Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Town's rollercoaster season takes another twist against Millwall

How many emotions can one football team make you feel just three months into the season?

Elation: Check (Bristol Away)
Anger: Check (Peterborough Away)
Pride: Check (Coventry at Home)
Hope: Check (West Ham Away)
A little bit Lucky: Check (Portsmouth at Home)

Pure Frustration: Check (Millwall Away)

August's trip to Peterborough was devastating because it highlighted what a mess the side were in at the time. Yet, there was still a feeling of anticipation for how Paul Jewell would respond to that result.

Having recovered so well by making our way up towards the play off places, it was truly disappointing to see the boys sink to another low point at Millwall on Saturday. As keeper David Stockdale said: 'We just didn't see it coming'.

The most frustrating thing about the trip to South London was the lack of good football on show. Every other poor result so far this season (Peterborough aside) has produced some good examples of how we are improving; sadly there are few to report this time.

One positive to take from the game was Jimmy's beautiful goal, how proud I am that I got to see that.

Sadly, my beloved curly haired one didn't have a great game, again, with his lack of fitness being highlighted at The New Den. Once more I raise the point that when Jimmy has a poor game; so does the rest of the team.

What I would say though is that his passion for the game was clearly still there. In the build up to his goal you did get the feeling he was about to pull something special out of the hat. He just seemed to be saying, 'You know what, enough of this farting about. Let's get a goal back'. He was pushing forward and organising the midfield well, if only for a short space of time. We need to see more of that this year, but Jimmy doesn't need me to tell him that - he already knows.

I still firmly believe he was the best signing Jewell made this season, thanks to his influence on and off the pitch with players and fans alike. For that reason I hope to see him on the team sheet week in, week out: you can only get match fit by playing full matches and regularly.

Meanwhile, David Stockdale also had the Town fans on their feet numerous times and it is harsh on him that the goal difference has once again entered into negative figures. The youngster is another shining light at Portman Road: his professionalism is an example to us all, astounding too when you consider his age.

I would be foolish, though, if I ignored the problems that were clearly exsistent in our game on Saturday. There are plenty of things to be learnt from our defeat and improve on for the visit of Doncaster this coming weekend.

Most importantly, we need to develop the side to compensate for injuries and suspensions. The loss of Super Sonko and Lee Bowyer in the first half had a profound affect on the team and the challenge of regrouping after that appeared to be too much. Saturday was a visible example that, though we have an excellent line up for the first team, our fringe players just aren't good enough yet.

One might argue that the loss of some key players this weekend provided the chance for our subs to shine, I was certainly hoping that JET and Kennedy would take that opportunity. Sadly they haven't quite lit any fireworks... yet.

In JET we have someone with the potential to become an excellent player. He's becoming a bit of a Marmite character at Ipswich (you either love him, or you hate him), but I hope he will use that criticism constructively and emerge a stronger player - he can learn a lot from this league and I'm excited to see what we have to come from him.

Whilst in Kennedy we have an excellent defender. I was impressed with him in the first game of the season against Bristol. As this was pre-Sonko and Collins, he took on a more central role with Ingimarsson and controlled the back line well. Perhaps he was too far out of his comfort zone this weekend?

Of course, the trouble with his 'discomfort zone' at Millwall was the prescence of Jay Simpson: any defender would find marking him a tough challenge!

Finally, the style of football Millwall play just isn't suited to us: The 'hit and hope, 'have it', hoof the ball as high as you can' style. We like to get it on the ground and actually play some passing football which, credit to Millwall, they prevented us doing.

What we need to do now is show that we are willing to grab the game by the proverbial balls, shake it up and play it exactly how we want to. In a parallel universe, where we hadn't lost two key players to injury, we might have been strong enough to organise the game in a way that suited us. I doubt the Lions would have stood a chance against the confident Ipswich side that beat Brighton.

Sadly that team went temporarily AWOL on Saturday. But you mark my words, they'll be back - bigger and better than before.

Man of the Match: Just as he was at Peterborough, I believe Stockdale was absolutely key on Saturday. The saves he made were crucial and allowed us that possiblity of getting back into the game. Had it not been for him the scoreline would have been far worse.

I've also been thoroughly impressed with his response since the game, he is determined to continue learning and improving - what an asset he is for us.

Also making their mark: Sonko and Bowyer were noticeable by their absence.

