Ipswich Town beat Derby County 1-0 at Portman Road last night. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.


Friday night under the lights. Ipswich Town versus Derby County. Two of English football's fallen giants going head-to-head in a third-tier fixture watched by 28,415 in person, plus a far wider TV audience.

We were treated to a fire cannon display in front of the Cobbold Stand as the teams strode out. The atmosphere was electric.

Having started a little flat in the previous home outing against Lincoln, could Town burst out the blocks this time?

The answer to that question was yes.

From the very off, Kieran McKenna's men pressed high and hard. Supporters fed off that. It was clear we had an intense and competitive game on our hands.


We knew that Ipswich would be wearing their all-black third kit for this match.

Actually seeing the Blues not play in blue at Portman Road was, I must admit, a strange sight.

It meant Derby - who have plenty of black in their predominantly white home shirt, plus a black away shirt - had to wear their third kit (maroon) too.

MORE: How Town's players rated against Derby

Neutrals tuning in from afar must have wondered who on earth they were watching.

For many, it was an unforgivable kit crime. A banner unfurled before the game by independent supporters' group Blue Action read 'tradition matters'.

Others were a lot more laid back about the club wanting to showcase what has been an incredibly popular seller.

Each to their own. Personally, I was just about comfortable with it as a one-off.


Very few people would have predicted the front four that McKenna picked for this game.

Tyreece John-Jules operated as the 'false nine', starting as the central striker but routinely dropping deep. He was flanked by pace merchants Wes Burns and Kayden Jackson, leaving Marcus Harness in a floating role.

The game plan was to try and stop Derby's direct play at source with a high press. And then, after quick turnovers, use speed and movement to drag their defence into areas they didn't want to be.

It worked pretty well. John-Jules drew fouls. Harness got in faces. Jackson and Burns forced corners. There were good spells of sustained pressure.

The only problem was that the end product wasn't there. Harness deftly spinning a marker and then badly over-hitting a pass rather epitomised Town's overall display. Loads of energy, but not quite enough finesse.

Derby had the odd moment on the counter, but were also failing to carve out much of note.

The longer this game wore on, the more it looked like these two teams might cancel each other out.


Town's goal came from a Derby mistake. But it was a forced mistake.

Burns charging down Curtis Davies led to an undercooked back pass and Jackson, part of the hunting pack, was there to nick the ball around stranded keeper Joe Wildsmith.

The goal gaped, but Jackson side-footed against the foot of the post. Fortune, thankfully, was on Town's side. The ball came straight out to Burns and he showed great composure to take a touch and plant the ball past a defender on the line. Many players would have slashed at that first time.

Had that goal looked like it was coming? Not really. The game had just begun to drift a little.

Ultimately, however, you could say it was a deserved breakthrough based purely on work-rate and endeavour.


Derby had to go and chase an equaliser. Centre-back Davies was pushed up top. Gaps started to open up.

Ipswich could and should have killed this game off sooner.

After Burns' near post header at a corner was beaten straight back to him by Wildsmith, the Welshman tumbled over the prone figure of David McGoldrick. Referee Lee Swabey wasn't sure, but took the advice of his linesman and pointed to the spot.

Town fans chanted the name of a former hero, the striker having not long come on as a sub. Thanks for the assist Didzy. Only it wasn't an assist after all.

With Conor Chaplin on the bench and Lee Evans off the field, Jackson grabbed the ball. His side-footed effort from 12 yards out wasn't the best and Wildsmith, a couple of yards off his line by the time the ball was struck, saved to his left.

Remarkably, Derby have now faced four penalties in their last three league games and not conceded from a single one of them. Two were off target and two were saved by Wildsmith.

Ipswich, having recently gone 36 games without being awarded a penalty, have now had three in their last three league games. Just one has found the back of the net.


Sam Morsy body checked Lewis Dobbin in the first half. His fifth booking of the season has earned him a one-match suspension.

Lee Evans limped off in the second half. McKenna's sombre verdict was: "He's got a sore knee on the inside. That's usually not great." That's a blow.

So Town head to Port Vale on Tuesday night without their first-choice central midfield duo.

With Panutche Camara still a way off being match ready for a league game, opportunity knocks for Dominic Ball and young Cameron Humphreys.

Town's much talked about strength in depth is really being put to the test.


Let's not end of a sour note. This was a big win for many reasons.

Firstly, it was great to get back to winning ways after the previous weekend's frustrating 1-0 home loss to Lincoln. The Blues are showing good bouncebackability this season.

Secondly, it was great to win in front of the television cameras. Talk of a 'TV curse' can hopefully be put to bed now.

Thirdly, it was great to beat a Paul Warne side. Town were so often schooled by his well-drilled Rotherham outfits. Now the Norwich City fan is the one talking about his transitional team being the ones playing catch-up.

Fourthly, it was great to see Town beat a promotion rival. That's Portsmouth and Derby - two sides who will undoubtedly be in the mix - seen off in the space of a few weeks.

Various monkeys are being shaken off by this McKenna side.