Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 0-0 home draw with Wycombe
PUBLISHED: 14:10 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:14 28 November 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town remain five points behind League One leaders Wycombe following last night's goalless draw between the sides at Portman Road. STUART WATSON reports.
SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SPECSAVERS
Only one place to start sadly... the officials.
Referee Alan Young (only his second season in the EFL) and linesman Aaron Farmer had, to put it bluntly, an absolute nightmare of an evening.
First, in the 13th minute, neither Young nor Farmer managed to spot Jon Nolan's shot striking the out-stretched arm of Joe Jacobson in the box.
Then, just before half-time, the pair somehow came to the conclusion that Luke Chambers' perfectly legitimate goal should be chalked off. The Town skipper had glanced home Luke Garbutt's deep cross from the left, the ball taking a slight nick off the head of stooping Wycombe man Curtis Thompson on the way through.
Chambers celebrated wildly. Town fans celebrated wildly. The teams were virtually back in position for the restart.
Then, after an age, Young went over to talk to his assistant (who hadn't flagged) and came to the conclusion that Kayden Jackson - who was level with the last man and didn't touch the ball - was offside.
This must be what watching all this VAR nonsense in the Premier League is like.
James Norwood was booked for his remonstrations (he'll be suspended for the league trip to Coventry a week on Saturday now) and the yellow cards continued to flow. In the end, Young dished out 11 of them (five for Ipswich, six for Wycombe).
To cap off their woeful evening, the officials awarded Wycombe a penalty in the 87th minute. Young pointed to the spot after Chambers had tugged at the shirt of Dominic Gape, even though the initial contact was outside the area.
Thank goodness that Tomas Holy saved the spot-kick - and a better penalty stop you'll unlikely to see.
The giant Czech dived to his right and used the full extension of his arm to stop the ball from flying in above him. He went mad. The Town fans went mad. A major injustice had been avoided.
Holy had made a smart stop with his legs from Adebayo Akinfenwa in the first half. Back in the team at the expense of Will Norris, the popular custodian can have done no more to keep his spot.
Oh, and in the aftermath of all that Young decided (actually he might have just forgot) not to show Janoi Donacien a second booking for a crunching foul in the build-up to the penalty incident. At least something went in the Blues' favour.
NO SHOTS ON TARGET
Yes, if the early penalty had been awarded and/or the goal that wasn't had stood then the whole dynamic of the game would have changed. Wycombe, who were physical, direct and not adverse to time-wasting, would have had to chase the game.
That shouldn't mean Town's performance in the second half shouldn't go under the spotlight.
It was all a little underwhelming and flat after the break. Town's play lacked intensity and identity. Too many set-pieces and crosses were over-hit. They ended the match (putting the disallowed goal aside) without producing a single shot on target.
Wycombe were nothing special for a team top of the pile, but you can see why they are keeping clean sheets. They are organised and all know their jobs.
Did Town need three centre-backs and a holding midfielder for pretty much the whole of a home game against a promotion rival though? Could and should they have done more to win this top-of-the-table clash?
Everyone in the ground could see that the game was drifting come the hour mark, yet Paul Lambert waited until the 82nd minute before making any substitutions.
He finally brought on wing duo Gwion Edwards and Danny Rowe in a double change, switching from wing-backs to 4-4-2, but they had little time to make an impact. Striker Will Keane wasn't introduced until after the penalty save.
Late subs are becoming a recurring theme. Keane and Alan Judge didn't come on until the final five minutes of last weekend's 2-2 home draw with Blackpool. It was the same with James Norwood and Rowe in the 1-1 draw against Lincoln in the initial FA Cup meeting.
Judge must be feeling particularly frustrated. He expressed a desire to kick on after his long-awaited and confidence-boosting goal at Lincoln last Wednesday, but since then has been given just four minutes of game time in two big home games.
Having been rested against Blackpool as a precaution, James Norwood returned to the starting line-up (Lambert making four changes and switching system again).
He charged about like a man possessed for the opening half an hour or so and really should have scored when glancing a Kayden Jackson cross wide from close-range. The front man faded badly thereafter though as a lack of training and game time post groin surgery caught up with him.
With Will Keane's game time still being carefully managed and Freddie Sears' return far from imminent, the lack of striker options is becoming a concern.
Flynn Downes missed this one through illness. Losing his energy in the middle of the park was definitely noticed.
And then came the news, post-match, that Kane Vincent-Young is going to be out for 'months' following his recent groin surgery. As good as Donacien has been in recent weeks, and he has been very good, that's undoubtedly a major blow.
Town are still waiting for their first home win against a promotion contender. They lost to Rotherham and have drawn against Sunderland, Doncaster, Blackpool and Wycombe at Portman Road.
Some might argue that, with competent referees, it would have been six points from six this week. Two draws is probably a reasonable refection of the performances though. Good in spells, but not quite enough.
This is no drama though. Heading into December, the Blues are five points off the top (with two games in hand), four points ahead of third (with a game in hand) and have a six-point cushion to seventh.
We'd have all taken this scenario had it been offered back in the summer.