North Stander: We are where we deserve to be... and the play-offs look a long way off

Macauley Bonne covers his head at the final whistle, after going close in the dying moments.

Ipswich Town's Macauley Bonne covers his head at the final whistle, after going close in the dying moments against Crewe. Town won 2-1. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town fan and journalist Terry Hunt reflects on the Blues' nervy 2-1 win over League One's basement side Crewe Alexandra yesterday.... 

Believe me, you won’t often find me comparing any of the players in our current, under-performing squad with the great Eric Cantona.

But Bersant Celina’s sublime winner against mighty Crewe did bring back memories of the brilliant Frenchman’s exquisite chip for Manchester United against Sunderland, all of 25 years ago.

The goal stood out as a rare moment of quality in what was otherwise a typical Ipswich performance - some good, some bad, and lots of frustration for the long-suffering fans.

Credit where credit is due. Celina does possess the ability to produce moments of magic. We saw them when he was on loan, and there have been a few since he came back to Portman Road. He just doesn’t do it often enough.

Bersant Celina celebrate his wonder goal just before half-time.

Bersant Celina celebrate his wonder goal just before half-time. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

The positive from the game, of course, was that we won. After two successive defeats, that was badly needed. But it was far from being the convincing victory we all wanted against rock-bottom Crewe.

We were brilliant for the first five minutes, scored a lovely goal, and in the stands we all sat back waiting for an avalanche. The trouble was, for the umpteenth time this season, the players seemed to sit back as well. Yet again, we let a really poor team back into the game.

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Where is this side’s killer instinct? As I’ve said before, we’re like a boxer who has his opponent staggering around the ring, but instead of applying the knock-out punch, we stand back. Very, very frustrating - and difficult to explain.

After Celina’s goal, I expected the ball to be flying into the Crewe net several more times right in front of me in the second half.

To be fair, we did create some really good chances, but our finishing let us down. Again.

Town manager Paul Cook unhappy with the linesman.

Paul Cook's record as Ipswich Town manager was W13 D17 L14. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Poor Macauley Bonne cut a forlorn figure at the end, lying on the pitch with his shirt pulled up over his face.

He missed a golden opportunity to end his goal drought, and put the game beyond doubt. I guess that’s the way it goes for strikers.

I wonder how many games Bonne will be given to rediscover his goalscoring touch before Paul Cook starts Joe Pigott, who must be very frustrated?

Then there was Kyle Edwards. He is so skilful, but the end product isn’t there, which I guess is why he’s playing his trade in League One.

There was a moment late on which summed him up. A brilliant run, followed by a shot blasted, high, wide and not very handsome, when he could have passed he ball into the net.

As one wag said when we were leaving the ground: “It was a Maradona run, and a Connor Sammon shot.” With apologies to Connor Sammon...

Janoi Donacien about to take a throw in.

Janoi Donacien about to take a throw in. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

We do have a habit of making very poor teams look good. Let’s face it - Crewe are rubbish. They’re bottom for good reason, and will almost certainly be relegated. But, against us, there were several occasions when they looked really dangerous, and played some decent football. Why does that keep happening?

So...the big picture. We are where we deserve to be - stumbling around in mid-table. Pretty much as we’ve been in our three seasons in this dreadful division.

The play-off places look a long way off to me. I know, I know - there are plenty of points left to play for, but I have zero confidence that we will find the consistency needed to see us climb the table.

As Paul Cook keeps saying, our consistency is our inconsistency. We are capable of hitting the heights - as we saw at Portsmouth and Wycombe, and at home against Doncaster - but it happens far too infrequently for us to be taken seriously as promotion candidates.

After the two cup games this week, we have three big matches - Charlton, Wigan and Sunderland. Which Ipswich will turn up for those?

Can we produce anything approaching a 90-minute quality performance, as opposed to the usual fits and starts we keep seeing?

Town players celebrate with Sone Aluko after his early goal had given them a 1-0 lead.

Ipswich Town celebrate taking an early 1-0 lead - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Finally, a footnote about Ben Knight. There was no reaction when the youngster with blonde hair came on as a sub for Crewe.

Maybe most Town fans didn’t realise that he is the immensely promising teenager who was taken away from our academy by Manchester City. He is now on loan at Crewe, learning his trade.

I know there was a great deal of sadness among the coaching staff at Ipswich when Knight left. Some of them regard him as one of the best youngsters they’ve ever seen.

What a shame we can’t hang on to promising kids like him these days. That’s the harsh reality of football in 2021.

I will watch his career with interest. I hope he becomes a superstar. It might well happen.