Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 2-0 home loss to Charlton Athletic
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at home to fellow top-six side Charlton Athletic yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts on the action.
I may as well copy and paste from Tuesday night.
Two poor goals conceded. No spells of pressure. Few chances created. Not clinical enough when the odd chance came. No-one leading by example. Confidence looks low.
Charlton, just like Hull in midweek, didn’t have to do anything special to win at Portman Road.
Ipswich Town, once again, came up short against a so-called ‘promotion rival’ (I use the term loosely, as the Blues look anything but contenders).
Ipswich Town, once again, suffered injuries.
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Ipswich Town, once again, are sliding down the League One table.
Ipswich Town, once again, are sleepwalking into trouble.
It’s death by a thousand cuts. It’s felt that way for a number of years now.
You’re fed up. I’m fed up. It grinds you down after a while.
Blues legend Terry Butcher often used to talk about how watching England felt like purgatory. I looked up the definition – ‘a state of everlasting damnation’. Sums it up being a Town fan quite nicely, I think.
James Norwood raced onto Andre Dozzell’s ball over the top, out-muscled Darren Pratley, then lifted the ball over from close-range. A good chance to break the deadlock slipped by in the 15th minute.
Luke Woolfenden was dispossessed on the edge of his own box and the Town defence subsequently looked all over the place when Albie Morgan put Charlton ahead after 21 minutes. Another goal conceded down the left side.
Alan Judge’s glancing header from a deep free-kick forced a diving save out of keeper Ben Amos in the 38th minute. Judge then blazed over from close-range, following good work by substitute Aaron Drinan, moments later.
Ipswich didn’t take their chances in a fairly even first half lacking in quality. Then, after the restart, they never looked like scoring.
Not only did Town not convince going forwards, the final ball so often lacking, they didn’t convince defensively either.
Toto Nsiala just about did enough to prevent both Jonny Williams and Paul Smyth getting clean shots away in the box. On both occasions, Chuks Aneke had won towering flick-ons. He had the beating of Woolfenden all game.
The second goal came from a long throw from the right. Pratley drilled the loose ball across the area and Omar Bogle was there to score with his first touch at the far post.
There was still more than 20 minutes to play, but you knew it was game over.
No Emyr Huws in the matchday 18. Turns out he hurt his back in training on Tuesday and that’s ‘gone into his hamstring’. That meant 17-year-old Liam Gibbs was handed his league debut (more on him later).
Not long after the half hour mark, James Norwood pulls up lame after trying to twist and turn his way out of a tight spot near the touchline. He headed straight down the tunnel clutching his hamstring.
It was the fourth time this season that an Ipswich player has gone off injured in the first half. And it was a real blow given that, just like against Hull, Norwood had looked pretty lively.
Then, in the 71st minute, Toto Nsiala limped off too. Again, a hamstring problem. You couldn’t make it up.
There are *some* mitigating circumstances. After six months of becoming deconditioned, footballers have been thrust straight into a relentless Saturday-Tuesday schedule.
I’ve said it before though, and I’ll say it again – this is not a new phenomenon for Ipswich Town.
Go back to Adam Webster, David McGoldrick, Teddy Bishop, Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Giles Coke... The list goes on. Why does this club suffer so many injuries? So many *muscle* injuries? So many *recurring* injuries?
Surely it’s gone beyond the point of being dismissed as pure bad luck?
Barring a goalkeeper, you can actually put together a pretty strong team out of the players currently in the treatment room.
Kane Vincent-Young at right-back, James Wilson and Nsiala as the centre-backs, then stick Tristan Nydam in there at left-back. It’s an embarrassment of riches in midfield. Take your pick out of Bishop, Flynn Downes, Cole Skuse, Jon Nolan, Huws. Plus Gwion Edwards and Freddie Sears on the wings, with Norwood up top.
Okay, so Town are down to bare bones. The team did contain inexperienced players like Gibbs, Brett McGavin and Keanan Bennetts (just 14 senior starts between them prior to kick-off).
But it also had Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward, leaders who have played at a higher level; Woolfenden and Dozzell, who have been linked to Premier League clubs in the past; Toto Nsiala, who has been part of a team that reached a League One Play-Off Final; Alan Judge, a recent Republic of Ireland international; and James Norwood, a proven goalscorer who every club in the division wanted last summer.
On the bench was Kayden Jackson, a player the club turned down a £1.8m bid for in the summer. Lambert could still afford to leave Armando Dobra, a player that Brighton made six figure bids for back in January, out of the 18 completely.
Charlton had their own problems too. Lee Bowyer was without a recognised centre-back. Just like in their 4-2 loss at Burton in midweek, he had to play right-back Chris Gunter and veteran midfielder Darren Pratley at the heart of the defence.
The truth is, the deficiencies in this Town team have been the same whoever plays. It’s possession without a punch.
That was the case in some league games before these injuries starting mounting up. That was the case when a much-changed team played against Portsmouth in the FA Cup. That was the case when the kids played against Crawley in the EFL Trophy.
Take a look at the stats for shots per game, crosses per game, touches in the opposition box, possession in the final third, ‘expected goals’... Ipswich are mid-to-bottom half for all of those at present.
Injuries can’t be used as an excuse for this wretched run of form.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
That’s now seven defeats in the last 10 games across all competitions.
Take the two cup games out of it and it’s still nine points claimed from the last eight league games.
And where did those nine points come from? Unconvincing wins against Gillingham, Crewe and Shrewsbury.
Ipswich, once again, are beginning to look like a bang average third-tier side.
Go back further. Over the last 39 league games, dating back to the end of October 2019, Town’s league record reads: P39 W14 D8 L17. More defeats than wins over a concerted period. Extrapolate that over a 46-game season and it’s 59 points. That would normally see you finish somewhere between 13th and 15th.
Lambert’s confused and contrary comments are a major concern. What on earth was he talking about when saying senior players are ‘easy targets?’ Four days on from insisting his team are ‘useless’ when they play two up front, Town ended the game playing 4-4-2. There’s a real paranoia there too. Phil Ham, of TWTD, has been banned from press conferences because starting XIs have been leaked on his site’s forum.
He has that forlorn look of a manager who knows things are only going one way. It’s becoming increasingly hard, almost impossible, to see him turning this around.
But the players shouldn’t escape criticism either. Maybe we over-estimated how good they are? But surely they are better than this?
And I never buy into the ‘not playing for the manager’ argument either. What about playing for pride? What about playing for their futures?
On Tuesday, Town head to Oxford United – a team that have really struggled to get themselves going after losing to Wycombe in the Play-Off Final.
On Saturday, the Blues make the long journey to Plymouth – a team that have taken to League One football pretty well following promotion.
A word of sympathy for young Liam Gibbs.
He’s 17, he’s from Suffolk (Bury St Edmunds) and he’s been at the club since the age of eight. His league debut should have been a more special experience than this.
In normal times, his name being read out pre-match would have brought warm applause and cheer of encouragement.
The way he sprinted back the length of the pitch to block an early cross, having just given the ball away himself, would have brought an almighty roar too.
He’ll be better for this and looks a player with real potential. It’s just a shame his transition into the first team wasn’t at a time when things are more settled.