Ipswich Town 1 Crystal Palace 3
What a gut-wrenchingly shocking performance to finish the year on, ranking
with the previous Sunday and the Wimbledon nightmare as Portman Road’s low
points for 2003. Mediocre (at best) performances all around, but the whole
was even less than the sum of the parts, so once again the manager has to
shoulder a lot of the blame.
Whilst everyone there would agree it was a tight, scrappy affair in
midfield, I wonder how many people noticed that the Palace midfield was well
spread out, and it was us who were being tight …on ourselves? It looked
like it was supposed to be some sort of a diamond with Wright one side,
Westlake the other, Bart-Williams withdrawn in the centre and Magilton ahead
of him. Sort of. But the guys in the centre made a right mess of things,
Wrighty got drawn in to help them out, and all three just fell over each
other to little or no effect.
Then there was Kuqi. Why play a guy who’s no winger way out on the
touchline, leaving the other striker totally alone? And if we have to have
one of the front two out wide, why not make it Benty?
It was all a shambles, and Palace looked the better side from the outset
…in fact, we only really held our own from about the tenth to the fortieth
minute. For the rest of the game, they had the measure of us in every area
of the park. They understood exactly how predictable Richards and Westlake
are, and coped with it easily. They spotted how horribly isolated Wilnis
was, and took us to the cleaners there with the simple expedient of
outnumbering him two or three to one. And how they laughed every time Santos
got the ball, clearing a path in front of him like the parting of the Red
Sea to make it as easy as possible for him to pass it straight to one of
We hadn’t got a clue. Joe now has to make some big decisions if we’re really
serious about the playoffs, starting with clearing out the dead wood in the
centre of the midfield – i.e. Magilton – and building from there. If we do
make it to the top six in May, I’ll actually rate our chances because it’ll
mean he’s got to grips with the situation. But at the moment it seems like
October was just an oddment when it all went right, rather than the shape of
things to come.
(1-5 for effort, 1-5 for achievement…)
DAVIS 5 (2/3): A couple of decent stops, but he went to pieces for a while
in the second half, losing touch with his defenders and contributing largely
to the farce of the second goal.
WILNIS 6 (3/3), NAYLOR 5 (3/2), SANTOS 4 (2/2), RICHARDS 5 (3/2): A bit of a
mess in the centre, to be honest, with Georges looking strangely uncertain,
and his distribution hit a new low. Matt was skinned on two or three
occasions and while he has a nice little partnership with Westlake, the two
are very easy to deal with.
WRIGHT 6 (3/3), MAGILTON 4 (2/2), BART-WILLIAMS 5 (3/2), WESTLAKE 5 (3/2):
Once again, ineffective and messy in the middle: so many moves (which
admittedly weren’t going anywhere) ended when Jim decided that passing it
sideways from player to player had to stop and a first-time “chip” forward
to nobody was what was called for. Jermaininho was probably the pick of the
bunch, which isn’t saying much, but he joined the rest of the mediocrity in
the second half.
KUQI 4 (2/2), COUNAGO 6 (4/2): Kuqi played most of the game in a wasted wide
position, wasted the few chances he had, then wasted any goodwill by acting
petulantly when substituted, and getting a yellow card. Pablo was probably
the hardest-working player in the team (and how often can you say that?) but
created hardly anything all afternoon. Just a little support might have gone
a long way.
Subs: BENT put in another nondescript display. REUSER showed a couple of
nice touches, but not nearly enough. And BOWDITCH might as well not have
The REFEREE was reasonable, but probably didn’t do us any favours by keeping
his cards in his pocket when Palace got overenthusiastic in the first half,
and encouraging them to get stuck in. The CROWD were quiet. And not too
forgiving at the end.