Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 1-1 home draw with Sheffield United
PUBLISHED: 17:50 22 December 2018 | UPDATED: 21:47 22 December 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town drew 1-1 agaist Sheffield United at Portman Road this afternoon to move to within four points of Championship safety. STUART WATSON gives his observations.
ANOTHER FORWARD STEP
It was vital Town built on their 1-0 home win against Wigan. They did just that by securing a hard-fought draw against one of the Championship’s better sides.
Chris Wilder’s men haven’t dropped many points against teams in the lower reaches.
This was undoubtedly another step in the right direction under Paul Lambert.
The Blades committed men forwards during a trademark fast start, but Town weathered the storm. They then took the lead in the 38th minute when Ellis Harrison curled home via the aid of a slight deflection.
It would have been easy for the Blues to fold after Billy Sharp headed home a delicious delivery from Oliver Norwood less than two minutes after the restart.
Instead, they stuck to their task, dug in, kept their discipline and maintained a goal threat on occasion too.
Either team might have won it towards the end of an entertaining game. A draw was probably about right.
HEART FROM HARRISON
It was hard for fans to form any sort of judgement on Ellis Harrison a few months into his Town career.
After stepping up from League One side Bristol Rovers, the striker enjoyed a decent pre-season campaign – particularly in the friendly against West Ham – but then failed to really kick on when the real action started.
Mind you, it was a big ask for him to shine in an inexperienced, struggling side.
Then came an ankle injury which kept him out for a prolonged spell.
Harrison came on against Bristol City, then was left out the squad entirely against Nottingham Forest. He came on against Stoke, then was left out of the squad completely against Wigan.
This was his first start since the draw against Brentford back in the middle of September. Given the ring-rust and the fact he was up against a good back three this was an impressive display.
The 24-year-old didn’t stop running and battling. His finish may have been aided by a slight deflection, but it was nevertheless a fine effort on the angle which ended up in the top corner.
This was only the fourth Championship game referee Andy Woolmer has been in charge of this season. It might be a wait before he gets appointed to another one.
It was hard to see an infringement when he disallowed Luke Chambers’ headed finish from a corner just moments before the deadlock was broken. The whistle was blown pretty rapidly as players jostled in a crowded box.
Several more minor questionable decisions followed before Oliver Norwood somehow escaped a red card in the closing moments when kicking out in anger at Trevoh Chalobah. That act of retribution, following a prior tussle, came right under Woolmer’s nose.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Town fans have not been given a lot of value for money in recent years.
The home record in 2018 – P23 W3 D11 L9 F17 A30 – tells the tale of Portman Road frustration. Almost half of those games (10) have ended in a failure to score.
Under Lambert the Blues are fun to watch again. They pass out from the back. They press high. They take calculated risks. They focus more on their own strengths rather than worrying entirely about stopping the opposition.
The all-important symbiotic relationship between fans and manager/players has been restored.
To get a crowd of almost 18,000 just a few days before Christmas today spoke volumes about the levels of reconnection and belief.
GAP DOWN TO FOUR
The teams immediately above Town are all badly out of form. Bolton, Millwall, Reading and Rotherham all lost today. The gap to safety has closed to four points now.
It’s beginning to look like a five-way battle to beat the drop. Right now, looking at current form and the prospect of January recruits, you’d back Ipswich to finish in the top two of that mini division.
The Blues head to QPR on Boxing Day, Steve McClaren’s side having won 1-0 at Nottingham Forest today, then travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday, December 29th.