Ipswich Town 1 Sunderland 0
Don’t let the out-of-character scoreline fool you: this was a very good
match, and probably home performance of the season too. A lot of things came
together, but most importantly, we were professional and committed
throughout. We played some sparkling football at the beginning, but it was
the end which best illustrated the change in the team we’ve endured for so
long. It was a must-win game for Sunderland, and you’d have expected them to
throw the kitchen sink at us for the last 15 minutes, but we simply didn’t
let them play.
A solid performance from McGreal and Elliott at the back showed how much
easier things are when there’s a reliable heart to the team, something which
has been absent so frequently this year. The midfield was certainly better
than the last home game, but this was perhaps more down to the overall
effort put in than anything else. For some reason, Wright was pushed wide on
the left, and Westlake moved infield on the right, which was not something
most of us would have expected. Other than that, it was business as usual,
with the main tactic being to try to push through balls for the front two to
run onto, whether it was from 50 yards back or from neat little triangles on
the edge of the area.
The main thing however was that most of the team put their heart and soul
into the performance, egged on by a terrific crowd (which also had its best
afternoon of the season). Don’t book those holidays for mid-May yet.
(1-5 for effort, 1-5 for achievement)
DAVIS 7 (3/4): Good stuff again, one save in particular looking excellent,
and first-class handling throughout. Elliott takes a lot of things for
granted, leaving balls and heading back without worrying (or looking) first,
and it’s making Kelvin think and work faster.
WILNIS 5 (3/2), ELLIOTT 7 (3/4), McGREAL 7 (3/4), RICHARDS 7 (4/3): An
impressive performance, as the clean sheet would indicate, with the
exception of a disappointing first half for Fab (who it has to be said was
left very exposed at times). The central pairing looked as solid as anything
we’ve seen this season, no question.
MILLER 6 (3/3), WESTLAKE 6 (3/3), MAGILTON 4 (2/2), WRIGHT 7 (4/3): Westy
looked a little lost in his more free-ranging position right-centre, but
played his part, and it was a more involved contribution from Tommy Miller.
Pick of the bunch, however, was Jermaine, who covered a lot of ground both
defensively (shoring up the flanks) and in support of almost everyone ahead
of him. But as for Jim, once again, far too many moves broke down or slowed
down with him, and he really didn’t look up to it. Actually, I have a theory
here. There’s been a film crew at Portman Road all season* filming for a
documentary about the club to be shown on the BBC in May. I reckon what the
club hasn’t admitted is that it’s the team from “Faking It”. You know the
sort of thing: “34 year old carpet fitter Jim Magilton has just nine months
to convince our panel of 26,000 supporters that he’s a real Nationwide
league captain. With the help of our team of world-class experts in pointing
and shouting, can he put on an act which will blind everyone to the fact
that every other player on the pitch is going to be running rings around
KUQI 8 (5/3), BENT 7 (3/4): If it comes to class, I think making Shefki man
of the match is a little generous (there’s no getting away from the fact the
rest of the country thinks he’s a carthorse), but I just don’t see how I can
give the guy less than 5/5 for effort this afternoon. He just didn’t stop
for a moment. He’d get tackled on one wing, and as the Sunderland defence
passed the ball sideways across to the other side, he’d hare past all of his
team-mates to have another go. I’m assuming that Joe brought him back in
place of Deano because he thought we needed someone to get amongst them, and
Shefki certainly lived up to his billing, even if his finishing left rather
a lot to be desired. Dazza looked lively too, but most impressively, the
team seem to be starting to work out what he’s doing and how to make the
most of it, in a way we haven’t seen since the other Darren left. He was a
constant thorn in the side of the Sunderland defence.
Subs: SANTOS came on for a few minutes presumably to shore up the defence.
The REFEREE was well above average, waving a few things on in the first half
which other referees might have not done, but rightly so: this was not a 45
minutes which deserved yellow cards. He only clamped down when it was more
necessary; McAteer in particular began to show his nasty side.
The CROWD were excellent again, and gave a glorious reception to Marcus
Stewart when he came on (I’m glad he didn’t score, things might have got
very confusing). It’s all livening up.