Saturday, 20 October 2012

Will it be third time lucky for Town at Hull?

They say good things come in threes and this weekend Ipswich Town travel to the KC stadium for the third time in 2012.

In January, I made my first trip to what is now one of my favourite away grounds; thanks to the modern stadium, easy access from the train station and a great pub for away fans right next to the ground. Sadly, the football didn't live up to our pre-match 'Jimmy Bullard banter' with the home fans. Town were dire and slumped to a 3:1 FA Cup defeat to The Tigers.

Just two months later I made the second trip to East Yorkshire, the result was slightly more enjoyable this time as The Blues came back from 2:0 down thanks to a brace from former midfielder Grant Leadbitter. It was a great game from him, which formed part of our climb from the slump we found ourselves in in January.

Could this be the same again?

Then, as now, we were suffering from a terrible fall in confidence that was seeing us throw away leads and stupid individual errors leading to us conceding goals (I distinctly remember Sonko being shrugged off by Cameron Stewart to allow Hull their third goal).

But we have something different this time, something people won't like me stating as a 'positive' to Town's current predicament... our loan players.

Much has been made of Ipswich having signed their eighth player on loan this week, it's not what we'd hoped for our long-term development. However, I had an interesting chat with Dave Gooderham from the EADT about this today which unearthered a way that these short term acquisitions could work in our favour.

They come to our side without the pressure of the last two months weighing on their shoulders, as it visibly is on Scott Loach, Michael Chopra, Tommy Smith and co. Not only that but they bring a desire to prove themselves, even if it is for their future away from Ipswich.

It's not an ideal situation - and I'll be discussing the pro's and con's of loan signings with a Nodge fan in more detail next week - but it could well be just what we need at the moment.

I've seen three matches so far this season and each time the most important thing that appears to have been lacking is confidence, especially after half time. Against Middlesbrough, Barnsley and Cardiff we performed reasonably, if not very well during the first 45 minutes. We controlled the games, we played some good football and we looked like a side that could be competing in the top half of the table later on in the season.

But then the boys go off at half time and it's like someone sticks a pin in them. They deflate and come back out through the tunnel completely deflated and nervous about conceding a goal. They then start ot defend too deep (presumably under instruction from the management) and the onslaught from the opposition can only be withstood for so long.

Whether you blame that on the quality of players in the side or the man that's organising them we need a solution. Personally, I believe it is down to Paul Jewell that they lack confidence and it is his job to improve this - which he isnt' doing. But the fact is we now need a way to solve that... and the loan players could well be it. Fresh faces work well in any line of work: they bring something different, new ideas and a little bit of confidence. I certainly feel like the quality players we have in Reo-Coker, DJ Campbell and Henderson can add to a team that seems to be heading for rock bottom at the moment. Even if it is short term.

Whatever works to get us off the bottom of that table, surely?

Anyway, back to the day. As Dave said to me 'the one thing you can't fault this season is Town's amazing away following' and how right he was.

As I say, Hull away is one of my favourite away days - not least because it's one of the closest games to me!

The ground is a typical 'modern' ground and some mnore traditional fans may not like it - but I really do. It's really attractive and when you're there you really get the feeling your on a trip out for the football. It's on the edge of the city, so you don't have to venture into the dull surroundings of Hull itself, but it's close enough to the station to make it an easy journey for travelling fans.

If, like me, you're travelling by train - head through the bus station which is attached to the train station on the left as you exit the platforms. You'll come out of there with a shopping centre on your right: head past the petrol station, cross the road, and take the first road left. This road leads you straight to the ground, less than half an hour away. See? Easy!

One of the best things Hull has going for it is the great little pub that's recommended for away fans. Following on from the above directions, keep walking once you arrive at the ground. A path takes you across a park and you'll see a road running alongside it straight ahead. Along there you will find 'The Brickmakers Pub' where we were made to feel very welcome last year by Hull fans with a round of Jimmy Bullard songs pre-match. Their chant regarding the curly haired one differs slightly from ours, as you'd imnagine!

If you are at the match early I can definitely recommend that pub for a quick visit, come and see us!

As for other ways to travel to the KC, it is a very easy drive: the A63 dual carriageway takes you right past the ground (keep an eye out for the impressive Humber Bridge before you get there). But, I was warned by a colleague this week the A63 is the ONLY road in and out of Hull and as such becomes VERY busy on match days. So be warned! That said, to my memory, the car park at the ground is large and inexpensive and so the rest of the trip should be relatively stress free.

