The View From Churchmans

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

MATCH REPORT

Ipswich Town 0 Manchester Utd 1

In the end, going down to a dodgy penalty to one of the best club sides in
the world (even with some absentees) is no disgrace. If we’d tried this hard
in the games which mattered (we’ve discussed here before that, in our minds,
we should be competing in a theoretical “mini-league” of the bottom ten
teams, and that’s the one we have to do well in), this result wouldn’t be
that disappointing. However, now it’s presumably all over, and we just have
to hope it’s not going to be five years or more next time before we can get
back into the top flight again.

Burley surprised most people with a 4-5-1 formation, similar to that used in
the away tie at Inter, and although it worked tidily, it demonstrated an
excess of respect for the opposition (just like Inter). And just like the
European game, having got to half time still well in the match, we didn’t
then step up a gear tactically, but stayed the same and let the opposition
start to take control. By the time Burley changed things to 4-4-2, we’d let
United get into their stride, passing it around sweetly and dominating
possession, and there was too much of a mountain to climb.

This time we can’t complain about the effort. Burley picked the lineup which
he thought would be most likely to show 100%, and in the main, they
delivered. And yet whilst there was a high level of commitment, there was
never the urgency required until (as usual) the last few minutes. Even then,
we continued to show United too much respect. Although Hermann tried to come
up to support the attack in the last five minutes, we really should have
seen Titus and one of the midfielders joining the strikers for the final
push. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful to the two players concerned,
but if we take off our blue-tinted glasses for a moment and consider if that
at the climax of a crucial win-or-bust match, the best we can offer is a
front two of Alun Armstrong and Darren Bent, it’s hard to claim we’re a
solid Premiership standard team.

In the end, we’re not good enough to compete with the top half dozen teams
in the Premiership, but why should we be? Burley said in an excellent
interview in The Guardian on Saturday (if anyone can find it on the web, do
post the URL) that he’s learned a lot this season, which he will put into
practice if he’s allowed to stay, and the mistake was to try to expand the
squad to take on the big teams. It’s a mature comment to make, and it’s an
attitude which will help us bounce back stronger.

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

MARSHALL 8 (4/4): another confident and competent performance, with a couple
of good saves. And did van Nistelrooy make the miss of the season or was it
Marshall putting him off? I’d like to think Marshall should take some
credit.

BRAMBLE 7 (4/3): played within his limits, and looked as mature as we’ve
seen him for a long while. But should have been let off the leash at the
end. McGREAL 7 (4/3): solid and committed throughout; made one or two
unforced errors but read the game beautifully. HREIDARSSON 7 (4/3): Looked
more settled in the centre than he has done on occasions, then
characteristically had some rushes of blood to the head when moved to
left-back later on and allowed to roam forward. Commitment couldn’t be
faulted, as ever. CLAPHAM 7 (4/3): a little tentative in a full-back role he
obviously takes very seriously; never gave himself the chance to get caught
out of position, which I suppose is good! Didn’t create as much as he’d have
liked to when brought into midfield later.

FINIDI 6 (3/3): put in quite a lot of effort by his standards, but never
really opened up the defence, despite that. Wasn’t missed when substituted.
MILLER 8 (4/4): another really promising effort, probably shading it over
Peralta as the midfielder creating the most chances. Great to see. HOLLAND 8
(5/3): gave his all throughout, and showed there are a number of squad
members who simply don’t deserve to be in the same team. PERALTA 7 (4/3)
worked hard, although his dribbling was never quite as effective as Miller’s
passing, but ‘took it to the opposition’ in a way we needed more players to
do. REUSER 7 (4/3) worked very hard indeed, but couldn’t sustain it, and I
think he was substituted because Burley could see he was about to fade. If
only Martijn could show this much commitment to the cause every week.
Somehow I doubt a Tuesday night at Rotherham will inspire the same sort of
performance though.

MARCUS BENT 7 (4/3) was hugely improved over recent games – I can only think
the difference was the responsibility he was given of leading the line. Has
to be docked an achievement mark for never really getting the United keeper
to work, but I can’t fault his application to the cause today.

Substitutes: WILNIS, DARREN BENT and ARMSTRONG all got stuck in but never
looked like being in the class of the opposition.

The REFEREE: well, what can I say about the penalty? We see these awarded to
United again and again, we laugh when we hear the likes of Chelsea and Leeds
claiming that referees favour United, and we therefore have to take it on
the chin when it happens to us. Obviously we now know from TV replays that
it wasn’t a penalty, but in the heat of the moment, when it’s a 50/50
decision, referees always come down in favour of United. It’s a fact of
life.

The CROWD were good but nervous. The wait at the end to see the players come
out was too much for most people, and dreadfully managed by the club, but if
you want to see what the ground will look like with 4,000 people in it if
the club gets the ticketing policy wrong next year, that was your chance.

VAN NISTELROOY is a cheating b*stard who couldn’t bring himself to even
claim he’d been pushed in the post-match interview, perhaps because he
hadn’t. The Guardian Unlimited’s headline “Van Nistelrooy dives again” says
it all. But who can blame him if he plays for a team which will always get
the benefit of the doubt?

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