North Stander: We're certainly entertaining, but why this Achilles heel?
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
North Stander, TERRY HUNT is, like most Ipswich Town fans thoroughly enjoying the entertainment on show at Portman Road. But says Paul Cook was right to focus on a worrying trait.
Paul Cook was absolutely right when he chose to focus on the most worrying aspect of our victory over a very poor Shrewsbury side.
He spoke passionately about the 20-minute spell in the first half when we simply stopped playing. Yet again, our reaction to going ahead was bewildering and inexplicable.
Having utterly dominated the game, playing some really entertaining football, we scored a deserved goal through Conor Chaplin. Shrewsbury were reeling. In boxing terms, all it needed was the knockout punch.
But instead, we just stopped doing all the good things. We once again gave away a poor goal within minutes of taking the lead, and could so easily have conceded another almost immediately.
Why does it keep happening? Surely the players don’t believe the game is won after a single goal? Or do they lack the self belief to push on for the second, and probably decisive, goal?
It’s a real Achilles heel. Better teams than Shrewsbury would have punished us on Saturday. Cook and his players need to find the answer to this riddle if we are to become convincing play-off contenders.
Of course, there were also lots of positives from the game. We were so much the better side, we played some really good stuff at times, and our main man Macauley Bonne kept up his incredible scoring record.
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His winner was really well executed, but we shouldn’t forget his crucial role in Chaplin’s opener. He got real power in his header to set up the opportunity.
Bonne is an old-fashioned, swashbuckling centre-forward. He leads the line really well, is all action, and ruffles the feathers of opposition defences.
His running battle with Shrewsbury keeper Marko Marosi was a superb sideshow. Bonne had the last laugh, of course!
Let’s hope we can sort out his long-term future. I have no doubt he will want to stay – he’s clearly enjoying his football – but in this sport, sentiment doesn’t always have the final say.
My other favourite player of the moment is much less spectacular, but just as important.
Janoi Donacien is doing a great job at right-back. He’s made our defence look so much more solid. He’s not a flying, attacking full-back, but he does his job. He even finished the game playing left-back after Matt Penney went off.
I’m not too sure I want to see Toto Nsiala at right-back too many times, though...he reminded me of Luke Chambers in that position.
So, things are improving. The league table is looking more positive. Only six points outside the play-off places now. Belief among the fans is growing, and the ludicrous “Cook out” calls are conspicuous by their absence. Let’s hope they’ve gone for good.
There’s no doubt we’re entertaining to watch. Anyone who’s been to all of our 11 league games will have seen 40 goals.
We’ve scored in every league game. It’s been a stark contrast to those dreadful games in the McCarthy era.
But you know what? I hesitate to even suggest this, but I wouldn’t mind a few of those Big Mick “Every point’s a prisoner” 1-0 wins away from home. Those kind of results and performances have a part to play in every successful promotion campaigns. I don’t want to see too many of those at home, though!
What we need to see is greater consistency, both within games and from one match to another. I wish I had a pound for every Town fan who said to me before the Shrewsbury game: “I wonder which Ipswich will turn up today?”
There are promising signs. We finally have back-to-back wins. I’m certainly not a great fan of the EFL Trophy, but the win at Gillingham was important in helping to create a winning mentality, and momentum.
The side Cook put out for that game was also a powerful message. That team – essentially our reserve side – would do well in League One. It was a timely reminder of the strength in depth we have in our squad.
So we move on, and we have some tough challenges coming in the next few games. No doubt the Blue and White Army will travel en masse to Cambridge. Then there’s the clash of two fallen giants when we go to Portsmouth. How we perform in the cauldron of Fratton Park will be a big indicator of how the rest of this season will go. No repeat of Accrington, please.
Finally, we had another reminder on Saturday of what’s really important in life when Shrewsbury striker Ryan Bowman was taken to hospital with heart palpitations.
When something like that happens it reminds us that, while we love our football, it really doesn’t matter very much in the grand scheme of things. We wish Ryan a speedy and full recovery.