Stu says: Five observations following 1-0 loss at Sheff Weds
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Ipswich Town lost 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday yesterday afternoon. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
Town actually started this game pretty well. Players were winning individual duels all over the pitch. Sheffield Wednesday had hardly had a kick.
But then a momentary lapse in concentration proved costly and changed the course of the afternoon.
George Edmundson looked to stride out from the back, but was dispossessed by a well-timed Massimo Luongo challenge. Fair enough. That's an occupational hazard that comes with the way Kieran McKenna wants his side to be brave with their build-up play.
It's what followed that did the real damage.
First, Tyreeq Bakinson and Dominic Thompson didn't close the ball down quick enough, allowing Nathaniel Mendez-Laing to swing in a cross from the right. Then, to compound that, Wes Burns was caught napping as Marvin Johnson ran past him to score on the stretch at the far post.
It was an all-important first goal. Wednesday, who have lost at home just once all season, suddenly weren't under pressure to force the issue.
POSSESSION WITHOUT PUNCH
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Town ended this game with a 65% share of the ball but without having produced a single shot on target.
This performance felt a lot like one from the Paul Lambert days.
Ipswich would work their way up to the final third but so often turn back or be wasteful at the vital moment. Several times they were funnelled wide by the organised hosts only to run into dead ends.
Burns was well-shackled. And when he's not bang at it, Town's attack can looked badly blunted.
Conor Chaplin and Bersant Celina weren't able to land on the ball in dangerous areas enough. The one time Celina did skip past a man high up the field he lashed over.
Macauley Bonne was left isolated (and often offside) up top.
Wednesday, dangerous on the counter, spurned numerous golden chances to kill this game off. Mendez-Laing and Johnson both dragged wide from golden positions, Christian Walton made smart reaction stops from Florian Kamberi and Barry Bannan, while Bannan also headed a rebound chance over.
Owls fans were probably sitting there convinced such profligacy was bound to be punished. Town, in truth, never looked like scoring though. For all of the possession, it never felt like they were really knocking on the door.
On these sort of frustrating days, a set-piece goal can get you off the hook. Sadly, the Blues don't pose anywhere near enough of a threat from dead balls.
Coping without first-choice central midfield duo Sam Morsy and Lee Evans at AFC Wimbledon was one thing. Coping without them at Hillsborough was another.
With Tom Carroll also absent, due to attending the birth of his son, we saw Idris El Mizouni return to the team to partner Tyreeq Bakinson. Both had up and down games.
El Mizouni gave it away cheaply on occasions, but at least tried to provide the tenacity and forward thrust usually supplied by Morsy.
On the ball, Bakinson played some neat first time passes and clipped crosses. Off-the-ball he was flaky in the extreme. For someone who is 6ft 3in he lacks physicality. He ended the game with cramp.
One player who was all set for a loan departure after limited game time and a new loanee still finding his feet - this was hardly the ideal midfield make-up for such an important game.
Dominic Thompson went straight into the starting XI for the suspended Kane Vincent-Young.
The new Brentford loanee tried to get on the front foot and support the attack. On more than one occasion he was in the Wednesday box looking to get on the end of a cross.
Too many crosses entered the Blues box from his side though. It wasn't just the goal where he was guilty of not closing down Mendez-Laing quickly enough.
If this had been Matt Penney then, no doubt, supporters would have been talking about the need for an upgrade.
Hopefully there is a lot more to come from the 21-year-old.
Incredibly, Town have now started seven different players at left-back or left wing-back this season (Hayden Coulson, Matt Penney, Cameron Burgess, Bailey Clements and Myles Kenlock the others).
MIND THE GAP
Town slip back to ninth place.
The Owls, in eighth, have two games in hand. Plymouth and Oxford United, in seventh and sixth respectively, have one game in hand.
The gap to the play-off places has grown to eight points again. Worryingly, MK Dons and Wycombe, in fourth and fifth, are both 11 points clear.
With 17 games to play, the margin for error is miniscule.
Mind you, the two-points-per-game average under McKenna so far is still promotion form. Replicate that between now and then end of the season and the Blues hit the magic 75 point marker usually good enough for a top-six spot.
The next two games are against the bottom two clubs - Gillingham at home next weekend followed by a Tuesday night trip to Doncaster.
Town have put 10 goals past those two this season. Gillingham were thrashed 7-2 at home by Oxford United yesterday. Only a maximum six-point haul will do.
That would set up a trip to MK Dons nicely.