Monday, 26 November 2007

Good Night Southampton

Attending evening matches has got to be my favourite past time, the atmosphere is something truly special.

Like going on a school trip or waking up on Christmas morning, you know its not something you get to do every day and so you treasure it.

Saturday's attract a much larger crowd and so on a Tuesday you get the feeling that those who have made it have made an extra special effort. Like at away matches you feel like you are an extra specially committed to the boys for attending.

Two years ago Ipswich faced Southampton in an evening game that ended 2:2, a result which just won't be enough tonight according to Alan Lee.

He told the EADT that the failure to pick up more points away means that we MUST continue to achieve maximum points when playing at home: 'By seeing of Southampton and then Barnsley on Saturday we will be right back up there again'.

Winning at home makes us real contenders for promotion, without that we might be closer to our friends in Naaaaaarwich. I fear that the pressure from this may have become as huge as the desire to start winning away.

Can we handle the pressure?

The return of Gavin Williams on Saturday was very welcome but he is unlikely to be playing tomorrow. He feels that two games in four days may be too much at the moment and Jim doesn't want to risk aggravating the injury.

My man Jonnie Walters looks set to miss the game aswell due to a groin injury.

Other than that the squad looks good, which is more than can be said for Southampton.

Former Town manager George Burley is without seven of his main players, meaning they will field a 'make-shift' defence.

Town have scored the most goals at home, Southampton have conceded the most away from home and with the added bonus of putting a few past ex-tractor boy Kelvin Davis, surely the players can't miss...

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Need a bit of Magic

If you'd have been a fly-on-the-wall of my SU bar on Wednesday night you would have heard me declaring that the story would be entirely different if Jim Magilton were England manager.

Magic would not have kept De Vos out of the team, he would not have played Garvan if his previous performances had been bad and he would not have given Andrew Plummer a place if Supple was available...

Our Jim would not have settled for that first half performance, he'd have screamed and shouted and thrown some boots at their heads to get a result.

Turns out he and Steve McClaren have more in common than I would like to admit. Yesterday's performance in Cardiff was disappointing and though we improved in the second half we just couldn't pull out a goal.

Remind you of Wednesday night anyone??

Now I am in no way starting a man-hunt to get Magilton sacked - he's our greatest asset, I believe - but his interview following the match was as vague and full of cliches as McClaren had given on Thursday.

He may be becoming tired of answering questions about our away performance, but until there's an answer those questions won't stop: 'You sit here and I will ask you, because I have no idea.'(Derek Davis quotes Jim in the EADT)

Fair point Jim, no-one understands your frustration more than us - but it is not our job to sort this little problem out.

20 second highlights

Having been featured on the Championship two weekends ago it was sad to see us reduced this morning to just 20 seconds. Sadly that may have been all that was necessary.

Alan Lee hit the bar and the post in one shot twenty seconds after kick-off and Tommy Miller had a shot cleared off the line.

As unlucky as these were, no other chances materialised.

It's hard to believe we put six past Bristol just two weeks ago.

One thing got to me - Jim told the website 'We did not have enough leaders on the park. We cannot rely on Jason De Vos for that'.

The best leader other than Jase, and Alexander whose rants from goal have made me giggle, is Sylvain Legwinski.

But Leggi remained on the bench and the team remained unorganised.

Even McClaren figured out he needed the passion of David Beckham, maybe Jim should have taken note.

Saying that it made little difference in the end on Wednesday!

So Jim I will not for one second criticise your puzzlement on this issue as I have no idea what you should do either.

But please think of something quick before the Naaarwich catch up with us.

Friday, 16 November 2007

International Blues

The sports pages have been full this week of statistics on foreign players in the English Football league.

Arsenal, a team who used to be known for its youth training, fielded a completely non-english squad. Seeing as they are top of the Premiership it is a telling statistic of the direction in which the league is moving.

I had always believed that Ipswich, with their famous youth training academy, were an example to all with their home grown talent - Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright, Titus Bramble and Darren Bent have all done us proud (to some extent!).

But when I thought more about it I realised that our starting team actually contains a majority of non-English players:

Neil Alexander: Scottish
Tony Wright: English
Alex Bruce: English
Jason De Vos: Canadian
Dan Harding: English
Jonathan Walters: English
Tommy Miller: English
Owen Garvan: Irish
Billy Clarke: Irish
Alan Lee: Irish
Pablo Counago: Spanish

(N.B. English player Bruce has been called up for the Irish squad and Walters has been linked to the country's B team!)

