Seven observations following Ipswich Town's 2-1 loss to West Ham U21s

Skipper Sam Morsy (right) and Albie Armin pictured early in the game.

Skipper Sam Morsy (right) and Albie Armin pictured early in the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

Ipswich Town’s increasingly worrying start to the campaign continued with a 2-1 home loss to West Ham U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy last night. STUART WATSON reflects. 

Ipswich keeper Tomas Holy in goal for Town against West Ham U21s.

Ipswich keeper Tomas Holy in goal for Town against West Ham U21s. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

HOLY MOLY 

Let’s start with how this game ended. 

With 90 minutes on the clock, the visitors lofted a deep free-kick into the box. Tomas Holy’s attempt to punch clear over the top of Jamal Baptiste was mis-timed and clumsy. 

Armstrong Okoflex tucked away the subsequent spot-kick to seal a 2-1 win for the young Hammers. 

The big Czech had produced some erratic kicking in the first had which left boss Paul Cook frantically gesturing at him to concentrate. It looked like he should have had done better with the low equaliser too.

Then, in the second half, Holy was hugely fortunate that goalline technology wasn’t in operation after fumbling a high corner delivery into his own net under little pressure. You didn't need the benefit of replays to see the ball had clearly crossed the line. Somehow the officials didn't award it though.

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It could have been a night of redemption for Town’s gentle giant, but ended up being one of condemnation. 

His small window of opportunity has just slammed shut. You’d imagine he is now firmly third choice behind Christian Walton and Vaclav Hladky.  

Louie Barry, Idris El Mizouni , Sam Morsy, Albie Armin and Luke Woolfenden return to the pitch after

Louie Barry, Idris El Mizouni , Sam Morsy, Albie Armin and Luke Woolfenden return to the pitch after the break. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

KILLING CHEMISTRY 

Just like for the Carabao Cup defeat to Newport a few weeks ago, Cook made 10 changes to his team. 

Kane Vincent-Young was the only player to retain his place in the starting XI following Saturday’s 5-2 home loss to Bolton. 

One disgruntled supporter shouted at Cook to ‘stop changing the team’ as he headed for the tunnel at the end. 

The Blues boss’ reasoning afterwards was that certain players were deemed too big an injury risk to go again, while he also felt others deserved a chance to show they should be playing after witnessing such a heavy loss. 

I get the logic behind resting George Edmundson (just back from injury), Wes Burns (managing an Achilles problem) and Hayden Coulson (limited pre-season due to Covid). 

I get that Sam Morsy needed to make his debut. 

And I also get why you’d want to take a look at Matt Penney, Luke Woolfenden and Tom Carroll. 

Albie Armin in action.

Albie Armin in action. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

Was there not a halfway house option though? 

Could Christian Walton, Cameron Burgess, Connor Chaplin, Sone Aluko and Macauley Bonne not all have gone again? Or at least some of them? It’s clear that most of them are seen as preferred starters. So start bedding some of them in. Because that's the name of the game right now, is it not?

Cook could have further developed the Walton-Burgess defensive partnership, the Chaplin-Bonne forward partnership, the Vincent-Young-Aluko right-sided partnership and got Morsy more accustomed to what’s usually going to be all around him for future league games. 

Instead, this match was a complete waste of time from a team chemistry point of view.  

Morsy and Carroll aside, I’ll be surprised if we see any of these combinations again. 

Sam Morsy pictured organising play early in the game.

Sam Morsy pictured organising play early in the game. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

SAM TO THE RESCUE? 

The experienced midfield duo of Morsy and Carroll both stayed on the move, kept making angles to receive the ball and looked to play positively once they got it. 

Neither was perfect – Carroll did see several passes intercepted, while Morsy gave away the late free-kick from which the winner was scored – but they did look a potential partnership in the making. 

Was Morsy neat and tidy? Yes. Did he look like the all-action saviour that’s going to completely transform an ailing team? Not really. Maybe Cook's quotes at the weekend have raised our expectations over the deadline signing to unrealistic levels. 

Whether Carroll’s done enough to get in the team at Lincoln on Saturday remains to be seen. 

James Norwood scores to give Town an early goal.

James Norwood scores to give Town an early goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

FRIENDS REUNITED 

There was a time, back at the start of 2019/20, that James Norwood and Kayden Jackson looked like they would be the dream strike partnership for Ipswich Town. 

Having barely played together over the last 20 months, the duo were reunited here and linked together well. 

Norwood was lively up top before ultimately fading. He stabbed home the scrappy second minute opener inside the box and produced some clever movement, as well as some neat touches. 

Jackson, playing wide right, provided some dangerous sweeping crosses before ultimately limping off injured. 

A penny for Joe Pigott’s thoughts as he sat on the bench until the 78th minute. 

West Ham players celebrate with Keenan Appiah Forson, after his goal to level the score 1-1.

West Ham players celebrate with Keenan Appiah Forson, after his goal to level the score 1-1. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

SAME VULNERABILITIES 

For the fourth successive game, Town conceded soon after scoring themselves. 

Against MK Dons it took four minutes. Against AFC Wimbledon it took four minutes. Against Bolton it took five minutes. 

Here, they lasted a full 10 minutes before being pegged back. I guess that’s progress... 

One of Town’s major vulnerabilities is the space being left behind advanced full-backs. 

That’s where the Hammer’s equaliser originated from, with Keenan Appiah-Forsun playing a neat one-two to work his way inside before finishing low. 

Vincent-Young, sadly, looks a shadow of the player he was pre long-term injuries – both in terms of fitness and sharpness. The lightning recovery runs just aren’t there at the moment. 

That will hopefully come with time, but time is not a luxury Ipswich can afford at the moment. 

Zanda Siziba looked to be brought down in the penalty area following a two pronged West Ham challeng

Zanda Siziba looked to be brought down in the penalty area following a two pronged West Ham challenge. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

LIGHTWEIGHT LOUIE 

With Bersant Celina and Kyle Edwards to come into the equation, Louie Barry knew he had to do something special in this game to force his way into the league picture. 

The teenage Aston Villa loanee probably ended up trying a bit too hard to impress.  

More often than not his attempts to immediately get on the front foot ended up with a heavy touch or being eased off the ball. 

Substitute Zanda Siziba – who was denied a stonewall penalty within seconds of Holy’s apparent own goal not being given – had more of an impact on the left. 

Town manager Paul Cook looks on.

Town manager Paul Cook looks on. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

WAIT GOES ON 

The entire West Ham starting XI was aged between 17 and 20. Between them, they had just 24 senior appearances. 

Town’s starting XI – by contrast – totalled more than 2,000 first team games. 

For all the debate about the team picked, this was still a match Ipswich should have won. 

They didn’t though. And that’s now eight games without a victory in all competitions at the start of this campaign (D3 L5), with 18 goals conceded along the way.

I’m sure even the glass half-full brigade are starting to feel a little jittery now. 

We all need to start seeing some signs of progress and quick. 

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