Andy's Angles: Five observations as Ipswich are well-beaten by Boro at Portman Road
PUBLISHED: 10:08 03 October 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town were beaten 2-0 by Middlesbrough at Portman Road last night. Andy Warren gives his observations.
Town’s TV nasty
This was certainly a night to forget for Ipswich Town as the Paul Hurst era was showcased to a national TV audience for a first time.
Two extremely poor goals in four first half minutes effectively ended this contest after a little more than a quarter of an hour, and the Blues were their own worst enemy for both.
Sure there was an element of good fortune when Mo Besic’s shot was charged down by Nsiala and fell back to the midfielder’s feet to tuck home, but he had been given the freedom of Portman Road to drive towards goal and shoot before being afforded space again for his second effort.
A loose ball from captain Luke Chambers led to the second, with Stewart Downing this time afforded a clear run on goalkeeper Dean Gerken to fire home.
It was all too easy.
From that point on Middlesbrough didn’t feel the need to push the issue in search of a third but were still afforded plenty of time and space to work and threaten the Ipswich goal.
You would have to have been a supreme optimist to expect the Blues to get anything out of this game at the break and, while they did improve after the interval, they never really looked like forcing their way back into the contest.
Freddie Sears was bright after he was introduced at half-time, Andre Dozzell lifted the crowd when given a 15-minute cameo and, to their credit, the home support stuck with their side throughout the second half.
There was a smattering of boos at the interval at the end of a tough evening for the Blues.
Ipswich drop to 23rd in the table ahead of this weekend’s visit to Swansea. Things don’t get any easier.
Gap in quality
Hurst’s Town side is characterised by players looking to make their mark at Championship level for the first time, while Boro’s is packed with battle-hardened second tier players.
Central defenders Aden Flint and Daniel Ayala rarely looked troubled at the back, George Friend was always in control of Gwion Edwards after his introduction and the midfield of Mo Besic, George Saville and Jonny Howson looked more than comfortable in the middle of the field.
They were able to take their foot off the gas after the break but still threatened on the break. They even had the luxury of bringing Britt Assombalonga off the bench.
Tony Pulis’s men will no doubt be in the thick of the promotion mix in May while Ipswich’s targets focus on the other end of the table and that gap in quality certainly showed in this contest.
Injuries to Jon Walters and Ellis Harrison mean the Blues are worryingly short in the striker department, with Kayden Jackson and Sears now Hurst’s only real options.
Jackson was Hurst’s chosen man from the start of this encounter and, while always a willing runner, his impact was limited.
He wants the ball in behind or at his feet to run at defenders, rather than fired into his head or chest to battle for against the likes of Flint and Ayala.
Sears came on at the break and was bright, firing over the bar early and generally offering his side an outlet both wide and centrally, but he’s still not the threat Ipswich needed when balls were sent into a congested penalty area and he isn’t suited to playing as a lone forward.
Three times Janoi Donacien crosses flashed through the penalty area in the second half and three times there was no Ipswich shirt close to turning the ball home.
The free agent market is the only one open to Hurst at present and is admittedly thin, but it is one the Blues boss must surely scour in search of a different option in attack.
The Dozzell factor
The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the return of Andre Dozzell.
His 15-minute cameo was the first senior appearance since he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury against Birmingham last August. His body has been managed carefully by Hurst since his arrival in the summer, to the frustration of many looking on, but everyone connected with the club will be pleased to have seen him back on the pitch.
He had little time to make a real impact in a game that was as good as lost, but almost every touch was a positive one. He played Sears in with one superb pass, slid in behind the Boro defence, showing just what he’s capable of and why he’s held in such high regard.
He’s sure to be managed carefully from this point and is unlikely to play 90 minutes any time soon, but he offers something the Blues have in short supply right now - the ability to unpick the lock.
Just 13,612 supporters watched this game according to the official attendance.
With the game shown live on Sky Sports and Middlesbrough fans having to travel so far from home, perhaps a low attendance was to be expected, but it’s still sad to see so few inside Portman Road.
Nearly 19,000 were here on the opening day against Blackburn and attendances have fallen ever since, aside from the clash with Norwich in September.
A worrying trend continues.