Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City

PUBLISHED: 16:57 02 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:58 02 September 2018

Town's Dean Gerken is beaten by Moritz Leitner's equaliser in the 1-1 draw.    Picture: STEVE WALLER     WWW.STEPHENWALLER.COM

Town's Dean Gerken is beaten by Moritz Leitner's equaliser in the 1-1 draw. Picture: STEVE WALLER WWW.STEPHENWALLER.COM

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town drew 1-1 with Norwich City in this afternoon’s East Anglian derby at Portman Road. STUART WATSON gives his snap verdict.

Even stevens
A draw, you have to say, was probably the right result.

The first half was stop-start, scrappy and forgettable from two sides struggling for form.

Town flew out the blocks after the break and deservedly scored through Gwion Edwards’ deflected strike (57) following a period of sustained pressure. It was, remarkably, the first time they had taken the lead in an East Anglian derby on Suffolk soil in 20 years. Portman Road was rocking and fans dared to dream.

The Blues couldn’t get a killer second when tails were up though. The livewire Edwards pulled a shot wide when the sea parted in front of him then whipped a free-kick just of the post. It came back to haunt them.

Norwich responded well, had their own little spell on top and levelled through Moritz Leitner’s sweeping finish from the edge of the area following Onel Hernandez’s left-wing cut-back. It was a carbon copy of James Maddison’s winner here last season and similar to so many of the goals they have scored against Town over the years.

Wait goes on

It means the Blues’ wait for a win against their bitter rivals goes on. That’s now 11 games stretching back to Aril 2009.

And their wait for the first win under new boss Paul Hurst goes on too. That’s now seven games in all competitions. A draw sees them leapfrog Reading and move off the foot of the table heading into a two-week international break.

It’s time to decide whether your glass is half full or half empty.

Walters’ return

‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ was played before kick-off as a nod to Jon Walters’ social media post earlier in the week. The return of the popular striker has generated much excitement and his name being read was met by an almighty cheer.

The 34-year-old played up top alongside Kayden Jackson as Paul Hurst went with a traditional 4-4-2 system for the first time. He charged about in the opening stages, but it quickly became apparent he is nowhere near at full fitness. That’s understandable given he made just one competitive start for Burnley last season due to knee problems.

Him being able to fully commit to the high press will come with time. And if this is him half-fit then the signs are good. What he did immediately bring to the party was some nous and leadership. He knew where to be and where to put the ball. His assist was evidence of that. He hung in their superbly before nodding down Jon Nolan’s angled pass back into the path of Edwards.

Other new boys

Matthew Pennington went straight into the heart of the defence, replacing the suspended Toto Nsiala, having only just arrived on loan from Everton close to Friday’s 5pm deadline.

Given the circumstances, the 23-year-old produced a very assured display. He’s deceptively quick, read the game well and his rangy legs allowed him to dispossess opponents and make blocks. His distribution of the ball was good too, with some targeted long balls setting up attacks.

Wolves loanee Jordan Graham, playing out on the left, struggled to really get into the game as all Town’s attacking play went down the opposite flank. His set-piece deliveries were a mixed bag. And he was penalised for a dive in the box in the 43rd minute which, if the referee got correct, is really frustrating given there was a golden opportunity to shoot following a well-worked short corner routine.

With Luke Chambers also producing a commanding display, it meant that Norwich’s lone striker – a certain Jordan Rhodes – never got a sniff.

Bold Bart call

With Toto Nsiala suspended, three new signings to call upon and one of six loanees having to be left out, this team selection was hard to call. No-one could have predicted the line-up that Paul Hurst went with though.

There were six changes to the team which lost 2-1 at Sheffield Wednesday the previous weekend. New boys Matthew Pennington, Jordan Graham and Jon Walters all went straight in, right-back Janoi Donacien was the loan player to surprisingly miss out, but the headline news was surrounding the goalkeeper.

Bartosz Bialkowski – the three-times Supporters’ Player of the Year – was on the bench. In fairness, the 31-year-old has looked a little shaky since returning from the World Cup with Poland and signing a bumper new long-term deal.

Hurst has always said that he is not concerned with what players have done in the past, but what they can do for him now. This decision sends a message to the rest of the squad loud and clear – no-one is undroppable.

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