Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Town see out the season with a special win at Derby

Be honest: when you saw the games Ipswich had to play in the final month of the season, you didn't think we'd be earning any points away from home, did you?

I have a confession... I didn't either.

Our run in included trips to Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Derby - each of whom were expected to be competing for promotion or the play offs by that point in the season.

So, as long ago as last June, I made the decision not to travel to the Riverside because I didn't fancy three trips in a month to see my team lose. I'm sorry for doubting you Ipswich!

It's fascinating to me that we survived each of those games undefeated, while the less daunting home fixtures against Brentford, Fulham and MK Dons saw us gain less points.

Truth be told, Saturday wasn't a match where you could make a fair judgement on either side: Derby looked to be holding back and Town didn't seem too bothered about making the most of that, even when playing against ten men for the final eight minutes of the game.

Given this week's play off matches, I was surprised to see The Rams hadn't rested their main players. But even with the first team on display, their performance was a shadow of what I had seen at Portman Road in December. Despite having the majority of the possession and nineteen shots on goal, they didn't really ever look like scoring or taking any kind of control of the game.

Ipswich, meanwhile, had their moments: the return of David McGoldrick and Teddy Bishop has changed the style of football beyond recognition and bodes well for next season (assuming we are able to keep both players over the summer).

The difference between Saturday and the last match I saw at Sheffield Wednesday, was that the nice passing football actually lead to chances in the box and shots on goal. McGoldrick and Bishop were key to this.

Teddy, David and Freddie Sears all caused problems for the Derby defence, leading to Teddy being fouled in the box by Richard Keogh. Replays show two defenders failing to deal with him as he makes his way towards the goal with ease, before being brought to the ground.

After what felt like an age, the referee pointed to the penalty spot and I was happy for McGoldrick to get his name on the score-sheet once again. For me, it is absolutely vital that we hang onto him over the summer and do everything we can to make sure he stays fit for the whole of next season.

Just eight minutes from time, a shot on goal at the other end of the pitch lead to Derby's George Thorne suffering a major injury. From the reaction of our players, we could see the injury was serious as they gestured quickly for the medics.

Having used up all their subs, Derby were forced to see the game out with just ten men  and I would have liked to see Town push on a bit more. We held on to the ball well, with some more of that nice passing football that we have so badly missed this year, and looked very much the side in control (as would rightly be expected).

It was nice to see Kenlock and McDonnell given a run out, the former certainly looks promising. Mick has made use of these 'meaningless games' to give the youngsters a run out, for some fans it is a case of too little too late but I trust the manager to know when they are ready for first team football.

I don't expect to see the likes of Kenlock, Emmanuel, Dozzell, etc. go straight into the side next year, but their availability will surely give us more strength in the squad? This is something that has been clearly missing this season.

Having watched three out of the four sides that have reached the play offs this season, I don't hold out a massive amount of hope for Derby. As I say, this game really wasn't a fair reflection of what either side is capable of but, in my opinion, Brighton are by far the superior team in terms of style of football and I think both County and Wednesday will struggle to progress.

That said, I might be slightly biased as I would love to have another trip to the iPro next season. It was only my second trip to the ground, with the last time being on the final day of the season in 2003 when we won 4:1, meaning my undefeated record there remains safe.

Wanting to avoid travelling up early in the morning, quite a few of my friends decided to make a trip of it and stay in Derby the night before. This meant we could all get together for the final pre match meet up of this season.

Debates around Mick McCarthy and his team seem to have subsided somewhat, perhaps down to the decent results that we have seen over recent weeks. Instead discussions focused on our plans for the summer and the new kit which Town revealed just a few days before (We are all getting the away one!).

After the line up had been announced, we made our way in the sunshine to the ground. One of the things I like most about the iPro is that you can see it from far away, as we exited the train station we spotted the tips of the roof on the horizon and it is even more impressive once you are stood in front of it.

That great impression continued inside the ground, which felt almost full and very loud. Respect must be given to the Derby fans: tickets on the day cost £30 and with the play offs this week I think I'd have been tempted to give a game against 'hoofball Ipswich' a miss to save my pennies.

Having the away fans situated right next to the louder section of the home fans certainly made a difference to the atmosphere, with them bouncing off one another to start chants. The highlight for me being Town taunting the Rams with 'we saw you cry on the telly', in reference to the final day of last season when Derby missed out on the play offs due to a defeat against Reading - giving us their sixth place spot.

Derby's response of 'at least we've been on the telly' probably had me chuckling more though!

To other Town fans, and even Derby ones, the win on Saturday may not have meant a lot, but to me it meant the world, as I will be seeing a lot less football from now on following the birth of my little one in the summer.

So, thank you Town for what has, at the very least, been a memorable year of football trips, and for ending the season with a Chambers fist pump just for me.

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