Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's last place finish in the Interwetten Cup
PUBLISHED: 16:09 14 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:42 14 July 2019
Ipswich Town finished last in the Interwetten Cup after losing to Fortuna Dusseldorf and SV Meppen. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the Blues' involvement in the four-team friendly competition.
Fortuna Dusseldorf have just finished 10th in the Bundesliga ahead of some big clubs. They were promoted the year before. Their team included Turkish, USA and Ghanaian internationals, as well as several Germans capped at youth level. It's the equivalent of playing a West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth or Burnley on the rise.
Town, meanwhile, were still without injured trio of Alan Judge (wrist), Jon Nolan (calf) and Gwion Edwards (groin). New loan signing Luke Garbutt didn't feature having only joined up with the squad late on Thursday.
The starting line-up for game one included just five senior outfield players - Janoi Donacien, Toto Nsiala, Cole Skuse, Emyr Huws and James Norwood (more on him in a moment). Only two of them, Skuse and Huws, have sustained experience of second-tier football.
You also have to remember that Huws and Jack Lankester are still playing catch-up with their fitness/sharpness following long-term injuries.
Nsiala then pulled his hamstring clearing a ball and had to be replaced by the inexperienced Bailey Clements midway through the opening match. That meant a major reshuffle which ended with Skuse deployed at centre-back.
So yes, there was a gulf in class. Fortuna looked quicker, stronger and technically better all over the pitch. But that was always to be expected.
The chastening 45 minutes ended with Tristan Nydam being floored by a thunderous shot blasted into his groin from close-range.
A valuable learning exercise playing against such quality opposition as Dusseldorf and SC Paderborn (3-2 defeat) the previous weekend? Or further demoralisation following a torturous relegation campaign? Time will tell.
Town still have to look at areas for improvement when it came to the goals conceded in game one.
Nydam, who started at left-back, was slow to stop the cross which led to towering midfielder Oliver Fink getting across Luke Woolfenden and glancing home the opener (2).
Bartosz Bialkowski then fumbled a routine long-range shot from Erik Thommy into his net for the second (10) - a slightly worrying sight following on from his season to forget and a collapsed move to Millwall.
The third came on the counter-attack. A Town free-kick into the box was cleared and winger Bernard Tekpetey was too quick for Skuse before pulling the ball back for a Thommy tap-in (14).
And the fourth was pretty messy. This time Mattihas Zimmermann was given too much time and space down the right, Janoi Donacien was slow to react when the low cross fell loose in the box and Tekpetey found the bottom corner (27).
The temptation to go long to Norwood was taken a few too many times. There was some youthful naïvety about the press. On a couple of occasions Town got away with some blind backwards passes in midfield. Corners weren't defended particularly convincingly either.
There are certainly things to work on.
INSTANT FANS' FAVOURITE
The positive... Town fans are going to absolutely love James Norwood.
The new boy, held back against Paderborn last weekend, played as if his first appearance in a Town shirt was a cup final.
Off the pitch he is raucous, bubbly and already the joker in the pack.
On the pitch he chases everything, scraps for every ball, snarls at the referee, hollers at his team-mates and is not adverse to some off-the-ball altercations.
Think Joe Garner combined with Martyn Waghorn.
After bagging 32 goals for Tranmere last season it took him less than five minutes to get off the mark for Town. The Blues kicked off after going 1-0 down, a long ball forward bounced and Norwood did superbly to calmly side-foot beyond on-rushing keeper Michael Rensing.
PUNISHED ON PENALTIES
Hosts SV Meppen went into the third/fourth play-off with Town after losing on penalties to Dutch top-flight side Utrecht following a goalless draw.
They finished 13th in the German third-tier last season. That makes them Gillingham in English terms. This was a far more even match-up.
Paul Lambert changed his entire team for the second 45 minute match of the afternoon. They were able to get on the front foot and put into practise some of the shape and style work done during this week's training camp.
Jordan Roberts was robust and lively on the left. He saw an early chance blocked. At the back, Corrie Ndaba did his chances of taking the suspended Luke Chambers' spot on the opening day against Burton no harm with an assured display.
Opportunities came and went. Kayden Jackson produced a deft finish on the run following a good move involving Myles Kenlock, Teddy Bishop and Roberts. Sadly, the offside flag was up.
Jackson's running on the last shoulder continued to cause problems. Twice he rounded the keeper following some good build-up, hitting the post from an acute angle and then seeing an effort blocked by the lunge of a desperate defender.
And so it went to penalties. The Germans, of course, came out on top. Jackson scored from the spot, but then Andre Dozzell, Luke Chambers and Jordan Roberts were all denied by keeper Erik Domaschke. All decent saves rather than terrible misses.
Utrecht went on to beat Fortuna 1-0 in the final.
With Nsiala having already limped off, the day was further marred by the sight of seeing Teddy Bishop go off injured.
The midfielder started 12 games in the second half of last season and, we hoped, was beyond all those constant set-backs.
He was just starting to hit his stride in the game against Meppen, driving at opposition players at pace and forcing fouls. Then, after taking the ball from a throw-in, his right knee twisted awkwardly.
There was lengthy attention from the physios. He seemed in some discomfort. All we can do is keep everything crossed that it's not serious.
v DUSSELDORF (4-1-4-1): Bialkowski; Donacien, Woolfenden, Nsiala (Clements 16), Nydam; Skuse (cpt); Lankester, El Mizouni, Huws, Dobra; Norwood.
v MEPPEN (4-2-3-1): Holy; Emmanuel, Chambers (cpt), Ndaba, Kenlock; Downes, Dozzell; Rowe, Bishop (Clements 35), Roberts; Jackson.