Andy's Angles: Six observations after Ipswich Town's 2-1 win over Fleetwood
- Credit: Ray Lawrence
Ipswich Town beat Fleetwood Town 2-1 yesterday, as Bersant Celina scored a dramatic late winner in front of co-owner Brett Johnson. Andy Warren gives his thoughts.
Rising to the occasion
The recent past is littered with examples of Ipswich Town failing to deliver in the big moments.
Repeated failures in derby games with Norwich, no wins in the FA Cup, a dreadful record on live television and several examples of the Blues failing to hit the high notes in front of boosted Portman Road crowds.
And it looked like this was going to be another underwhelming result on a special day for the club.
But maybe, just maybe, we’re in different times now.
The first visit from America, as Brett Johnson became the first of the new owners to set foot inside Portman Road, put a spring in the step of thousands of those attending the game, which of course also came on the back of Tuesday night’s demolition of Portsmouth. Spirits were high.
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A fast start had fallen flat as the first half dragged on, before a strong words in the dressing room were followed by a thumping opening to the second as Conor Chaplin fired home. Johnson’s fist was pumping in the directors box.
But, when Callum Morton headed home Fleetwood’s equaliser to cancel out Chaplin’s opener, the wind was taken out of Ipswich sails.
Same old story? Ipswich had their visitors at arms’ length for much of the game but lacked the killer instinct when a second goal would have seen off the men from Highbury. They were made to pay on their big day as Morton wriggled free and the game was heading for a draw. It’s a narrative which has already played out this season.
But then, Bersant Celina intervened.
As Brett Johnson sat on his 10-hour flight from Los Angeles to London on Thursday, he was surely dreaming of a dramatic late winner on his first visit to his new purchase.
He’ll fly back later today surely not quite believing what he saw.
It’s been a whirlwind trip for the first of Ipswich’s new owners to cross the pond, but boy did it deliver.
A Hollywood movie couldn’t have scripted it better.
The pictures of Johnson and CEO Mark Ashton celebrating, almost in disbelief, in the directors box as Celina’s strike hit the net were great to see and mirrored the emotions of 20,000 inside Portman Road. Whether you own the club, are paid to run it (or indeed write about it) or support it from the stands, that’s what football is all about.
Town’s co-owner met Paul Cook and the players for the first time on Friday morning before heading to Portman Road in the afternoon to tour the stadium. Johnson said he felt goosebumps even then, sitting in an empty ground. So goodness knows how he felt with fans packed inside.
The day ended in joyous circumstances but, all-in-all, this was an understated arrival.
There were plenty of smiles and a few waves from the directors box, while a solitary American flag lined the main drive at Portman Road as he arrived on Saturday, having taken the train from London. There was no big reveal, no on-pitch appearances and no meet and greet with supporters.
That may well come when the rest of the Three Lions and members of Gamechanger visit, hopefully before the end of the year.
They will have been watching from their homes as they have done since completing their takeover back in April, with kick-off at 7am on the west coast of the United States. Mark Detmer, Berke Bakay and Mark Steed will surely be a little envious they weren’t in Suffolk to witness it in person, as they celebrated over their breakfast.
Man of the moment
Remarkably, Bersant Celina was on a run of 85 games without a goal before he slammed home the Blues’ winner in front of the North Stand.
There couldn’t have been a more dramatic way to end that draught, which went all the way back to August 2019, when he was still playing for Swansea.
It’s been a slow start to Celina’s Ipswich Town second-coming, but history tells us he’s a man for the big moments.
He’s not the type of player who regularly dominates games from start to finish, but he is the type to forcefully make his mark on them at big moments. And that's how his game went in this one, as the 25-year-old didn’t make too much of an impact during his first 28 minutes on the field, before his crucial intervention in stoppage time.
He whipped his shirt off and hurled it into the stands, with Conor Chaplin somehow managing to get it back to ensure Celina could finish the game fully clothed. The scenes were reminiscent of those after his superb free-kick at Burton during his first spell with the club, as he again stripped off in celebration.
That goal, of course, remains notorious for Mick McCarthy’s reluctance to send the Kosovo international on from the bench, despite repeated calls from fans, before he ultimately scored the winner. Coincidentally, this latest piece of Celina magic came just over two hours after McCarthy was sacked by Cardiff.
The fact Celina has started the last three Ipswich games on the bench shows the attacking options available to Cook.
More moments like this one will make Town’s No.43 impossible to ignore.
This game wasn't just about Brett Johnson and Bersant Celina.
Cook secured back-to-back victories as Ipswich manager for the first time. Hopefully that's the first of many. Next weekend he'll be looking earn his first three-game winning run.
Christian Walton was a calming presence in goal. He made a good save to deny Dan Batty in the second half before claiming the resulting corner with real authority. Town have lacked that from the goalkeeping position at times this season.
Janoi Donacien assisted Celina's winner, his third in two games. He's enjoying his football.
The midfield pairing of Sam Morsy and Lee Evans came on strong in this game, taking a firm stranglehold on the contest to give their side a platform. Evans played the deep pass which led to Celina's goal, with Town moving the ball from midway inside the Fleetwood half to the back of the net in just three touches.
Wes Burns injected a real spark from the bench against his former club, ensuring the Blues were on the front foot during his time on the pitch.
A good day all round.
Sign him up?
The last time Ipswich played Fleetwood, the Blues moved quickly to sign the Cod Army’s best player.
Wes Burns was the first man through the door as Town rebuilt their squad this summer, having terrorised the Blues in two matches against Paul Cook’s men at the end of last season.
Another player in red caught the eye in this one, with midfielder Jay Matete head and shoulders above the rest as the visitors’ best player.
The 20-year-old looks, on this showing at least, the complete midfielder. He was calm, composed and at times adventurous on the ball and combative off it.
He’s also out of contract at the end of the season, with Championship clubs having already shown interest since Fleetwood took up their contract option on him in the summer. We’ll see.
Moving on up
Who’d have thought we’d be here, about to enter the final week of October, heralding Ipswich’s first move into the top half of the League One table.
There’s no hiding it’s been a slow start to the season, given the lofty expectations heading into it, but Ipswich are upwardly mobile now.
Town are League One’s leading scorers, have now won six of their last nine games and four of their last five. The statistics are looking good.
They’re four points off the play-offs and 10 from the top two who, coincidentally, Cook’s men face in their next two matches.
Those games with Plymouth and Wycombe are big ones for this Ipswich side. There’s no better way of closing the gap on the division’s leading lights than beating them on their own turf.