Ipswich Town 3 Cardiff City 0
A really satisfying victory. The score might have flattered Town in terms of the relative quality of the teams, but it was deserved in terms of sheer effort. And in the context of what’s been happening so far this season, perhaps even more satisfying than the first four-win sequence in the league for over 7 years was the first appearance of back-to-back clean sheets since September. Just as the result of the previous midfield lethargy turned out to be lurking in the reserves all along, so we may find the same to have been the case in central defence. Until these last two games, Smith and Delaney hadn’t been paired up since the 5-2 defeat by Southampton, but even Hunter and Beattie might have struggled that night. And as with Drury and Hyam, you suspect that Jewell wouldn’t have chosen this pairing either, unless it had been forced on him.
What’s great to see is the enthusiasm running right through the team at the moment. I guess it’s contagious, although we can only guess where it’s come from. And the success is built on confidence: Town were overrun for the first 20 minutes of this match, but after Martin had taken his chance excellently for a slightly undeserved 1-0 lead, spirits soared, and the home team never looked back. Individual performances actually got the North Stand chanting players’ names, something we’ve heard only vary rarely in the past few years. It was great to watch.
Overall Town performance:
8/10 – Great passing and movement, wonderfully committed tackling, and thoroughly professional throughout.
7/10 – Their finishing wasn’t good enough, and they understandably took their foot off the throttle later on, but definitely one of the better sides seen at Portman Road this season.
7/10 – The talking point will obviously be the Lee-Barrett yellow card, but we see too many by-the-book sendings-off these days, and it was good to see a ref using some common sense in the case of what I believe was an unavoidable foul (which I appreciate still warrants a red card, regardless of intent) by declaring that the covering defender would have prevented it from being an “obvious goalscoring opportunity”.
7/10 – Fine entertainment.
6/10 – Only 300 or so, but made their presence heard.
Player ratings, as ever 1 to 5 for each of effort/achievement…
LEE-BARRETT 5 (4/1) was a complete liability in the first half, with a succession of potentially catastrophic blunders, but pulled himself together commendably as the game wore on.
EDWARDS 6 (3/3) rarely filled you with confidence, but an extra point for his role in the immaculate second goal; SMITH 8 (4/4) is just getting better and better, barely putting a foot wrong; DELANEY 8 (4/4) looks a real tower of strength at the moment; and CRESSWELL 8 (4/4) was excellent at both ends of the pitch.
MURPHY 8 (4/4) had one of his best games ever in a Town shirt, combining tremendously with Cresswell; DRURY 8 (4/4) absolutely controlled the match in the first half, winning everything and covering the whole pitch; HYAM 6 (3/3) was quieter but, as usual, read the game beautifully to always be in the right place; and EMMANUEL-THOMAS 6 (3/3) had another game of unpredictable extremes, bringing out the best from the wags in the stands.
MARTIN 9 (4/5) had a superb match, linking play and proving a real handful for the opposing defence throughout, and being rewarded with two excellently-taken goals; and CHOPRA 8 (4/4) matched Martin for effort, even when asked to play a more isolated role when Town started to play deeper.
Substitutes: SCOTLAND got through a lot in just 9 minutes; BULLARD and LEADBITTER didn’t really get a chance.