The View From Churchmans

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


Ipswich Town 1 West Ham 0

Blummin’ marvellous. End-of-season sunshine, fantastic atmosphere. Given our
ability to pull unlikely results out of the bag, at twelve o’clock some of
us were probably nervous enough that we’d have settled for a draw if
offered. But a win and a clean sheet? That’ll do. In fact, it was almost
frustrating that we didn’t end up putting the tie out of sight by half time.

With almost the whole squad available, Joe surprisingly went for Bam-Bam up
front, leaving both Deano and Shufti on the bench. With no defenders
alongside them, Bam-Bam knew he had a full 90 minutes in front of him,
because he was also the substitute centre-back.

Unless the players had spontaneously hyped themselves up without Joe’s
knowledge, it would seem the plan was to tear into West Ham from the outset,
and create so many chances that by the law of averages we’d be three-nil up
within the hour. And it almost worked: only fortune was against us. This may
well have been the most frantic and hardest-working 45 minutes the team has
put in all season. West Ham hardly knew what had hit them. After about half
an hour we let them spend what seemed like an eternity kicking the ball
sideways to each other, simply because both sides needed a breather.

And hallelujah, the midfield not only showed up, but took over the game.
They were irrepressible.

Of course, nothing went in, but then again, at least West Ham were unable to
capitalise on the inevitable succession of chances we gave them too. Both
sides got a huge ovation leaving the pitch at half-time, and rightly so.

The pace wasn’t quite as relentless in the second half (how could it be?)
but on any other day it would still be classed as up-tempo. As the players
started to tire, Benty came off for Deano, and with it went the outlet for a
lot of our creativity, but we still took the game to them. Jim ran out of
steam, but what a different reception to his substitution from six days
before! And Johnny Mac took a knock, so thank heavens Bam-Bam was still on
to cover.

Can we finish the job on Tuesday? No question we’ve got it in us. If West
Ham play better (and they surely can) we’ll have to pull another performance
like this out of the bag, but I’m feeling a lot more confident in this team
than I have for weeks.

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

DAVIS 7 (3/4): Lively, and did everything he was called on to do
effectively. A little hesitant to command his area still, but there’s a lot
of mutual respect and confidence between Kelvin and the central defensive
partnership in front of him.

WILNIS 7 (4/3), ELLIOTT 8 (4/4), McGREAL 7 (3/4), RICHARDS 8 (4/4): The one
thing which has stopped this team’s goalscoring exploits being turned into
automatic promotion has been a solid central defence, but just in the nick
of time, we might have found one. They look great, and Big Matt put in his
most commanding performance yet. The wide boys weren’t put under nearly as
much pressure as has so often been the case, thanks to the industriousness
of the midfield, and they pushed forward well. Perhaps our most solid
defensive display of the season.

WRIGHT 8 (4/4), MILLER 6 (3/3), MAGILTON 8 (4/4), WESTLAKE 7 (4/3): Back at
the start of the season when West Ham turned us over with ease, Michael
Carrick ran the show. Today he had far less influence on the game, played
out of it by a marvellously cohesive display across our midfield. Jim ran
his socks off, kept himself under control, and just kept doing the simple
thing again and again. Just what was needed. But all four of them played
their part, and all four contributed to the seemingly endless succession of
goal attempts we saw in the first half.

BENT 7 (4/3), NAYLOR 6 (3/3): It took the best part of an hour for it to
come off for them, but Joe came up trumps with this choice of forward
pairing. Bam-Bam held things up consistently and created loads of space for
Dazza and the midfield to exploit. Dazza was always a threat with his pace,
and let’s hope by being rested at the end, he’ll have the stamina to do it
again on Tuesday.

Subs: BOWDITCH was perhaps the only disappointment of the afternoon, simply
unable to replicate the movement which Bent had been providing.
BART-WILLIAMS proved to be a solid, if more withdrawn, replacement for Jim,
and was probably the right player for the last part of the game. KUQI did
his high-speed train impression and kept them occupied at the end.

The REFEREE blew up every time two players so much as brushed past each
other, but he was consistent. Consistently irritating, that is. At least he
had no really big decisions to make (serious penalty claims, etc) because I
fear he could easily have become worse than irritating.

The CROWD was the best of the season, no question, for our part at least.
Noisy and positive throughout, I doubt the team could have asked for more.
The West Ham fans however were a massive disappointment. Decent enough
bunch, I can’t think of an opposition who’ve brought more than a thousand or
so supporters this season who’ve been quieter. And there were what? Four and
a half thousand of them? I was more impressed by Wimbledon, who they
outnumbered 100:1.

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