Thursday, 20 October 2011

Keeping the faith as Town narrowly beat Pompey and move into the Play-Off places

'It's playing poorly and still managing to win that's a sign of a good team'

If I had a pound for every time I've heard that in the last 36 hours I'd have enough money to make Keith Andrews' move to Portman Road a permanent one.

The scoreline suggests that the midfielder's 80th minute strike was the only difference between the two sides, but that wasn't the case. Portsmouth bossed the lack lustre Ipswich side around and will have been sorely disappointed to be heading back to the south coast with no points.

For the first time since our new look Ipswich side has started storming up the Championship, they have come up against a team who figured out how to stop them playing.

For me, the fact that Edwards and Cresswell were unusually quiet was a telling sign - they were closely marked and not given their usual space, which slowed the game down massively. But credit where it's due, the two worked extremely hard to overcome this challenge, particularly Edwards who's been named as Man of the Match by the Evening Star's Dave Gooderham.

Meanwhile, when we did show signs of good attacking football Portsmouth locked down their defence and the penalty area appeared to be surrounded by more people than the entrance to Dale Farm. We just couldn't get through.

It's to be expected of a team like Portsmouth; who are not just a formerly Premiership side, they're a side who were formerly well established in the Premier League. Their experience showed on Tuesday night, but what's most impressive is that we actually managed to overcome that.

For me getting through a tough performance like that, without falling apart at the seams was almost as important for Town as the recent wins we've experienced. The boys battled through, managed to scrape a one goal lead and held on to it, even under huge amounts of pressure.

Yes it was very nervy at times, but isn't it the nailbiting final ten minutes that attract you to the game?!

What's also interesting to note is that when Jimmy Bullard has a bad game, so do Ipswich Town. The curly haired one was, unusually, giving away balls constantly. He never quite got up to full pace and the gap he left at the back of the midfield was plain to see. But rather than criticising him for that, I raise the point to highlight the impact he has had on our side. I don't think you can fault his desire to win - it was just one of those bad days for him. As I say, fascinatingly the performance of the whole team could be summed up in the same way - clearly he is our biggest influence still.

While I'd like to think that Jimmy was distracted by my long awaited appearance at the ground, it has been pointed out to me that he took a knock in the early stages of the game and that may well have had an effect on him. In his post-match interview, Paul Jewell admitted that some of his players are not fully fit at the moment and that may go some way to explaining the below par performance. He mentioned that Scotland hasn't trained much, which is unusual for the striker in recent months, and so one wonders how many other members of the team are carrying injuries but attempting to play through? For that reason I think PJ should be applauded for his clever substitutions - Ellington and JET went someway to bringing the desire to win and energy needed to do so back on to the pitch. For me they didn't quite match up to Chops and Jase, but that's a discussion for another day.

For today, we can take ourselves smugly into Saturday knowing that we need worry a little less against Palace. For now that we have a less exciting performance under our belt we have also ticked the last worrying box - how will we do against a team that know how to play us? This time last year we'd have lost that game by three or four goals, or dare I even say six? But now we've shown we've also got it in us to dig deep and cling on to a result, even if maybe we don't quite deserve it.

In my books, by doing that we deserve it even more.

Man of the Match has been a discussion of real debate on Twitter since Tuesday night, with everyone seeming to opt for a different player. After much deliberation I have opted for Stockdale - once again his saves came at crucial points for Ipswich Town, with the stop in the dying minutes of injury time bringing the whole of Portman Road to its feet in applause of grattitude. Once again, his performance has prevented us suffering from what was happening elsewhere on the pitch. For the first time this season he did look a little 'wobbly' at points and I don't wish to ignore that completely, but I think that's down to the quality of the opposition and I'm impressed he kept a cool head to go with that well deserved clean sheet.

At the other end of the pitch the build up for the return of David Norris fizzled out without even becoming relevant. Our former skipper was quiet to say the least, and though he did have a couple of good chances on goal, the performance we'd feared he would put in to undo us never materialised. Nice to see him settled in his new side, but - as I told the Evening Star - I don't think we miss him any more.

Bekah's funny moment didn't take place during the game itself, mainly because I was too on edge worrying that we were going to concede! However, I did enjoy the half time game - Ipswich fans taking penalties on the half way line and the shot that went at the highest speed won the prize. I've stated my disappointment before that the club did not make enough effort with entertainment at the interval, and explained that I believe it could make a real difference to the atmosphere at Portman Road. Admittedly, it didn't necessarily raise the noise in the ground, but it was a bit of light relief for the Blues faithful on such a bitterly cold night... particularly when one contestant skied his effort and it nearly landed in the Sir Bobby Robson Upper.

The highlight of the day as a whole was, to be honest, just being there. It's no accident that my first trip to Portman Road this season was for an evening match - I love them. Some of my happiest memories are from the quarter to eight kick offs and I always feel that there's a happier atmosphere within the crowd at the late games - no matter how low the temperature gets! As Matt Holland said to me during the day: 'there's definitely something magical about those games'.

So onward and upwards for our boys - and, happily, there's getting to be less and less room for us to move 'upwards' nowadays.

I'm very much enjoying being 6th in the league, a position that is thoroughly deserved from the hard fought games and excellent performances we have put in in recent weeks.

You just wonder how it could possibly go wrong from here and I'm sure there'll be a few wobbles along the way. But thanks to the gritty result on Tuesday, we now know we can overcome those obstacles and it'll all be ok in the end.

In Jewell We (Still) Trust!!


Matt Stannard said...

Another great article - I must add your blog to me RockMelt feeds and phone.

I agree, most reviews seem to suggest we had one shot. We did have a few more! Last season when we were poor we lost, it's nice not to lose but lets not forget Andrews could have scored a few, Edwards flashed some shots wide and Ellington surely will get a super sub goal soon, his trickery is getting better each match!

Be good to hook up again soon Amy!! Come see us in Lower SBR next time :-)

dc96 said...

Not a great performance but I thought we soaked up their pressure pretty well and at least we took one of our few chances.

I think our next run of fixtures with only 1 game a week will help a lot. We've got an old squad and longer recovery time will help us a lot. Should allow people to get over niggles and hopefully keep the core of the team playing week in, week out till after Christmas.