celina pushed forwards in a 4-3-3 set-up.
Utilising a squad is the name of the game. This was hardly the reserves.
Not all about money
There’s an argument that McCarthy is simply juggling dust. That Town are where they should be fir their budget.
The fact that Cardiff (direct and wide), Sheffield United (pass-masters) and Bristol City (functional 4-4-2) are all flying high without huge net spends is a reminder of what can be achieved.
It’s about building an identity and building momentum. Town have had neither for some time now.
Trust in Celina
McCarthy explained on Monday that a lack of game-time for Bersant Celina’s was not down to any reservations about attitude or work rate, rather about whether he could ‘trust’ the confident Kosovan to try his trickery in the right areas.
In many ways the Blues boss was in a win-win situation in starting the Manchester City loanee. A quiet display would have proved his point.
The 21-year-old may not have lit up the game from start to finish, but he was far from a defensive liability and was certainly Town’s player most threatening offensive player with his direct running.
He took his late goal expertly, finding the bottom corner after Grant Ward’s lay-off in the box. That’s now five in five starts and seven sub appearances.
Bru is back
Kevin Bru may have made close to 100 appearances for the Blues over three seasons, but Mick McCarthy decided back in the summer that he was not the future. The Paris-born Mauritian international was subsequently transfer-listed and not given a squad number.
Circumstances mean the door has opened again for the 28-year-old though.
Five central midfielders are injured in the form of Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Teddy Bishop, Luke Hyam and Andre Dozzell, while Adam McDonnell is out on loan.
He came on against Burton and did a very solid job considering his lack of senior action, then followed that up with a tidy first-half display at Cardiff.
Is Bru going to take Town to the next level? Probably not. It does makes sense to utilise him in the short-term though. He can pick a forward pass.
To highlight the lack of midfield numbers at present, Town ended up with Everton loanee Callum Connolly – primarily a right-back – in the centre of the park.
Huws completing 90 minutes for the Under-23s on Monday was certainly a very welcome sight. The sooner he’s back the better.