Stu says: Seven observations after 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury
- Credit: PAGEPIX LTD
Ipswich Town drew 1-1 at Shrewsbury Town yesterday. STUART WATSON reflects on the action.
MORE POINTS DROPPED
Fast start, take the lead, fail to kill the game off when on top, then get hit by a suckerpunch that hadn't ever looked like coming.
A draw snatched from the jaws of victory. We've been here before. It's been the theme of Ipswich Town's season under two different managers.
Under Paul Cook, the Blues really should have got more from games against Burton, Cheltenham, AFC Wimbledon, Cambridge and Sunderland. Under Kieran McKenna, performances against Cheltenham, Morecambe, Oxford and Shrewsbury have all deserved more. You might argue one or two more games should make that list too.
It's points, not performances, that win prizes though. And Town, ultimately, have dropped too many along the way. I'd say there's a cast iron case for, at the very least, 19 having been left out there. By contrast, there are very few that are have felt undeserved.
Boost Town's tally by that aforementioned number and they'd be sitting in second spot. Instead, they remain in their spiritual home of ninth.
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Like a golfer playing well tee to green but repeatedly missing putts it's left a scorecard to agonise over in the clubhouse.
This is not a time for sob stories though. It's a time for self reflection. You make your own luck in this game.
McKenna has some things to fix if Ipswich are going to become a winning machine next season.
James Norwood was handed his third successive start as the central striker.
Following some hard-working displays up top against Plymouth and Cambridge, the 31-year-old once again burst out the blocks like a coiled spring chasing everything and everyone down.
He got his rewards with a sixth minute opener, expertly glancing Janoi Donacien's cross beyond the keeper with a deft flick of the head to end a 12-game goal drought (his longest barren run since playing for Forest Green back in 2012).
"It was a good goal and I’m pleased for him,” said McKenna afterwards. “I think with his performances over the last couple of weeks, and in training especially, it’s probably been coming. That's why we decided to stick with him and give him that little bit of a run."
It's when he's in and around the box that Norwood is at his best. However, as this game wore on, and he increasingly became frustrated at a lack of service, the all-action front man lost a bit of positional discipline and began channeling his energies into off-the-ball confrontations.
Some might argue that it's unfocused and uncontrolled. Others will say those are the actions of a man trying to gee up those around him.
Time will tell if McKenna decides his contract should be extended beyond this summer.
Ipswich started so well. Conor Chaplin really should have scored with a close-range header after four minutes. Norwood's goal came soon afterwards.
All that momentum came to a grinding halt, however, when linesman David Hunt pulled his hamstring to obligatory cheers.
Fourth official Lisa Rashid took over the flag (more cheers). A call went out on the tannoy to see if there were any qualified officials in the crowd to take over as fourth official (more cheers). Eventually, after a 10 minute delay, the game got back underway with a sheepish Hunt and a Shrews fan (still wearing his own trainers) bizarrely job-sharing between the dug-outs.
The Blues never really discovered their early game urgency and intensity after that.
They were always in control, they dominated possession, they rarely felt under threat, but you never sensed they were banging the door down either. Like against Cambridge, it was all a bit too passive.
"At times in the second half we were playing very well but we were playing as if it was fine, the game was going to come to us and the second goal was just going to come," said McKenna. "We need to show more determination and more concentration to go and get the second goal."
MORE VARIETY REQUIRED
Who'd have thought, after that 4-0 thrashing of Gillingham back on January 8, that we'd be sitting here talking about a lack of goals being Ipswich Town's shortfall?
Since that ruthless display in Kent, the Blues have scored 17 goals in 17 games. That's not enough.
But it's far too simplistic to say that the Blues are 'just an in-form striker away from finding the magic formula'. Norwood, as discussed, has hardly been the weakest link of late. Whether it's been him, Macauley Bonne, Joe Pigott ot Kayden Jackson starting, rarely have we been talking about a glut of gilt-edged chances not being taken by the front man.
It's not like the Paul Lambert days either, where we often spoke about possession without a punch. This Ipswich side do repeatedly work dangerous positions in the final third.
So where is it falling down? For me, it's a lack of variety.
If Ipswich don't score the perfect goal straight off the training pitch (a one-touch move that leads to a cut-back/cross and first time finish) then it's hard to see how else they'll find the net.
The dreadful set-piece record has been highlighted several times. It's got to the stage now where Town's fans have started chanting, in jest, 'we're going to score from corner'.
There's a frustrating shortage of players willing to take a pop from long-range too. Remember the early League One days when Jackson was repeatedly gobbling up rebounds?
I'm reminded of Richard Ayoade's character in the IT Crowd proclaiming, in an attempt to fit in, that 'the thing about Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in'. He'd get a few knowing nods if adapting that line in the stands of Portman Road right now.
Another string that Town need to add to their bow is a left-sided threat.
This game was another you can file in the 'nullify Wes Burns and Ipswich suddenly look a little one-paced' draw.
Following his poor day at the office against Cambridge United, Dominic Thompson dropped to the bench. In his place, Matt Penney got the nod for the first time since the middle of January.
We didn't learn anything new. The former Sheffield Wednesday man is a capable crosser. That strength, for me, is outweighed by some of his lapses in concentration though. He just doesn't attack the ball with enough conviction. He was certainly fortunate that Josh Daniels headed over after getting the run on him towards the end of the first half.
Seven different players have started at left-back or left wing-back for Ipswich this season - Penney, Thompson, Myles Kenlock, Bailey Clements, Kane Vincent-Young and Hayden Coulson.
Sorting this troublesome position is surely number one priority this summer.
A DAFT DISMISSAL
Ultimately, this game will be remembered for two things - Cameron Burgess' red card and Shaun Whalley's superb equaliser.
Burgess has received plenty of praise for the way he's stepped into George Edmundson's shoes over recent weeks - and rightly so. But this game was a reminder of some of his frailties.
When Burgess gets caught on the turn high up the field he's in trouble. That's what led to his first clumsy booking. His second yellow came after a far too exuberant lunge on keeper Marko Marosi when trying to charge down a back pass. There can be no complaints. It was studs up and out of control.
Shrewsbury, who'd tried to finish themselves off when Luke Leahy forced his own keeper into a point blank save, had looked well beaten until that 75th minute dismissal. All of a sudden they and their supporters had reason to believe again.
Nine minutes later, sub Whalley sent a dipping long-range strike beyond the despairing dive of Christian Walton.
Ipswich, for a variety of reasons, only had themselves to blame.
STAKING A CLAIM
Unsurprisingly, Tyreeq Bakinson returned to the team in place of Tom Carroll.
The Bristol City loanee, who has improved game-by-game since arriving in January, put in a very tidy display at the base of the midfield.
It's looking more and more likely that the Blues will take up their option to sign the 23-year-old permanently this summer.
Town's other two contenders for man-of-the-match came in defence. Both Donacien and Luke Woolfenden put in near flawless displays.
Donacien, along with Burns, must be a real front runner to be named the Blues' Player of the Season. Woolfenden, meanwhile, would undoubtedly scoop that award if were just for 2022 - he was imperious both on and off the ball.