Stu says: Five observations following Town's 2-0 home loss to Rotherham

Joe Pigott pictures after the final whistle.

Joe Pigott pictured after Ipswich Town's 2-0 home loss to Rotherham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town were beaten 2-0 by Rotherham United at Portman Road last night. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.

Toto Nsiala pictured after the final whistle.

Toto Nsiala pictured after the final whistle. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

DEJA VU 

October 2019: Ipswich Town out-fought and out-thought in a 2-0 home loss to Rotherham United. It was a sobering night under the lights just four days on from a 2-0 loss at Accrington.  

“I said we will have bumps and bruises along the way,” insisted Paul Lambert. “It’s not what happens now, it’s what happens in May.” 

The Blues continued to come up short against the better teams in the division. They finished 10th. It was a similar tale the following season too. 

November 2021: Ipswich Town out-fought and out-thought in a 2-0 home loss to Rotherham United. It was a sobering night under the lights just four days on from a 2-0 loss at Sunderland. 

“The reality is when we're doing what we're trying to do there are going to be hiccups,” said Paul Cook. “The bigger picture is something you must look at.” 

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No doubt about it, last night will have opened some old and deep wounds for Town fans.   

We’ve been here before – and it’s not ended well. 

TEAM V INDIVIDUALS 

Rotherham still have the core of the squad that got them promoted in 2019/20. 

They are a well-oiled, highly-effective football side that is very comfortable in their own skin. 

What you see is what you get. Paul Warne’s men run hard, they compete physically and they’re organised out of possession. 

Ipswich, by contrast, resemble a newly assembled group still ‘searching for our souls’, as Cook put it recently. 

Town manager Paul Cook pictured in the dying moments of the game.

Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook pictured in the dying moments of his side's 2-0 home loss to Rotherham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Even so, should we really be eulogising about Rotherham having ‘desire and work ethic’ as if it’s some kind of secret formula? Surely that’s just the basics of the game? 

Rotherham’s opener originated from a Christian Walton kick down field. First there was an unopposed defensive header back up field, followed by an unopposed chest and pass from Michael Smith, then there was a half-hearted attempt from Lee Evans to prevent Ben Wiles charging into space before he arrowed a fine shot into the corner of the net. 

Jamie Lindsay twice sprinted to charge down Walton from the halfway line in the first half.  

All over the pitch, Rotherham players just wanted it more. And that’s got nothing to do with chemistry.  

AIR OF RESIGNATION 

When Shane Ferguson slammed in a rebound to make it 2-0 in the 59th minute everyone knew that was game over. 

That really shouldn’t be the case when there’s still more than half an hour to go. 

There had long been an air of resignation inside Portman Road though.  

Ben Wiles (8) celebrates giving Rotherham a 1-0 lead.

Ben Wiles (8) celebrates giving Rotherham a 1-0 lead. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Town were playing without conviction or belief. The crowd, sensing that, were flat. Not everyone stayed until the end. Some of those that did voiced their frustrations at the full-time whistle. 

Fair play. I’ve got no problem with that.  

The Blue Army have been magnificent this season. They’ve been the very definition of ‘supporters’. 

This game might just act as a reminder to the players not to take that for granted. 

Bailey Clements in action against Rotherham.

Bailey Clements in action against Rotherham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

MISSING COMPONENTS 

The 4-2-3-1 formation appears to be a hill that Cook is willing to die on. 

When it works, as we’ve seen, it’s great. But when a few key components are either missing or misfiring then suddenly it appears a little predictable. 

Without Wes Burns (hamstring), Sone Aluko (whose father sadly died) or Kyle Edwards (benched), Town had three players in Conor Chaplin, Bersant Celina and Scott Fraser who all see No.10 as their best position. 

As a result, it was all a bit narrow and one-paced.

Bersant Celina shoulder to shoulder width Michael Ihiekwe.

Bersant Celina shoulder to shoulder with Rotherham's Michael Ihiekwe. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

That issue was compounded by the lack of full-backs bombing on. 

The ever-reliable Janoi Donacien has had a great season, but he’s not completely reinvented himself as a marauding right-back just yet.  

And while Bailey Clements has far from disgraced himself since being thrown in at the deep end against Oxford United, it’s not been ideal having such a rookie increasingly treading water in crucial games.

From back to front there was a real hesitancy from everyone to take on a marker or put the ball in the box.  

Macauley Bonne, who was later joined by 73rd minute sub Joe Pigott, had absolutely nothing to feed off.

Ironic cheers greeted Town’s first shot on target when it arrived in stoppage-time. Worryingly, the previously free-scoring Blues have now drawn a blank in four of their last five games. 

Janoi Donacien in action against Rotherham.

Janoi Donacien in action against Rotherham. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

MIND THE GAP 

What a deflating four days. Saturday’s big missed opportunity at Sunderland feels all the more frustrating now. 

The Blues have slipped to 13th in the table and are an equidistant eight points between the play-off places and the relegation zone. 

Yes, yes, ‘nothing is won in November’. Irreparable damage can be suffered though. 

The margin for error is decreasing by the game.  

Sunday’s visit of rock-bottom Crewe certainly has a lot more pressure on it than it should do. 

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