Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 3-0 loss at AFC Wimbledon
- Credit: Pagepix
Ipswich Town's poor form continued with a 3-0 loss at AFC Wimbledon last night. STUART WATSON reports.
ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?
Deep breath. Just six more to go.
I’m fed up writing about it. You’re fed up reading about it.
The end of this miserable Covid campaign just cannot come quickly enough.
Let’s drop this charade about potentially still being able to sneak into the play-offs now shall we? What the points gap is (five now) is immaterial really. Ipswich are in relegation form.
Ex Town boss Paul Lambert once tried to convince us that it is ‘better to be the hunter than the hunted?’ Well Ipswich have hardly got those ahead of them reaching for new underwear.
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Current Town boss Paul Cook said in the build-up that this would be a ‘season defining’ game.
Turns out he was right. Look up the definition of Ipswich Town in the 2018-2021 edition of football’s dictionary and you’d get a description of this match.
No confidence, no cohesion, no stamina, no quality, no discipline.
This is a group of players that look absolutely crushed. It’s been a vicious cycle of them consistently not delivering when it matters most, followed by criticism (fairly) dished out and a little bit more belief draining away. Following several repetitions, we’ve reached the stage now where the lights have gone out.
Confidence is on the floor and there’s no-one in this team to pick others up through words or actions. Even skipper Luke Chambers has appeared down-trodden for a while now.
A soft reset is not an option.
Cook, who looks and sounds absolutely exasperated, has to virtually start again from scratch.
It won’t take much for him to convince the new owners of that either.
Bring on the summer.
ROCK-SOLID TO RAGGED
The one small positive to take from a succession of goalless bore draws was that Town were keeping clean sheets and looking pretty solid.
Some old defensive frailties returned at Plough Lane though.
Centre-back Will Nightingale took advantage of some statuesque zonal marking at a corner to thump home a headed opener.
The killer second goal was the culmination of errors.
Luke Chambers lost a 50/50 shoulder barge with diminutive attacking midfielder Ayoub Assal, Stephen Ward was sold a dummy far too easily and Toto Nsiala wasn’t tight enough when Jack Rudoni headed home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Town didn’t learn their lesson either. Time and time again, they failed to stop Luke O’Neil getting good crosses in from deep right.
Wimbledon’s late third wasn’t much better from an Ipswich point of view either.
Ex Town midfielder Shane McLaughlin had Chambers back-peddling, the back-tracking Andre Dozzell didn’t do enough from the blindside and Nsiala subsequently got drawn across to the ball. All that allowed for a square pass in the box and a simple finish for Ryan Longman.
Joe Piggott had forced a diving save out of Tomas Holy at 0-0, Ollie Palmer went close at 1-0, while Nsiala cleared one off the line in the second half.
This could have been worse.
Josh Harrop became the sixth Ipswich Town player to be sent-off this season.
The Preston loanee had flown into a wild early challenge that was so late he missed both the ball and man.
He wasn’t so lucky next time.
Again, it was a late lunge on Nesta Guinness-Walker. Watching it back, there looked a bit of intent to ‘leave one on him’ after the ball had been cleared.
A challenge born out of pure frustration just minutes after the second goal had gone in? Perhaps. A stupid one nevertheless.
He’ll be suspended for the next three games now.
I doubt we’ll see him in an Ipswich shirt again.
Cook has started 23 different players and tried every formation going in a desperate search for a winning formula. It’s a different attacking combination every match. The players looked confused. Nothing’s clicked.
Wimbledon, by contrast, looked like a team that knew their roles. Assal found space in behind the big front two of Ollie Palmer and Joe Piggott, while the full-backs provided width on the outside of a narrow midfield three.
Town’s decision making and final deliveries in the final third are poor. Set-pieces so often fail to beat the first man. There’s never enough bodies in the box.
Flynn Downes’ driving run through the middle led to an Aaron Drinan shot being held in the first half. After that, it was just the odd Gwion Edwards dart and cross which momentarily made the heart flutter.
James Norwood ultimately missed the one good chance created in this game when heading over Woolfenden’s pin-point cross in the 78th minute.
Ipswich have now drawn a blank in seven of their last 14 games. They are now the outright third lowest scorers in the division. Their goal difference is zero.
TEN FROM TEN
Town have taken 10 points from Cook’s first 10 games in charge (W2 D4 L4).
Is it fair to have expected more? The Blues’ performances have arguably got worse since he replaced Paul Lambert in the hot seat.
Problems were deep-rooted though. A culture of comfort was ingrained.
Cook has inherited a bloated and imbalanced squad made up players signed by four previous managers.
And he took the reins at a time when the games were coming thick and fast and contracts were rapidly running down.
His CV and honest post-match assessments give me comfort.
Finally, we have a manager who sees the game through the eyes of the fans.
Finally, we have owners with fresh ideas and who are prepared to engage.
Finally, in Mark Ashton, we will have an experienced chief executive from a football background.
Let’s just get this season done and see what the new era – a proper new era - brings.