A lot has happened since Ipswich Town travelled to Accrington Stanley for an FA Cup match back in January…
I've been through nine months of pregnancy and given birth to my second baby, England have won the cricket World Cup, while Theresa May and Boris Johnson have had their Brexit deals rejected by parliament countless times.
But you’d be forgiven for thinking
not a lot has changed for Ipswich Town: despite them sitting pretty at the top of League One, they still have the capacity to
disappoint with a truly dire performance – just as they did back at the
beginning of the year.
That is, of course, extremely harsh, given this was their first defeat of the season. But this weekend was my first game since May and I’m feeling a little disappointed after being very excited about returning to watch this high-flying side.
What follows here is not intended to be an analytical blog on the pros and cons of our performance at the Wham stadium, but more my experience of the game as a long-suffering, long-distance supporter of The Blues.
An unexpected line-up
We began the day with news that Lambert had made big changes to the side, a move which was forced - to some extent - by the fact we’ll be playing three games in a week and Norwood, Wilson, Vincent-Young and Downes were all unavailable.
By all accounts, the four have been some of our strongest players, Vincent-Young in particular has attracted rave reviews. So, it’s little wonder this team felt somewhat second strength, but it was an opportunity for some new players to make the step up.
Dozzell, sadly, didn’t do that in my opinion. I’d forgotten he was playing until he made a tackle somewhere in the second half and he was as ineffectual this weekend as he was during our previous game against Stanley.
This was a scrappy game, so perhaps not particularly suited to him, but as our new side develops under Lambert with the goal of heading straight back to the Championship – he’s going to have to prove himself able to adapt to these kinds of games which will be plentiful in League One.
Meanwhile, Jackson and Judge were selected to play up front, but from what I could see that actually meant Kayden was a lone forward with Judge playing slightly behind him. I cannot stand it when we play one up-front!
With Keane on the bench it seemed a shame to play this formation. It's possible Lambert has opted to rest Keane ahead of our next match, but I’d have liked to see him at least play 45 minutes to give Jackson more support.
Meanwhile, our defence clearly missed the solid Wilson – Nsiala was slow and lost and frankly not up to the standard of a promotion-chasing side. He may well have a big willy, as the song alleges, but he’s too much of a liability for me.
On a side note, it was interesting that back in January he stood out as our one decent player… he was quite the opposite on Sunday and perhaps that’s a reassuring sign of how far the team has come since then.
Stanley’s first goal was reminiscent of the many we conceded last year
From Accrington’s point of view, the first goal was a beaut – to me, it looked like a lovely cross into the area and a great header from Bishop. But, there were far too many opportunities for our defence to clear the ball, which they didn’t.
Edwards and Garbutt should have done better while the ball was on the wing and Bishop was largely unmarked as he headed it home. I was brutally reminded of the many awful goals we conceded last season, the defence was left helpless as the ball hit the net.
For me, the penalty was harsh on Nsiala, I felt at the time it was a case of ‘6 of one and half a dozen of the other’. It was the last in a long line of decision which went against us, in my totally biased opinion it seemed the referee was punishing us for being the ‘bigger’ side.
My opinion hasn’t changed since watching the goals back, but I know it’s a decision that’s since been debated at length by Town fans and not all agree with me. Blue Monday’s Rich provided a great summary of the tackle on this week’s episode which I was happy to be a part of.
Things could have been different
Having been at the right end of the ground to see the best bits of action from the first half – their two goals were the only two bits of action from the first half – we were also perfectly
positioned to see the main point of interest from the second half.
A great cross from Garbutt created Town’s best chance to score: sailing over the top of Jackson and Nolan, before their keeper punched it into the path of Woolfenden. His shot was cleared, but not – from our point of view – before it had crossed the line.
Sadly, the referee did not agree, and the away fans stood on the terrace were left bemoaning what really should have been a chance to celebrate on this dull day. In my opinion, Woolfenden should have taken away all doubt and just thrown himself at the ball to take it over the line.
Shortly afterwards, a kerfuffle in front of the seated away fans led to the referee waving a red card at the Accrington player Sykes… 'Here we go', thought I. 'A chance to turn things around with their team down to ten men.'
But it wasn’t to be. The next thing we know, Town substitute Dobra is sulking across the pitch, comforted by Jackson and shrugging his shoulders as if to say, ‘what did I do, Miss?’ Well, lad, you pushed someone in the head so you’ve kind of got to go!
And with that my dwindling hopes that we might get something from our trip completely disappeared.
The unbeaten run is over – and I’m kind of glad
It's been an enjoyable start to the season and I don’t think anyone would have guessed we’d be undefeated in the league for as long as this. But, I’m relieved the pressure of that unbeaten run is now over.
Rather than worrying about how long we can keep that up, we can go back to focusing on one game at a time. We remain top of the league and probably the best side in the third tier.
But, if we intend to stay there we must do better from now. Sky’s commentators summed up our afternoon perfectly: ‘Ipswich Town are getting Sunday schooled.’ That’s pretty embarrassing.
I’m not the type of fan who will get carried away after one win, or panic after one defeat. But with three games in quick succession, this week could quickly become a disappointing turning point in our season if we don’t respond quickly and correctly against Rotherham.
I’m taking comfort in the fact we weren’t as dire on Sunday as we were back in January – but I’m not going to be booking my train tickets for May’s open-top bus tour just yet. This league lacks quality, but so do we sometimes and we’ve got to earn our place back in the Championship.
The most important thing now is moving on and recovering. We need to pick ourselves up and regain control, regain that winning mentality. Do you think we can do that? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter - I'm @TractorGirlAmy8