Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 5-2 home loss to Bolton
- Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller
Ipswich Town's poor start to the season continued with a 5-2 home loss to Bolton Wanderers yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
For the first time since that horrible night against Norwich just over a decade ago, Town conceded five goals at home.
It takes the total number of goals leaked across the opening six league games up to an eye-watering 15. That's the second-worst record in the Football League.
This is a result that is harder to instantly sweep under the rug with talk of ‘needing time to gel’ and ‘it’s just individual mistakes which are proving costly’.
Paul Cook balked at his overall record as Blues boss (P23 W4 D10 L9) being brought up by the Sky Sports reporter post-match, saying it was unfair to bring up last season given the summer’s complete squad overhaul.
If we just focus on this season alone then, it’s three points claimed from games against Morecambe, Burton, Cheltenham, MK Dons, AFC Wimbledon and Bolton.
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Three of them were in League Two last season. The other three finished in the bottom half.
Some recurring themes are emerging. And they need fixing quickly.
The joy of Macauley Bonne’s fifth minute opener was cut short by Dapo Afolayan’s 10th minute leveller.
For the third successive game at Portman Road, the Blues had managed to concede swiftly after scoring themselves.
It’s a trait that dampens the fans’ default position of positivity and brings underlying anxieties bubbling back to the surface.
However, after undoing the subsequent further damage of Eoin Doyle’s penalty goal, Wes Burns forcing Ricardo Santos to turn the ball past his own keeper for 2-2, Town found themselves on top and the crowd were once more roaring their encouragement.
First half stoppage-time rather summed up where this new-look side are at right now.
Bonne side-footed a decent chance just wide inside the box following yet another dart and low cross from the two-assists Burns.
From the subsequent goal kick, Bolton worked the ball from back to front and the confident Afolayan was afforded to much space inside the box to bend home.
The big moments in games consistently keep going against Town.
Most worryingly of all, the Blues, for whom fitness does seem to be an issue, folded after the restart.
Josh Sheehan soon made it 4-2 with the backline at sixes and sevens. Heads then visibly dropped and a predictable fifth, after some more chaotic defending, was bagged by George Johnstone.
It made for an uncomfortably drawn out final half hour.
NO PRESSURE SAM!
To blame the goalkeeper and defence for the goals being conceded is far too simplistic.
The biggest issue, for me, has been the one constant - the two holding midfielders.
Lee Evans and Rekeem Harper don’t do enough out of possession - be it snapping into tackles, pressing high or covering the gaps left by two undercooked full-backs being told to constantly stay high.
And they’re not giving Ipswich enough control of the ball to get anywhere near making up for that either.
Meanwhile, with all the attacking play once again directed up the flanks, this was another match in which Town’s No.10 - Conor Chaplin this time – wasn’t able to get in the game all too often.
Cook bemoaned his side’s lack of aggression but says he’s not worried because deadline day signing Sam Morsy – his trusted captain at Chesterfield and Wigan – is still to come into the equation.
“Everything that we lacked today will be there times 10 from him,” said the Blues boss. “There will be no performances like that when he’s in the team.”
The problem is, Morsy’s still got two more league games left on his suspension. Cook needs to find another solution to his midfield problem for the upcoming matches against Lincoln and Sheffield Wednesday.
STARTS, SUBS AND SONE
Christian Walton and George Edmundson were the latest summer signings to make their debuts.
Walton may have conceded five, but none could be pinned on him.
Edmundson had a decent first half, making one fine saving challenge, but was part of a defensive unit that went to pieces after the break.
Fellow centre-half Cameron Burgess, after a solid start to life with the Blues, was rather schooled by the experienced Eoin Doyle on this occasion.
This certainly wasn’t a defensive partnership that instantly clicked.
Kane Vincent-Young suffered the ignominy of being subbed in the 21st minute. He’d been booked, gave away the penalty with a poorly timed tackle on the dangerous Afolayan and, still far from fully up to speed after his long-term injury problems, simply had to come off.
Cook waited until Town were 5-2 down before making his next change. Carroll came on for Chaplin and sat in front of the back four as the Blues switched to a 4-1-4-1.
Interestingly, Kayden Jackson was the last sub deployed. He replaced Burns (who is nursing a slight Achilles issue) late on, with Louie Barry and Joe Pigott remaining unused.
Ipswich didn't have a single homegrown player in their squad.
Meanwhile, a quick word on Sone Aluko. On what was his first league start (a late replacement for the injured Scott Fraser), the experienced former Reading and Fulham man was arguably the pick of the bunch for Town with some neat and tidy play down the left.
It was a reminder to everyone, after his rusty cup debut against Newport, that he very much has a role to play.
Town remain in the relegation zone. Already, they find themselves 12 points adrift of leaders Sunderland and nine points behind the teams currently occupying play-off places.
Every dropped point now is one that has to be made up further down the line.
Things won’t get any easier either. After Tuesday night’s EFL Trophy visit of West Ham U21s, it’s a trip to Lincoln City - a team who have just won 5-1 at Cambridge United.
But some inspiration and hope can be taken from Bolton Wanderers.
The Trotters were 19th in League Two a full 26 games into last season. Then they won 15 of their final 20 matches to storm to automatic promotion. New boss Ian Evatt needed time to get his new-look team up and running. Patience was rewarded. Now they have upward momentum.
Town’s late signings will settle in the area. Undercooked players, of which there are plenty, will get fitter. Key partnerships will develop. There’ll be a time, hopefully, when Morsy, Bersant Celina and Kyle Edwards are all on the pitch.
There’s still a hell of a long way to go.