Stuart says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 defeat at Wolves
PUBLISHED: 08:30 24 December 2017
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Ipswich Town lost 1-0 at Championship league-leaders Wolves this afternoon. STUART WATSON looks at some of the key talking points.
This, as Mick McCarthy admitted, followed a similar narrative to the away defeats against the likes of Cardiff (3-1), Aston Villa (2-0) and Middlesbrough (2-0).
The Blues were disciplined, defended well and keeper Bartosz Bialkowski didn’t really have a save of note to make all game. Ultimately, one lapse in concentration was ruthlessly punished by the division’s leading scorers.
Town’s players felt that Myles Kenlock was fouled by Diogo Jota prior to him crossing ahead of Ivan Cavaleiro’s deadly 41st minute finish. McCarthy, honest as ever, felt his left-back hadn’t been strong enough in the tussle.
Not shooting themselves in the foot for a second time meant they always remained in with a sniff during the second half, and Town weren’t devoid of attacking intent, but you never really sensed the home side were in any real danger.
Wolves – who have now won 11 of their last 13 games – looked as though they had another couple of gears and should really have killed the game off towards the end. Some context, as ever, is required though...
We knew Cole Skuse would miss out with the badly bruised ankle he suffered in the 2-0 home win against Reading, but it was a surprise to see Jonas Knudsen absent – the Danish left-back ruled out with illness.
Altogether, the Blues had 10 players unavailable – seven of them central midfielders – in the form of Emyr Huws (knee), Tom Adeyemi (hamstring), Tristan Nydam (hip), Flynn Downes (calf), Luke Hyam (knee), Andre Dozzell (knee), Dominic Iorfa (ineligible against parent club) and Dean Gerken (hip).
It meant that Town’s bench had three largely untested youngsters, at Championship level at least, in keeper Michael Crowe, midfielder Adam McDonnell – recalled from National League side Aldershot – and defender Pat Webber.
Haves and have nots
Town’s 18-man squad cost less than £2.5m to assemble. Meanwhile, Wolves, backed by Chinese mega money and the pulling power of a Portuguese ‘super agent’, had an embarrassment of riches. Helder Costa – a £13m forward – was on the bench for goodness sake.
Nuno Espirito Santos’ side look to have a potent combination of star quality and team spirit. Ruben Neves (£15.8m) and Romain Saiss (£3m) languidly pull the strings in midfield, Diogo Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro offer attacking spark from the flanks, while striker Leo Bonatini is the understated pivot.
Don’t underestimate their defensive qualities either. They are organised, battle and didn’t give Town a great deal of encouragement all game.
Not parking the bus
McCarthy has been criticised for being too negative, but you can’t level that at him today. He stuck with his 4-2-3-1 system. Attacking trio Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn and Bersant Celina all started, while Grant Ward provided plenty of attacking intent wide right.
Teddy Bishop, David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears were all introduced off the bench. It was understandable that Waghorn (below recent standards) and Garner (met his match aerially) were withdrawn.
Town won plenty of corners and set-pieces in dangerous areas and one of the biggest disappointments today was that they wasted them.
Half season report
We’ve reached the halfway stage of the season and Town have played everyone once.
A home humbling by Fulham back in August aside, the Blues haven’t been massively outplayed by anyone.
More often than not they’ve come up just short in fine margin affairs against the leading sides and some defensive frailties are a concern.
The home form has been good though, they are certainly a lot more entertaining, have improved firepower and the team spirit is reminiscent of 14/15.
Tenth place and two points adrift of the play-off places is more than most predicted or expected. To be level with Middlesbrough and above the likes of Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich (one win in 11 now) is some achievement.