I've reached the point, as an Ipswich fan, where I am so confused about what to expect on the pitch when I go to a game that I decide to focus on the day I'm going to have as a whole. For that, Hull is perfect and I look forward to seeing my Ipswich family again so soon, after  - that's what makes being an Ipswich fan worth it!

Things in my life seem to happen in threes, lets hope a little of that rubs off on Town's third trip to the KC this year! 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

One point gained or two points lost?

I must say, I'm starting to really feel for Paul Jewell and anyone else put up for interview at Ipswich.

They're in a position where, no matter what they say, they're going to annoy someone. For example, even I complained when in the build up to Charlton at home Carlos Edwards slipped into the terribly cliched expression of Portman Road needing to become a 'fortress'. I tired phrase which, to be honest with you hurts all the more because our beloved spiritual home moves every day further away from being a 'fortress'.

Jewell himself has this week come into some criticism for saying a draw at Barnsley was a good result. The trouble is these one line quotes don't go far enough to explaining the full extent of the situation.

And this is why I sympathise with him.

I wanted to open this article with 'a point away at the league leaders is an excellent result', but it didn't do enough to explain what a predicament that leaves us in as a club.

Before the game I'd have taken this scoreline and the performance we reportedly put in too. I'm happy with that. But that's not to say I'm happy with the fact that we let a one goal lead go or that we didn't build on that lead.

I'm happy we have now managed two games undefeated and hope we can now build on that to start winning again. But that's not to say I'm happy with the fact we've only won once so far this season.

I just think these things need perspective... and that's were Super Blue Stephen Bailey comes in!

Stephen has been to and intends to be at every Ipswich game this season, so his 'perspective' on Town's current performances is one I trust very much. He kindly offered to give me a few words after the game:

Town played really well and it was a much improved performance all round. 

We're looking alot more solid at the back with Danny Higginbotham at centre back.

The first half was, at times end to end and at other times one side to either team. Town had some good spells but didn't really create the chances, until we scored our goal.

Edwards delivered a beautiful cross and it was met by a great Daryl Murphy diving header to send the Town fans wild. Town ended the half on the up and were unlucky not to add to their goal count.

The second half was much like Barnsley on Saturday, with Town soaking up a lot of pressure, and throughout the half you knew they would have to get another goal. It wasn't completely one sided though with Daryl Murphy having a great chance to put us 2 up at the far post, but summer Town target Kuszczak pulled off a great save.

You could sense the Brighton goal coming, as I say, much like Barnsley and eventually it did come. There was maybe a little defensive mishap from us, a cross was delivered it took a deflection and went straight to an unmarked Will Buckley to slam into the empty net. So perhaps an unfortunate goal to concede but it was probably deserved as Brighton had upped there game for the second half.

It was now a case wether we would hold on or not, but we managed it and secured an excellent point away at the league leaders.

The Town away support was amazing. Great atmosphere throughout the game, all standing and all singing. The second (Watford first) best away atmosphere so far this season. The players showed appreciation at the end with Chambers, Edwards and Scotland all throwing their shirts into the crowd and Scott Loach his gloves.

My favourite moment has to be when we scored. It was right down the other end to us but we could see it clearly. As soon as the ball hit the next we went wild and loud. Brilliant.

MOTM: Carlos Edwards, great all round performance from Carlos 'He can't drive a car, he's getting the bus' Edwards. He's improved massively defensively and he's very handy going forward.

It's now time to build on these two away points and get a win on Saturday in front of the SKY cameras at Portman Road against Cardiff. 

Don't forget there's a special offer on for this match: season ticket holders can get up to four tickets for just £10 each. Keep an eye out on Twitter as Town fans have been pulling together to get as many of these tickets used as possible by allowing friends and followers to use their season ticket number.

Get behind the team and sing your hearts out for the lads!


Don't forget there's a special offer on for this match: season ticket holders can get up to four tickets for just £10 each. Keep an eye out on Twitter as Town fans have been pulling together to get as many of these tickets used as possible by allowing friends and followers to use their season ticket number.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Brighton will teach Ipswich some lessons on and off the pitch tonight

Some very intellegent comparisons have been made today between Ipswich and their opponents tonight: Brighton Hove Albion.

Over the years I've heard of Brighton's fight up the leagues, their struggle to rebuild after being forced out of their stadium and the loyal fan base that pulled together for the sake of their club.

