Thursday, 7 March 2013

Town adapt and very nearly overcome at Forest 

'Guts and determination and we will get the wins we need'

Ipswich defender Tommy Smith after their defeat to Nottingham.
Town travelled to the City Ground on Tuesday to face an in form Forest. Sitting 8th in the Championship, the home team had won their last three matches and before the game their fans were confident they were about to make it four.
I think we surprised them: In recent games we have opted to play defensively, to protect the draw and to avoid defeat at all costs. (See our goalless draw at Huddersfield as a perfect example.)
But there was no sign of this two nights ago. We seemed confident going forward, worked on keeping possession of the ball and tried our luck whenever the opportunity arose. For the first time in a long time I actually enjoyed all 90 minutes of the match and felt, with the exception of the odd mistake, we played very well.
The most significant thing from our performance was the ability to adapt to unexpected changes. 
In the not so distant past, two red cards away from home against a supposedly competent team like Forest would have lead to a heavy defeat for us. It surely would for most teams? 
Lee Martin's dismissal changed that game certainly – but it didn't necessarily lose it for us. 

I said at half time I didn't feel it would affect us too badly; I expected we would revert to 4-4-1 and play more defensively. Though it hasn't been pretty to view, this style of play has been successful in recent games and earned us a point away at Huddersfield and the fantastic win over Leicester last weekend. 
The incident itself is a much longer conversation that is best left for another day. I've actually been having the very same discussion all day on Twitter and it seems to go round in circles! 

Briefly though, my personal view is that this kind of thing happens across the football league: a player reacting to something that made him angry. It shouldn't happen, but it does. Former Norwich player Henri Lansbury acted like he'd been shot and, in my opinion, he too should have faced a booking. Add to that the clear penalty claim from a foul on Martin and the fact the free kick that was given instead originally found the back of the net but was disallowed. All very frustrating and all just minutes before Martin's dismissal. 
That said, it is slightly worrying for me that this isn't the first time the winger has picked up a needless red card: I am reminded of his sending off at Peterborough last year. But all this is a conversation best left for manager McCarthy to have with the player, not for us to vilify him over. Hopefully Mick can reign his attitude in a bit, as he seems to be managing with JET (touch wood).
The similarities with the two red cards are certainly clear: it was followed later on in the game by a second dismissal (Tommy Smith, who had been on the pitch for a matter of minutes) and then a total change in the game. But after being reduced to nine men  this week, we didn't fall apart.
Rob Stearman's dismissal is being debated among Town fans and journalists alike. Some feel it was a little harsh and others argue that when you have already been issued with a yellow card you ought to be more careful. But, for me, losing him was the point for me where the game turned. 

Suddenly it felt like there was no way we could gain anything from that game.
The remaining men, who were already tired from literally giving it their all, were suddenly having to find a way to dig even deeper and hold on for a draw. 
I said to my Dad during the first half that it was great to see the defence talking to each other and marking the opposition so closely. From my memory all shots were taken from outside the penalty area as the Forest players just couldn't get near the goal and, once again, Hendo made some fantastic saves that kept us in the game.
So, as I say, it was clear that Town were able to adapt to what had happened in the game but still continue playing a decent game of football. The introduction of Frank Nouble even brought about some chances for us to score and I think we had Forest worried we might actually nick all three points from them. How embarrassing that would have been!
Forest's winner was cruel. We had started to sit a little deeper on the pitch and, though I thought we defended confidently, it felt that Forest were finally trying to take advantage of the reduced number of men on the pitch. Believe me it hadn't felt that way until then.
It hurts to see us lose to a goal from a massive deflection like that, but we genuinely should take heart from the 'grit and determination' that out players showed, as Tommy put it.
There's the commitment we've been crying out for, there's the pride in wearing our blue and white shirt.
I reckon Ipswich showed Manchester United a thing or two. 
Whilst they are sulking over a harsh red card and a disappointing exit from the Champions League, we - who are fighting for survival in the league - played with just 9 men and still looked the more likely to score. We fought hard and deserved a point for the valiant efforts of the players and the fantastic support from the fans.
(Add to this the fact that our manager, a Yorkshire man known for 'telling it as it is', was able to face the press with dignity and discuss the red cards with honesty - unlike the United manager.)
The travelling Blues supporters were the 12th, 11th and 10th men and deserved to come home with more than a point. But if we play like that and support like that on Saturday, I think Peterborough can expect a really tough game.
Hopefully a 7:1 defeat…!

If you have any thoughts on Lee Martin's red card, please do feel free to jot them down and I'll publish them here on my blog. Similarly, if you're off to Peterborough this weekend (or any future ITFC game) I'd love to get a match report. 

E-mail me on or tweet me @tractorgirlamy8. 

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