Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 1-1 home draw with Brentford
PUBLISHED: 10:41 19 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 19 September 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town came-from-behind to draw 1-1 with Brentford at Portman Road last night. STUART WATSON gives his snap verdict.
Shambolic first half
Once again, eyebrows were raised when the Ipswich Town team-sheet was released. Five changes following the 2-0 defeat at Hull City and another switch of system, this time to wing-backs. It smacked, you have to say, of a manager throwing the cards up in the air and desperately hoping they would fall right.
It was certainly in direct contradiction to Hurst’s claim that he didn’t feel things were far off working.
With five defenders and two defensive-minded midfielders in the XI, this is the sort of pragmatic team selection that Mick McCarthy was so often criticised for at Portman Road.
The plan, clearly, was to try and nullify a swashbuckling Brentford side oozing confidence. It didn’t work. The Bees looked every inch the well-oiled machine that Hurst labelled them in the build-up. Town, by contrast, looked like a set of players who have developed no relationships in any area of the pitch. And such uncertainty is amplified when belief is already low.
It was no surprise when Brentford took the lead just after the half hour mark, Neal Maupay looping a header into the top corner – his eighth of the season - after Ollie Watkins’ miscued attempt popped up nicely for him in the box. Town had been riding their luck for a prolonged period leading up to that, with a real sense of panic any time a home player was in possession.
It was a relief to reach the break just one behind. A smattering of boos greeted the half-time whistle.
You have to feel for Janoi Donacien. After stepping up from League Two, he’s played at centre-back, right-back, sat out two games due to a combination of work permit and loan regulations, and then came back into the side at left wing-back here. It’s not been the easiest of steps up the pyramid.
Yes, he played a fair of football at left-back for Accrington Stanley, but he wasn’t sure whether to attack of defend here and, as a result, Brentford’s slick one-touch triangle play often took him out the game in a flash.
On the other flank, Jordan Spence sadly had another nightmare. Just three days on from his terrible error at Hull, he produced several pieces of miscontrol which sparked the first set of moans and groans around the ground. It was no surprise when he got the hook at the interval and the wing-back experiment was abandoned.
Hurst replaced Spence and Ellis Harrison with Gwion Edwards and Jon Nolan at the break and switched to a 4-2-3-1 system. Donacien moved to right-back.
Town suddenly looked like a completely different team. They were clearly far more comfortable with the formation, they certainly played with much more fire in their bellies and it wasn’t long before the crowd were fully back onside.
Jonas Knudsen had an angled effort beaten behind by Daniel Bentley. The Bees keeper then missed his punch at the resultant corner, Kayden Jackson’s acrobatic attempt came back off the bar and Luke Chambers’ stabbed effort was headed off the line by Chris Mepham.
The visitors offered the odd reminder of their counter threat, but it was Town who remained very much on the front foot. Every good thing they did saw them grow in confidence that little bit more. It just shows how much of this game is psychological.
Nolan provided the link play that he hadn’t at Hull, Grant Ward’s movement was bright, while Jackson’s speed and tenacity on the final shoulder constantly had the Brentford defence on their toes.
Not only was this a turning point in the game, but it could well be a turning point in the season.
Dean Gerken was quick off his line to make a good save from Maupay just after the hour. Moments later, Yoann Barbet rattled the crossbar with a fine free-kick attempt.
And, having emerged unscathed, Town grabbed the equaliser their second half display deserved in the 70th minute. It was a brilliant whipped cross from the right from Chalobah and an even better header by Jackson as he met the ball beyond the near post and guided across the keeper into the far top corner.
Town defended like lions thereafter, Matthew Pennington and Luke Chambers both made several timely interventions and blocks when needed.
And they Town retained a goal threat too. Indeed, they might have won it at the end when substitute Flynn Downes sent Jackson scampering clear. There was a huge roar from the crowd, but he fired a difficult angled attempt into the near stanchion when Edwards was screaming for the square pass.
It didn’t stop the team leaving the field to appreciative applause.
How full is your glass?
Town remain bottom of the Championship table and still winless in nine games across all competitions. They do, however, also remain unbeaten in four games (all draws) at Portman Road.
It’s always the second half of games that you tend to go away focussing on rather than the first. So, with that in mind, both players and fans should go into Saturday’s home game against Bolton with renewed confidence.
Hurst will have learnt a lot from this game. He knows what works and doesn’t work for his side formation wise now. He’ll probably be feeling that attack is best form of defence for his side. And he definitely knows his players have the character to get themselves out of this tricky situation.
Town won’t face many better teams than Brentford this season. Bolton have a tough game at Middlesbrough tonight.