Andy's Angles: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 3-0 loss to Millwall
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller
Ipswich Town were beaten 3-0 by Millwall in their final pre-season friendly yesterday. Andy Warren gives his thoughts on the game.
This Ipswich Town side is a work in progress.
Deep down, we all knew that. But the gathering, positive, momentum behind Ipswich Town in recent weeks maybe masked some of the growing pains this side is experiencing.
It’s only natural, given an entire squad is being built from scratch in a single summer and new players are arriving every few days, for imperfections to show up on the pitch.
The goals conceded in this game highlighted a few of them.
Millwall, who we must remember are as a solid a Championship side as they come, had far too much space for all three of their goals, starting with the flowing move which resulted in Vaclav Hladky spilling Jed Wallace’s shot for Benik Afobe to turn home. The Czech keeper, who has been excellent in pre-season, could certainly have done more.
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There was little he could do for goals two and three, with Millwall keeping the ball superbly for the second and showing excellent movement, which ended with centre-back Jake Cooper galloping forward and pulling back for Afobe to riffle home. The Ipswich defence had dropped deep, meaning Toto Nsiala’s late lunge at the ball wasn’t enough to cut it out.
Goal three saw Armando Dobra do his job in putting pressure on corner taker Scott Malone, but behind him Wallace was left in far too much space. Dobra’s change of course and Matt Penney’s run from covering the near post to shut down the wide-man's shot wasn’t enough.
It’s not just at the back, either. Passes went missing, Town struggled to link midfield to the strikers at times and Millwall made it difficult for Town to play for long spells.
But there’s no need to panic. It’s only pre-season, after all.
We know this group of players will take time to gel but we have also seen enough, both of these new signings in Ipswich shirts this summer and playing against the Blues for their previous teams, to know Town have bought good players.
We know how Cook wants his teams to play. We know that has brought quick success at his previous clubs and we know he has experience building teams. We also know further additions are on the way.
The Town boss suggested after the game that this defeat maybe ‘brought people back down to earth with a little bump’ but stressed he was already grounded in reality, fully aware of the struggles of building a new team.
CEO Mark Ashton has stressed how seasons are built over a long, 46-game season and that this team in particular, likened to a plane being building in-flight, will hopefully grow into the campaign.
Things aren’t perfect as the competitive football hurtles towards us, but it’s heading in the right direction.
Midfielder Lee Evans was Town’s best player in this game, as he returned to the side following a two-game absence with a groin niggle.
He was comfortable on the ball throughout, used it sensibly, took control at set-pieces and showed plenty of quality in all three thirds during 90 minutes on the pitch.
He did it all wearing the captain’s armband and he looked every inch the skipper in waiting.
He knows how Cook wants to play, he knows how his former Wigan boss likes to work, so all signs are pointing towards the Welshman being handed the armband when competitive play begins.
We’ve seen Evans take charge of situations on the pitch and shout orders at players during his two pre-season outings in front of fans, showing all the attributes you want to see from a captain.
There’s every chance that decision will be made public this coming week.
His name wasn’t on the team-sheet but we still got a sneak peak at new signing Conor Chaplin as he stepped off the bench in the second half.
The diminutive forward, signed for around £750,000 from Barnsley on Tuesday, was given the final 20 minutes and settled into the No.10 position, playing behind striker Joe Pigott.
He looked bright, without truly shining on too many occasions, but did produce a superb flicked pass to send Kane Vincent-Young through on goal.
He’s a versatile player who can play anywhere across the frontline but it’s still not clear exactly where Cook intends to use him in the long-term, given he played centrally during their time together at Portsmouth before spending the vast majority of last season on the wing for the Tykes.
It may take a few weeks for him to truly find a home.
Manager Cook dropped a bit of a hint during his post-match press conference.
He said: “We’ve got lads not playing today that will start the season maybe, I don’t know.”
There’s every chance he was referring to Scott Fraser and George Edmundson, who both missed this game with what were described as ‘knocks’.
Edmundson has yet to appear in an Ipswich shirt but looks every inch a starter in waiting, while Fraser has shown glimpses of what he’s all about during his pre-season outings against Crystal Palace and Colchester.
Cook also said Town ‘haven’t really had a defined No.10’ during these pre-season game, with the Town boss playing two strikers in each match.
Fraser, if fit, could solve that issue. We’ll see.
And now for the real stuff
Just one more week to wait until what is sure to be a wonderful day at Portman Road (result permitting) as the new season dawns.
Pre-season this summer has served a reminder of what football should be like, with fans cheering on their teams and provoking a real reaction from players who have spent the last year working in front of empty, silent, stands.
A modest crowd, thought to be around 4,000, watched the Millwall game but something approaching four or five times that is expected when Morecambe visit.
It will be the first time the majority of those will have attended a football match since March of 2020 and it will be the first time the majority of the Ipswich squad will have experienced the full force of a Portman Road crowd behind them.
It’s going to be a special day.