Ipswich Town 3 Coventry City 2
What ended up as the first truly memorable match of a so-far forgettable season had already been an entertaining afternoon even before the remarkable last two minutes. Town had produced patches of sparkling passing and creativity, Coventry had looked threatening on a number of occasions, there were great saves, a horrible miss, a pantomime villain and even a mass pushing and shoving match to get the crowd animated. Then the referee’s watch stopped, additional time seemed to go on way past the allocated four minutes, and Town contrived to throw away and then – incredibly – rescue a game which should have been put to bed half an hour before.
Supporters had arrived earlier in the drizzle, wondering as usual what curious team selections Keane was going to come up with this week. The main talking point was the inclusion of Jaime Peters at left-back, the fifth different full-back used in three games. However, the biggest surprise didn’t reveal itself until the match kicked off, with Garvan starting wide right and Colback wide left, much to everyone’s consternation. It didn’t feel right, and there were a lot of grumblings around the ground as these wide guys continually wandered inside.
But there was a plan. Keane had the fastest players in the team at full-back, and every time Colback or Garvan cut inside, Rosenior or Peters would bomb past them on the wing. And when it worked, it was great to watch. By the time Town equalised Coventry’s superb opener, it was the least they deserved. Unfortunately, a double-substitution in the second-half proved to be a seriously retrograde step, and Town couldn’t take more than a one-goal lead into the last few minutes. Cynics may say that conceding a last-minute goal may then have been inevitable, but to be honest, the lead never felt as precarious as it turned out to be.
And with that remarkable ending, Town won three home matches on the trot for the first time since 2008, and scored three goals in three consecutive home matches for the first time since 2007. There hasn’t been a home defeat now since the Newcastle debacle in September, and supporters are beginning to feel a lot more confident that the immediate future is up.
Overall Town performance:
8/10 – Some terrific passing play for extended periods, although it went a bit stale once Norris went off
7/10 – Not particularly ambitious, but pretty competent; it’s hard to believe these two sides are so much lower in the table than unremarkable outfits like Palace, Blackpool and QPR.
6/10 – Tried hard to make allowances for the conditions – almost too hard at times – but started to get inconsistent later, especially with the (thankfully few) yellow cards
9/10 – Pretty good throughout, then lifted even further by the closing sequence
4/10 – Quiet.
Player ratings, as ever 1 to 5 for each of effort/achievement…
LEE-BARRETT 8 (4/4) may well turn out to be the find of the season, pulling off a couple of superb saves yet again
ROSENIOR 6 (3/3), McAULEY 6 (3/3) and DELANEY 6 (3/3) all looked solid, rarely giving cause for concern; PETERS 7 (4/3) was probably the pick of the defence, just for putting in such a non-stop display
GARVAN 8 (4/4) put in a shift which was cultured even by his standards, culminating in a glorious through-ball which started off the move for Town’s second goal; NORRIS 6 (3/3) wasn’t showy, but was missed when he went off; LEADBITTER 7 (4/3) was the biggest contributor to the impressive way in which the midfield consistently won the ball back every time Coventry tried to move it around; and COLBACK 8 (4/4) produced another terrific hard-working performance capped with another goal
WALTERS 5 (3/2) occupied the Coventry defence well by his presence, but didn’t achieve much, and largely disappeared when moved back to wide midfield; JOHN 5 (2/3) seemed to have been tasked with a very limited role, to receive the ball and pass it on, which he did reasonably, but nothing else, so it was a complete surprise when he suddenly popped up with a superb header for the first goal.
From the bench, WICKHAM took up Walters’ role of keeping the opposition defence occupied without setting the match on fire; COUNAGO summarised his entire Town career by producing a moment of magic which will be remembered long after the previous half hour – in which he contributed nothing except a glaring miss – has been well and truly forgotten; and MARTIN’s sole contribution may just have been in coming on, but it made the ref add on another 30 seconds …and that turned out to be crucial.