Monday, 18 April 2016

Dozzell Dazzles a shocked Sheffield Wednesday

In 1984, the year I was born, an Ipswich Town legend began. At the tender age of 16, Jason Dozzell, who went on to make 348 appearances for the club, made his debut and became the youngest player to score in the English top flight (a record he still holds today).

In 2016, the year my own child is due to be born, history has repeated itself. Also at the tender age of 16, Jason's son Andre scored for his Dad's former club - rescuing a point in their game away at Sheffield Wednesday.

Speaking to my Dad in our traditional post-match debrief, I asked if he remembered the day Jason had scored and if there was much excitement around it. "Oh yes, there was a lot of fuss. There were cameras and even TV crews outside Chantry High School, everyone was very pleased'.

I wonder how many times Jason has rerun that first game in his head this week? How amazing it must feel to know his own son now has those same memories to look back on. How amazing it must have been for him to be in the stands to see Andre score for the club with which he has such a long-standing relationship.

A clearly emotional Dozzell, captured by @tractorgirl49, during the celebrations for Town's equaliser.
Such a lovely story has, of course, earned the attention of the media and I'm chuffed to have been there to witness it in person. It's all very exciting, but it's important to focus on what happens next for the youngster.

Interested in Jason's climb to success, I asked my Dad how he had performed in the games following his debut. 'I don't think he walked straight into the first team after that, but he made three or four more appearances that season. Ipswich were about to be in a relegation battle, so for the final ten games he was left out and, of course, we survived'.

There is a fear that Andre, and other youngsters like him, will be left on the sidelines as McCarthy prefers to opt for older, more experienced players. Fans, understandably, don't want to see the youngster dropped from the team now as they would view it as a step backwards for the youth players. I'm inclined to argue that McCarthy should not feel pushed into bringing Andre into the first team if it is too soon.

As much as I enjoyed seeing him play on Saturday, he did look a little overwhelmed when he came on at the start of the second half. That's not a criticism of course, it's a huge step up to the first team and will take some time, I just hope the expectations of the fans doesn't add too much pressure to that.

Picture captured by @tractorgirl49

With all the excitement around that special moment, you'd be forgiven for thinking that that was the only significant point of the game. From a Town point of view, you'd be right, not a lot else happened.

We started the game fairly brightly, with the kind of passing football that I haven't seen in any of our games since the start of 2016. The play resulted in a chance for Freddie Sears at the other end of the pitch to our away stand, but there were few other real chances. I was enjoying the football, possibly for the first time since Rotherham, but sadly that was short lived.

As the game settled, we sat further and further back in our own half, inviting pressure from a Wednesday side that currently sit comfortably in the play off places. There were several chances for the home side: with the ball looking like it crossed the line in one goal mouth scramble, only for Bart to save it/swiftly pop it back on the right side of the goal line. A couple of defensive errors later and Town found themselves a goal down as the game reached half time.

As a friend of mine tweeted during the break: 'We looked alright in patches, but forgot what football was in others'.

The second half continued in much the same way, with the Owls having the run of the ball and our defence was looking slowly more nervous. I wrote after the Brentford game about the lack of confidence our players are experiencing at the moment and this was on show once again on Saturday. Town should have been two goals behind but an excellent stop from Bart to deny Forestieri kept them in the game.

At the other end of the pitch, there were some chances for Town, though few and far between. I would say that all of our attacking moves revolved around David McGoldrick and Liam Feeney: their nice, passing football allowed us to turn Wednesday into the nervous side for short periods of time.

Liam Feeney and Luke Chambers gear up for the second half, captured by @tractorgirl49

Feeney, my man of the match, was key to the far more forward-playing approach that was on show, the issue being that he was often left to deal with the ball on his own. As soon as he had the ball at his feet, Sears and McGoldrick seemed to disappear off towards the goal rather than providing options to take Feeney and the ball with them. All too often, Feeney had to face the Wednesday defenders with little or no support. Bru should be given credit for the support he did offer, as well as Knudsen, but that generally lead to very little because the strikers had gone out of reach.