The hard work was richly rewarded last year when their first season in the Championship saw them storm up the table during the first half of the year: much like this year, they were top of the table in September. During the second half of the year they dropped momentarily out of the top half, before flirtating briefly with the play offs but finishing in a very respectable 10th place.

By comparison: Ipswich Town, the club with a rich history of success who most football fans expect to be doing well, are stumbling from one mediocre year to the next. The long term plan that has lead to Brighton's recent success seems like a dream to Town fans, who see player's contracts running out, loan players in and out of the side and a severe lack of youth players coming through from our once renowned academy.

Whether we like it or not our club currently bares more resemblance to our previous opponents, Barnsley. The Tykes are a club facing year after year of midtable finishes and a slow build towards a challenge for the Play-Offs.

Is it time to accept this may now be our own destiny? Or should we be fighting for a vision and plan that has given Albion their bright future?

Of course, before that we need rescuing from the very real scrape we find ourselves in at the moment. Until Saturday it felt too early to be worrying about our position in the league, but I'm afraid when the full time whistle blew at Oakwell on Saturday, I found myself thinking for the first time: 'I don't see how we'll get out of this'.

It seems there's always some drama taking place of the pitch at Portman Road nowadays, none more so than this week with Paul Jewell remaining absent from the Under 21's match on Sunday and the press interviews yesterday.

When it comes to match-day though, the only thing that really matters is the result. We (the manager, players and fans) must focus on that tonight.

To help prepare us for what lies ahead, I've been speaking to Brighton fan Brett Mendoza ahead of the match:

1. Last year, was it exciting to do so well as a newly promoted side or disappointing to not be able to carry on the good form enough to go up? 

Going up, I was always going to be happy as long as we didn't get relegated. When we got within touching distance, I started to believe the impossible would happen, but in reality we were an over achieving League One team in the division above. I'm glad it fizzled out with a few games to go. If we had missed out on the last game or in play offs, it would have been much harder to take.

2. Clearly been an amazing start to this year though, can you sum up the season so far?
The season has gone far better than I expected. We have added some real quality to our team. We've signed players from Manchester United, Manchester City and Valencia. The experience we have been lacking from last season has been added. Most importantly a goal keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak who has been (I think) our best signing of the summer. Ipswich nearly took him off our hands too.

3. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a team? 
Weakness: maybe a lack of height and strength in the team. Maybe you could say we don't have a plan B, if our "pass pass pass" game isn't working.
Strengths: we have pace all over the pitch and can create and score goals from any number of players.

4. What are you expecting from Ipswich?
We are at home and have been playing well. We should win comfortably with Ipswich being out of form of late, but football has a habit of throwing up strange things. Ipswich have some great players on paper, so will give us a decent game.

5. We play you at Portman Road on New Years Day... do you expect both sides to still be in the same position at that point in the season?
I'd be amazed if we were still top in January, but I would like to be in the play off mix. Ipswich should have improved by then, so maybe both teams will be in the top 10, but Brighton higher up.

6. A lot is being said at the moment that Ipswich could learn a lot from Brighton's 'long term planning' compared to our own apparent lack of vision for the future. What would you say to that?
The long term planning is the way forward. However it needs a chairman with a great vision and him to find the right person to implement it and stick to the plan. It started off rocky for us, it took Poyet 18 months to sort us out, but we are almost 3 years into his reign and things have never looked better for us in my life time. Not all fans bought into it straight away, but with our chairman and manager I believe we have a very bright future.

7. One thing we do have in common is the lovely Mauriccio Taurrico, is he as popular at The Amex as he was at Portman Road? 
What's not to love? Tano is like a silent assassin, we don't see or hear much from him, but we all know that without him, Poyet's reign would not be as successful as he is now. He even played for us last season and his flair on the pitch as a defender at his age was a joy to behold. The fans definitely love him!

Finally, can I please get a score prediction and a 'player to watch from your side'?
Brighton 2 - 0 Ipswich
Player to watch: Bruno (our right back). He is way too good to be playing in the second tier of English football. Why he is at Brighton I have no idea, but watch out for his bombarding runs forward and Spanish flair.
Every game at the moment seems to be 'must win' for us, it's become a bit of a cliche that starts to mean very little. What we must do is our very best and the fans must continue to support the boys in the way they have.
I was very proud of those that attended Barnsley on Saturday, I'm sure I will be of those wonderful souls making the trip to to The Amex again tonight.
Have a great night and may this finally be the game we start to turn things around.