Ipswich Town 1 Sheffield Utd 1
Not a score to be ashamed of, given Sheffield’s current position, although I
suspect they’ve flattered to deceive for the first half of the season and
will eventually be caught by a better team, like Palace. More importantly
though, a continuation of our recent encouraging improvement, and almost
faultless performances from the three teenagers who started.
We’ll probably argue over whether it was a 4-5-1 or a 4-4-2 as usual, but in
effect it was new boy Alan Lee up front, Darren Currie in a fairly free role
behind him, and a young, mobile midfield quartet of Williams, Juan, Garvan
and Westlake behind that. I didn’t think it worked: Currie seemed like a
square peg in a round hole again once things got moving, and Lee was too
often isolated. We predicted the second-half substitution of Westlake for
Haynes correctly, but thought that would mean Currie would go out wide left
in a 4-4-2; instead, Haynes went wide right and Williams switched to the
left. Good old Joe, you can always guarantee he’ll do something baffling.
Either side could have won in the end if they’d taken decent late chances,
but a draw was a fair result. I think we’re beginning to see a much better
side take shape, although whether we should thank the injuries for that
rather than BFJ, it’s hard to say. What we most need now is a commanding
presence at the back, and someone to play a real captain’s role (and they
could probably be the same person; did Tony Mowbray have any much younger
brothers, does anyone know?).
Excitement – 4/5
Town Performance – 3/5
Player Ratings (1-5 for how much they cared, 1-5 for how well they fared):
SUPPLE 7 (3/4):
He’s in the side on merit now, there’s no doubt about it. There are several
aspects to Shane’s game where I think he has the edge on Lewis Price. If
only he didn’t look like someone who’s wandered in from the U-14 game next
WILNIS 5 (3/2), DE VOS 6 (3/3), NAYLOR 5 (3/2), BARRON 6 (3/3):
Hard to believe Scott Barron has so few matches under his belt: the guy
looks like he’s a first-team regular. It’s obvious his performances have
caught the club by surprise, and it makes you wonder how many other
surprises there might be in the youth team. As a whole, the defence wasn’t
the comedy it so often is, but there were still too many holes left exposed
by passing and pace.
WILLIAMS 5 (3/2), JUAN 8 (4/4), GARVAN 6 (3/3), WESTLAKE 5 (2/3):
Perhaps the most involved and confident display yet from Jimmy, who was MotM
regardless of the goal. Owen gave good support – the combined height of the
two really gives us a midfield presence – but the wider boys’ contributions
were more sporadic.
CURRIE 5 (3/2), LEE 7 (4/3):
Darren certainly put in the effort, moving around a lot in his creative
role, but rarely delivered the goods. Alan Lee looked like he wanted to
impress, and he did. If a striker winning so many balls was a surprise to
the fans, it was equally so to his team-mates, who were rarely around to
make something of it. He was strong in the air and on the ground, although
doesn’t seem to be the “finisher” which had been suggested. But an
encouraging performance, which suggests that he might – just might – be a
better signing than Forster or Parkin.
Subs – HAYNES had the beating of Unsworth with his speed, but usually lost
out by not being as clever. Made himself a great chance, but left the crowd
with their heads in their hands as he put it wide. Lively though. MAGILTON
was pretty decent for his few minutes; SITO had no time to impress.
The REF was generally OK, letting the game flow for the most part and using
his cards sensibly and sparingly.
The CROWD wasn’t particularly noisy for much of the game, but got going a
bit as the match wore on. Nearly 24,000 in January, with the team at home
for the fourth week running, is pretty impressive, I’d say.