The View From Churchmans

Ipswich Town home match reports from just another season-ticket holder

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 1 Middlesbrough 0

Well, we made hard work of it against a poor Middlesbrough side, but it’s
the points which matter. We’ll have to play a lot better to get the points
on Saturday, but there were some big performances tonight, and some big
lessons to be learned too. When the time came for players to stand up and be
counted, several really did so, and they can be very proud of themselves.

The defence took on another odd shape tonight, with four centre-backs lined
up across the pitch: quite an intimidating bunch to be facing, I would have
thought. They were solid enough, but Titus still doesn’t look the part as a
full-back, and Veno was clearly not fit.

The midfield looked promising on paper, but they needed to be more than
promising to make something of Burley’s increasingly bizarre tactics, and
big respect to the four of them for doing so well regardless. What were
these bizarre tactics? Something we’ve seen before and which never really
got an explanation, namely that they all have to swap places across the
pitch every ten minutes. After the first couple of swaps, we joked that if
it carried on, Jamie would end up on the right wing. And guess what? That’s
exactly where he eventually found himself told to play. For about a third of
the match. Now is it me, or is telling one of the most one-sided players we
have to play on the opposite side, for NO DISCERNIBLE REASON AT ALL, just
stupid? Or has George Burley discovered an incredible new tactic which has
eluded all the best managers in history? Jamie did his best out there, but
on a night when he was really up for it, the farcical situation was a big
waste of his potential.

And up front, well we might have known. Burley has obviously decided to
stick with the players who’ve got us into this mess in the hope they’ll make
amends, and now he’s made that decision, he needs to stick with it. However,
at least he was brave enough on the night to say enough is enough, and not
only take the hopeless strikeforce off, but to do so with half an hour still
to go, so their replacements had a proper chance. Quite frankly, the lift
which Darren Bent’s arrival gave to the whole ground meant a goal would
always have suddenly looked so much more likely. The fact that it appeared
almost instantly must have been galling for the guys who’d just been taken
off, but I find it hard to find any sympathy for them. As it was, for thirty
minutes Portman Road produced the kind of atmosphere which would lift any
team. It was great to be part of it. We deserved the win tonight.

Some ratings:
(1-5 for effort, 1-5 for achievement)

MARSHALL 7 (3/4) was commanding and effective again, and if he can be
consistent, I’ll be happy to see him between the sticks for us for years to
come. One cracking save. His distribution now includes some decent throws
and is all the better for it.

BRAMBLE 6 (3/3) got caught out of position a couple of times, but made a
couple of crunching Titus tackles too. Kept his distribution within his
limits, which was good to see, but found himself in acres of space and
having to make crosses too many times, when it would have been nice to have
seen Reuser or someone available to take the ball off him instead. McGREAL 7
(4/3) was one of the players who you could see was really psyched up for
this game. Tremendous commitment throughout. VENUS 5 (3/2) was clearly not
fit, and played within his limits, but needed constant cover from either
side. He was uncharacteristically uncommitted in the tackle, and opted out
of set pieces too. However, on a night when several of the team truly showed
their commitment to the cause, nobody did so more than HREIDARSSON 8 (5/3).
At times you thought he would die rather than let someone get past. He was
non-stop, backwards and forwards, and if his actual achievement was
unexceptional, it was only because overenthusiasm sometimes let him down.
Marvellous to watch.

Oh, what order to put the midfield in? Their starting order, I guess.

REUSER 7 (4/3) was another of the players who pulled some exceptional
commitment out of the bag. Once the strikers had been replaced, and he
realised that for once he wasn’t going to get substituted, he seemed to get
even more into the game. Missed a sitter of a header, but hey, it was so
good to see him trying so hard. PERALTA 6 (3/3) showed occasional nice
touches and some exciting runs, but was often slow to get reinvolved when
beaten, leaving Matt with too much to do. It’s not often that HOLLAND 7
(4/3) gets eclipsed in the commitment stakes, but we shouldn’t let Hermann’s
exceptional effort obscure Matt’s usual inspirational involvement. Covered
acres of ground tonight. CLAPHAM 7 (4/3) was also really up for it, despite
spending much of the game in unfamiliar territory, and getting as confused
as the rest of the team as to where everyone else was. Almost scored near
the end, and would have genuinely deserved a goal.

What can I say about STEWART 3 (2/1)? If there’s a worse striker in the
country at the moment, I’d like to know who. Totally, totally useless. For a
few minutes at the start he made some clever runs, played at least one good
dummy, and I honestly thought tonight was going to be different. But before
long, once again, every attack was floundering on a guy who really does have
a serious problem. The one-on-one miss spoke volumes. And MARCUS BENT 4
(2/2) can be thankful that Stewart’s abject performance took the attention
away from his own dreadful display. Enthusiastic for a while at the start,
he soon seemed to lose heart and his body language was that of someone with
a serious chip on his shoulder about something.

Subs: DARREN BENT 7 (4/3) was just what we all needed, and provided the
complete lift to the place which most of the rest of the team deserved.
Whilst not in any way a world-class striker, he simply came on with bags of
enthusiasm, and it was just what was needed. That and a goal of course.
ARMSTRONG 5 (3/2) ran around a bit without getting particularly involved.
WILNIS got a few minutes at the end, his appearance nearly causing a
farcical disaster when he came on without the bench seeming to have given
any instructions as to how the defence should reorganise. Whilst they were
all shrugging their shoulders and looking quizzically at each other, Boro
almost scored.

The REF (D’Urso) was poor, as ever, giving some astonishing decisions the
unexpected way following various robust challenges. GEORGE BURLEY deserves a
mention for his ridiculous tactics and poor communication, but also for
having the bottle to make the double substitution which changed the match
(and will doubtless require some serious ego-massaging in the dressing
room). The CROWD were exceptionally good, especially as the match wore on.
We need it for 90 minutes on Saturday.

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