Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 home win against Crewe
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 November 2020
Ipswich Town ground out a 1-0 home win against Crewe Alexandra yesterday to move joint-top of the League One table. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
CREDIT TO CREWE
There were no attempts from Paul Lambert to dress this performance up. The Blues boss admitted afterwards that his team ‘never turned up’ in the first half, ‘rode their luck’ and ultimately claimed three points that they didn’t deserve.
Credit to Crewe. Six of their starting XI were regulars in their League Two winning campaign. They looked a well-drilled team all on the same wavelength. David Artell’s men passed and moved with intent. The various components of their 4-3-3 system were well-connected. They worked several good chances.
Ipswich were left chasing shadows and gave away a string of free-kicks. Teddy Bishop and Alan Judge dropped deep to get the ball, leaving a disconnect between midfield and attack. Isolated lone striker Oli Hawkins struggled to make the ball stick, the single-minded Gwion Edwards ran into dead ends, while Freddie Sears was all huff and puff down the left.
The odd driving run from Bishop aside, this was another game where Ipswich didn’t pose much of a threat from open play.
It was also another game where Town missed the presence of a midfielder who can over-turn possession – be it through aggressive/tenacious means, like Flynn Downes, or via intelligent interceptions, like Cole Skuse.
OLI’S OFF THE MARK
On off days like this, you still have a chance if the defence stands firm and are able to pose a goal threat from set-pieces at the other end. That’s exactly how the Blues managed to grind out the three points.
Hawkins may not have been able to link play as he’d done in previous performances, either on the floor or in the air, but he came up with the goods when it counted.
There was a warning sign for Crewe in the 56th minute when the 6ft 5in striker got above Offord to meet Ward’s cross with his head, testing the keeper.
Six minutes later, Hawkins pinned Omar Beckles at the far post and this time nodded into the bottom corner following Alan Judge’s quickly taken short corner and subsequent pin-point delivery.
That will be a weight off Hawkins’ shoulders. Every striker admits that first goal for a new club is vitally important for confidence.
A word too on Kayden Jackson’s sub outing. Making his first appearance since testing positive for Covid-19 and subsequent 10-day isolation period, the striker’s pace and aggressive high press over the last half hour was heartening for the games ahead. He provides a much-needed different weapon in the armoury.
THOU SHALT NOT PASS
Tomas Holy’s place in the team came under heavy scrutiny following his high profile error at Doncaster recently, the Czech keeper having previously got away with some unconvincing moments at the start of this season.
Lambert kept the faith with his No.1 keeper and the latter repaid that with his best display in some time.
Town’s big friendly giant got away with a moment of hesitation early on when Offord’s close-range header struck him on the shoulder and went over. That was another incident which left you wondering why such a physically imposing keeper doesn’t appear confident enough to come and claim an aerial ball, cleaning everyone out in the process.
After that though, Holy was outstanding. His standout moment was a breathtaking close-range stop to deny Tom Lowery on the half hour mark. He also did well to beat fierce angled attempts from Owen Dale (13) and Lowery (67) around the post, as well as keeping an Offord header out the bottom corner (68).
In front of Holy, the Blues’ back four defended well too. Mark McGuinness made some brave blocks and stretching interceptions at vital moments, while Luke Woolfenden read danger and swept up nicely at times.
Either side of that young central defensive duo was the veteran full-backs of Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward. The latter hasn’t hit the heights he did at the start of the campaign since returning from a three-week break with an Achilles problem, but has still been a calming influence. Chambers, as ever, was the one demanding more from his team-mates at the toughest moments in the game.
It was all hands to the pump as Crewe pushed for an equaliser their play deserved during a frantic five minutes of stoppage-time, but Town saw it out to secure their eighth clean sheet in 14 games across all competitions this season.
Ipswich won just six of their 17 home league games last season, Lambert often talking about how visiting teams were raising their games at Portman Road.
The Blues boss and his players would vehemently disagree, but perhaps playing behind closed doors is suiting them this time around.
Had there been fans present then a large number of them would, undoubtedly, have been voicing their frustrations during the one-sided first period. And that, as we’ve seen so many times in the past, can translate to more nerves on the pitch.
Or maybe a bit of fire from the stands would have sparked the players into life a bit sooner? Who knows.
One thing’s for sure, the Blues have now won their opening five home league games without conceding a goal. Keep that up and a major cornerstone for success will be in place.
Should the ability to play average/poorly and still win be lauded as ‘the sign of a good side’, or have these last two results papered over a few cracks?
There are some remarkable similarities with this time last year.
After a flying start in 2019, Ipswich suffered sobering defeats to Accrington and Rotherham in October before bouncing back with hard fought wins against Southend and Rochdale. Was it proof that those two prior losses had been a bad week at the office? That’s what we all hoped (if not truly believed) at the time. Sadly it was not the case. Town’s next league win didn’t arrive until January 11, five draws and three defeats later.
So if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that 1-0 wins against Gillingham and Crewe can’t be taken as evidence that all is well again following those damaging defeats at Doncaster and Lincoln.
A statement win/performance against a promotion hopeful would go a long way to easing any such nagging doubts – both in the minds of supporters and the players.
Sunderland, at the Stadium of Light, on Tuesday night certainly represents an acid test. The Black Cats have only lost one of their nine league games thus far and have a squad containing plenty of experience, physicality and bite. Ipswich can’t afford to be off the pace again.
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