I felt that without Sonks we appeared rather 'lopsided': as the right hand side of the formation was pushing forward, poor Kennedy was left dealing with Simpson on his own. I wonder whether the impressive figure and energy of Sonko might have been more intimidating to the Millwall star and thus his threat elliminated, but we will never know.

Meanwhile; though the jury is still out on Bowyer for many Town fans, it seemed to me there was a gaping hole without him. The organisation, control and experience he brings to the midfield, descended into fear - something I hoped we'd banished at home against Coventry. I wish him a speedy recovery but the fact does remain that we need other options in our challenge for promotion.

At the other end of the pitch I thought Liam Trotter did an excellent job of showing Town what they have missed out on since he left Suffolk. I was a big fan of the lad, mainly because of his kind and humble attitude off the pitch but also for his enthusiasm on it. I was thoroughly impressed with his performance, he seemed to be involved in every attacking move the Lions built in the first half.

Bekah's Funny Moment Could be one of a large number of pre and post-match antics we witnessed with the Blue Army in London Bridge. My personal favourite came as we made our way to the ground: Off they marched down a tunnel into the train station... singing along, drawing strange looks from fellow travellers but enjoying every moment thoroughly... Only to find the group had managed to lead itself into the station through an 'exit only' route.... 'We are the Ipswich, we went the wrong way...'

May I take this opportunity to thank Millwall and the British Transport Police for their professionalism. To say that I was a little dubious about booking tickets for this game would be an understatement, but I can now highly recommend it to all football fans. A train can be caught directly to the ground, where you'll find a separate walkway provided for away fans, this path lined with police and the staff at the stadium itself also helpful and professional.

It could be argued that no trouble would be expected at a Town vs Millwall match, but I did feel really safe and that's largely thanks to the staff and police at the ground.

With the exception of the alleged incident at Liverpool Street, Town fans have received some good reports online: one Millwall fan tweeted 'Good to see the ITFC fans so humble in defeat. Fair play to them and good luck for the rest of the season'.

Which leads me to the Highlight of the Day. Having grown up away from Ipswich, my sister and I have never experienced going to football with a group of friends. Though I would never change going to Portman Road with my Dad whilst I grew up, and still cherish the chances I get to do that, the ITFC Tweeps have provided me with an opportunity to experience this other side of being a football fan. I was really proud to be a part of that group who were determined to have a good day and support their team, again. Nice one and thank you to every one of the 1600+ who made the journey down!

So onwards and upwards, as we face the twists and turns the rest of the season will bring. This latest match wasn't our best performances, but I refuse to believe that we have already hit our peak this year. Jewell is building an entirely new team and we must give him time.

Fitness has, by his own admission, been a major issue for us - but that can only improve with more games and a little patience. I am sure that by the end of the year we will be pointing to the experience and determination of our side as the key to our success.

This weekend was a stark reminder that this could be an inbetween year for us, one to build on in future years. Look at QPR, Swansea and even - dare I say it - Narwich. Alot can be learnt from the way they took time to build their team and work hard together to earna thoroughly deserved promotion.

I would prefer to witness the strongest team possible win promotion in a couple of years time, than have us go up this year and come straight back down again. Teams like Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal would have made us suffer far worse than a 3 goal defeat.

I'd really rather not got through 9-0 again, would you?

Have faith that one day soon we will be the team winning 7-1 against Peterborough, 4-1 against Millwall and even 5-1 against Narwich.

The journey there will continue to be a rollercoaster: but I have no doubt we will look back on it fondly.

In Jewell We Trust


Anonymous said...

Love it - I agree. I also think we do lack a lot of width this to me was the difference between Millwall who had Simpson and Houson to attack our flanks where as until JET we had three very central midfields in Leadbitter (he's not a winger!), Bowyer and Bullard.

I'd like to see us have Lee Martin, Carson and / or JET available just to be able to mix it up a bit when we do struggle for width out of all though Lee Martin seems to me to be the best performer so far, although as you know I will be the first to start singing about JET as I've seen what he can do!!

rpd said...

Hi Amy

Like your blog - good work.

I agree it is amazing what emotion you face as a SuperBlue supporter (I'm a blues supporter too). They have played such good football & such bad football this season.

Let's not mention Doncaster loss except to say well done to great ITFC supporters for being gracious to Billy Sharpe-now that is real.

C'mon you blues!....