That said, I was impressed by the way Didzy and Feeney played together, as I had been for the final fifteen minutes of Town's game against Brentford last week, and was pleased to see them given a full match together this weekend. This also improved somewhat with the addition of Dozzell, who joined with Didzy and Feeney to create some nice moments of play during the second half. This was never more evident of course than in Feeney's assist for the goal, which Andre coolly slotted into the net right in front of the relieved and ecstatic Town fans.

I will keep saying it but it was such a special moment, as I don't think the travelling Tractorboys and girls had expected anything less than a defeat on their visit to Hillsborough.

Picture captured by @tractorgirl49

It has always been a nice away day, a stadium with such history in a city where there is so much to see and so many places to drink will always create a nice day out and a happy atmosphere.

In stark contrast to the quiet experience of the home fans last week, this crowd seemed determined to enjoy themselves watching their team play. The criticisms of the current team performances were still there, of course, but it was done with humour and a little sarcasm.

For the first time in a long time, I have experienced a Town game where there was no pressure or worry, little anger at the mistakes made and certainly no 'booing' the players. Instead, fans joined together in giggly renditions of old chants that once were heard in the stands of the Premier League Ipswich: Finidi George, Herman Hreidarsson and Jim Magilton were among the stars being given the nod (I defy you not to smile at the thought of the Finidi George on his big tractor).

During the second half, helped no doubt by the half time beers, the mood lifted even further as the performance on the pitch looked less and less likely to give us anything to cheer about. It built to a sarcastic chorus of 'let's pretend we scored a goal', followed by the fans in the way stand erupting in unison to celebrate a goal that, honestly, I don't think any of us thought was coming.

Luckily, Andre proved us wrong providing a much deserved reward for the away support who hadn't stopped making noise for most of the game. You could tell this was a special moment for them as much as it was for Jason and Andre. The young lad has been talked about for many weeks and there was a huge cheer when he came onto the pitch; even before the goal he had become a favourite for the fans.

An instant hero captured by @tractorgirl49

It was a shame, then, that the mood was somewhat dampened by the behaviour of another of our players in the dying moments of the game.

In what was literally the final move of injury time, Knudsen had possession of the ball on the left hand side, with an unmarked Brett Pitman running towards the right of the goal. Knudsen took a shot, which went just wide of the post, leaving Pitman absolutely fuming.

 I can understand his frustration, this was a golden opportunity for Town to steal all three points and renew a tiny bit of light for their play-off hopes. Some say his angry reaction to Knudsen's failure to pass to him was passionate and justified, but I'm afraid I just can't see it that way.

Pitman followed his teammate down the pitch, gesturing wildly. Knudsen appeared, to me, to raise his hand in apology, but this did not calm the striker. Instead, McGoldrick was forced to intervene, followed by Terry Connor before, as far as I could see, Brett left the pitch without acknowledging any other players.

Pitman is calmed at full time by Terry Connor, while McCarthy shakes the hand of young defender Digby,
picture captured by @tractorgirl49

For me, it's inexcusable, it's unprofessional and it just isn't good enough; I don't want to see any of our players behaving like that while representing our club. If I had behaved like that while working for my former employer (and believe me, there were times where my colleagues had wound me up just as much), I would have certainly found myself being disciplined.

There doesn't seem to have been too much of a response from the club regarding the incident, so one can only assume that Mick has dealt with it using his vast man management experience. I'd like to think Brett will have apologised to Jonas once he had calmed down, but I would not be happy to see him behave like that again, towards team mates, opposition players, managers and officials alike.

With time for that game to sink in, I'm pleased that the thing that stands out in my mind was the unity and excitement of seeing one of our own young players score a goal on his debut.

My Dad sent me a text at full time which read: 'You were there to see it, no one can take that away from you now'.

How true, history was made and I was there to see it. How exciting it is to think of the future special moments that young boy could bring to our club.

Fingers crossed.


Having enjoyed a rare two consecutive games watching Town from the stands, I know take a rest from travelling to support the boys until the final game of the season at Derby. If you fancy having a go at writing a match report, do get in touch. I know lots of Town fans who'd be eager to hear your thoughts, not just me!


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