Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 0-0 home draw with Sheffield United

PUBLISHED: 18:53 10 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:57 12 March 2018

Bartosz Bialkowski has been called up by Poland.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.com

Bartosz Bialkowski has been called up by Poland. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town drew 0-0 with Sheffield United in a Championship match at Portman Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his snap observations.

ZZZzzz

It was yet more uninspiring footballing fare at Portman Road. How many times have we said that over the last two years?

Town were devoid of ideas, invention or spark. The midfield three of Cole Skuse, Callum Connolly and Stephen Gleeson lacked movement and quality on the ball. Despite not having any sort of a target man to aim for, time and time again aimless balls were pumped into the channels. Long diagonals to Dominic Iorfa were far too predictable.

This was classic attritional Championship action and Sheffield United looked the more likely to break the deadlock. James Wilson’s snapshot from 25-yards came back off the inside of the post and Billy Sharp put the rebound over with 12 minutes to go. There weren’t many other chances of note at either end.

Bersant Celina and Enda Stevens battle away in the first half at Portman Road.    Picture: Steve WallerBersant Celina and Enda Stevens battle away in the first half at Portman Road. Picture: Steve Waller

MORE: ‘We don’t set out for a 0-0 draw’ – McCarthy’s verdict on home stalemate

Home form

Joe Garner in a battle with Richard Stearman in the second half of the Ipswich Town v Sheffield United match.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comJoe Garner in a battle with Richard Stearman in the second half of the Ipswich Town v Sheffield United match. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Town may be unbeaten in five on their travels, including the recent back-to-back wins at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday, but they continue to toil on home soil.

They’ve now drawn a blank in four successive games at Portman Road. It’s almost eight hours of home action since Bersant Celina’s super strike against Leeds. The Blues have netted just two goals in their last eight matches in front of their home fans.

Season ticket prices will be announced before the end of the month with Mick McCarthy’s future almost certainly set to still be up in the air. Talk about a tough sell.

Callum Connolly heads the ball.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comCallum Connolly heads the ball. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

MORE: Andy Warren gives his Blues grades after drab draw

Midfield mediocrity

Town’s back three looks rock-solid – Cameron Carter-Vickers in particular. And there are players capable of scoring goals in this squad, as we’ve seen.

Luke Chambers wins this battle with Ched Evans .    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comLuke Chambers wins this battle with Ched Evans . Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

The issue – and it has been for many, many years now – is the lack of a midfield general. I sound like a broken record. No-one demands the ball off the defence. No-one wants to put their foot on the ball. No-one attempts to pick the lock.

McCarthy can blame the pitch today, but this is a long-standing problem.

As ever, there is the caveat that Emyr Huws, Tom Adeyemi, Teddy Bishop and Andre Dozzell could all have helped that cause this season. Would they have been turned into dogs of war too though?

The frustrating thing is that the recent performance against Cardiff showed these players can get the ball down and play. That suggests it’s the instructions which are given to them. McCarthy’s comments about setting out to not concede back this up.

Cameron Carter-Vickers was Ipswich Town's star man.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comCameron Carter-Vickers was Ipswich Town's star man. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

More often than not it’s ultra-pragmatic, percentage football. And it’s dull.

MORE: Match report - Town 0 Sheffield United 0

Dominic Iorfa was replaced at half-time with a thigh problem.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comDominic Iorfa was replaced at half-time with a thigh problem. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Crowd

Considering all the above, Town fans were top class.

The broken relationship between McCarthy and supporters has been well-documented. Toxic chants have been levelled in his direction from the stands, while he has stoked the fire with dismissive comments and the infamous shout of ‘f*** off* in their direction during the East Anglian derby.

In the build-up to this one the Blues boss offered an olive branch. He called upon them to get behind the team and not turn up with a negative attitude. In essence, he was calling for a ceasefire for two important home games in which the players needed the help of the 12th man.

Town supporters certainly kept their end of the bargain. Excitable moments were few and far between, but every single one of them was greeted by rapturous applause and roars of encouragement. They tried to lift their team, but unfortunately the team gave them little back in return.

There was generous applause at the half-time whistle, moans and groans were kept to a minimum and there was no audible criticism during the game.

McCarthy’s said ‘boo us at the end if we’re rubbish, I’m cool with that’. He can therefore have no gripes with the muted discontent that was voiced come the final whistle today.

Play-off picture

Town remain in 12th, but the gap to the play-off places has widened to nine points with Tuesday night’s game-in-hand (home against Hull) to come.

In truth the chasm looks wider than those stats suggest. Town, realistically, would need to win seven of their remaining 10 matches to stand any chance. That is simply not going to happen.

Finishing above Norwich will soon be the only thing left to play for. Town are now four points clear of their rivals after the Canaries, winless in six, lost 4-3 at Hull today.

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