6 out of 11 foreigners in the first team - and when Wilnis and Legwinski play that can go up to 8.

But is that a bad thing? Counago, De Vos, Alexander and Lee are all from foreign shores but Town's story this season may have been completely different without them.

So I say thanks to the Spanish for giving us Pablo and I raise my glass to the Canadians for Jason.

What difference does a player's nationality make if that player is passionate and committed to his team?

As for the worry that these international players will overshadow our own talent - perhaps the English should develop the mentality that a little competition never did anyone any harm and maybe it could even improve us.

So I say all for one and one for all - unless you are from Naaaarfalk!!!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Walters Wonderland

My favourite Tractor Boy, Jonathan Walters, has been tipped for International football after hitting his first ever hat trick on Saturday, in another thrilling game at Portman Road.

When I was travelling back to East Anglia on a train full of grumpy commuters I began to wonder if I'd chosen the best game to come home to.

Bristol have had an impressive season so far and have the record of never having lost when they have scored the first goal. With our shaky defence I was concerned by this statistic.

But five minutes in and the nerves had worn off, Johnnie had scored and less than a minute later Pablo had an almost identical shot go just wide of the post. I started to believe we might be ok.

On the fifteenth minute a goal from unexpected source David Wright set us 2:0 up. Walters and Wright had created some clever moves on the right hand side, much to the crowd's pleasure, and the defender deserved to get on the scoreboard for his part so far.

Fifteen minutes from half time Jim Magilton substituted Alan Lee for Danny Haynes. Lee had controlled the Bristol defence until this point and I was a little concerned by his early exit - especially as Haynes seemed to look somewhat lost in the fast paced game.

Lee was suffering from a knock to his Achilles but has declared he should be fit for our next game in 10 days time.

The second half flew by in a flurry of goals, I almost didn't dare close my eyes in case the world had changed when I opened them again!

Walters, of course, added twice to the score and Pablo and Miller were the others on target.

Despite Johnnie's hat trick I believe that the best man on the field was Pablo Counago. As my Dad has said after every game, 'Chamionship defenders just don't know how to handle him', he's got skill, speed and an imagination that ties them in knots.

How wonderful is it to not have to worry about loosing him in the transfer window to raise funds for the club?

By the end of the game the 20,000 fans were singing 'We want 7...!'

How about at Cardiff next Saturday??!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Wish I was there

My sympathies go out to those people who are, for whatever reason, unable to travel to Town matches. Yesterday I became an 'Armchair fan' for the most important game of the season and it was torture!

I was so nervous I was jumping around and punching anything within arms reach which is not a good idea when the closest thing to you is your wonderful boyfriend who has given up his Sunday afternoon to watch a football game for you. (I'm sorry if I bruised you baby!)

It was however nice to hear the commentators raving about a game that was, genuinely, really enjoyable to watch. There was some nice attacking football and so much passion from both teams.

Pablo Counago was our star player yesterday - even though his habit of falling over in and around the penalty area was again made clear! His assistance for Alan Lee's goal was pure class, holding the ball up for Lee and he caused their defence no end of problems.

It was nice to see him rewarded with a derby goal. Replays showed that the ball should have been given for a goal-kick but these things happen, especially when Rob Styles is refereeing!

Our exciting attacking play was overshadowed somewhat by the shakey defence. It should have been easy enough to pick Dion Dublin out as a the main threat so I was gobsmacked when he came close to scoring no less than FOUR times.

Equally, as Sky said - when a player is given a job for defending corners he should fulfill that, not just stand there whilst the player he is meant to be marking nips in front and puts the ball in the back of the net.

As such their first goal was scored and Alan Lee was the man to blame. My Dad reckons that the corner in quesiton should not have been a corner. As my whole world had come to an abrupt halt at that moment in time I am unable to confirm or deny this claim. If he is correct - which he normally is- I would suggest it was a case of swings and roundabouts.

Kudos to Alexander though who made save after incredible save to keep us in the game AGAIN.

Derby day results are so hard to predict, the normal rules of football just don't apply. Each team will relish the point earned, with ours returning us to fourth place and their's moving them a little closer to the rest of the relegation strugglers.

Now we can get back to concentrating on the Championship and focusing on tomorrow night's game against Sheffield United. Even my Kev, a lifelong Blade, reckons we are set to win that.

Could this finally be our first away win?