Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 3-2 home defeat to Millwall
PUBLISHED: 17:36 01 January 2019 | UPDATED: 20:34 01 January 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town are now 10 points adrift of Championship safety following this afternoon's 3-2 defeat at home to Millwall. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
STARTED SO WELL
Lambert has been constantly stressing how he desperately needed to add some Championship experience to his relegation-battling squad.
He started 2019 by naming his youngest team yet – partly through design, but mainly through necessity. Seven of the 10 outfield players were aged between 18 and 24. Four of them had come through the club’s academy.
You get a fearlessness with youth, especially under a manager who encourages his team to play with the shackles off. And it certainly helps when you get an early goal.
That’s exactly what happened. Less than two minutes were on the clock when the referee played a good advantage following a foul on Freddie Sears allowing Jack Lankester to cut inside from the right and bend a low left-footed effort into the far corner of the net. It’s the type of goal he’s scored so many times at youth level.
Town’s young guns, encouraged by the crowd, continued to express themselves.
Lankester oozed confidence with his trickery and tenacity down the right. Ellis Harrison led the line superbly. Flynn Downes, loving life under Lambert, played like a midfield general. Myles Kenlock produced some assured touches at left-back. Teddy Bishop produced some neat footwork and cute passes in the final third.
It was all looking so good.
Town don’t do comfortable though. They could and probably should have been out of sight come the half-time whistle.
Jordan Archer stopped a Freddie Sears attempt inside the six-yard box with his chest in the ninth minute. Jordan Tunnicliffe then produced a last-ditch lunge to block another Sears attempt on the half hour after the goal opened up for him at the end of a flowing move.
Ellis Harrison produced an air-kick in the box, had a volley blocked and put a header over.
As the missed opportunities stacked up that little voice in the back of your head said ‘this could come back to haunt us’. And so it proved...
Neil Harris brought on veteran striker Steve Morison at half-time. Town, very early, started to drop nervously deep to invite trouble. You sensed the tide was turning.
Then Ipswich, as they have done all season, decided to shoot themselves in the foot with some costly errors.
The equaliser arrived om the hour when Luke Chambers ran clumsily into Tom Elliott from the wrong side in the box after Morison’s knock down. Shane Ferguson converted and, after a short stunned silence, the home fans gave a roar of encouragement.
Eight minutes later, the sense of shock lasted far longer. Jordan Spence simply let the ball roll out of play thinking it was a goal kick. A corner was given. Morison won a header, Tom Elliott won a header and Jake Cooper headed home.
There was worse to come. Matthew Pennington left a back-pass short, Elliott slid in to win the ball ahead of Dean Gerken, Aiden O’Brien kept the ball alive on the byline and Elliott rammed beyond Luke Chambers on the line.
It rendered substitute Kayden Jackson’s late strike, a 20-yard effort which flew in off the post, a spectacular but sorry consolation.
THAT LOOKS TO BE THAT
Not clinical enough up top. Too sloppy at the back. Same old story, same old outcome.
This was the eighth time that Town have failed to see out a victory from a winning position.
This was Millwall’s first away win of the season at the 13th attempt.
This looks, sadly, to be the day the hope died.
The gap to safety has now grown to 10 points due to the fact that Rotherham, who visit Portman Road a week on Saturday, beat Preston 2-1 at home this afternoon.
Lambert will do well to attract the number and quality of recruits he desires given this predicament.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but Ipswich playing in the third tier of English football for the first 1957 now looks an inevitability.
SMALL SILVER LINING
Lambert is right when he says the football has been easier on the eye.
Seeing so many homegrown players express themselves the way they did in the first half has to give hope that Town have the foundations in place to build some much needed positive momentum in the third tier.
Lambert, who was booked for his passionate protests on the sidelines, really has connected with fans since arriving in October.
He’s said he intends to stay on even if the worst happens. He’s spoken of long-term plans.
Keeping a man who took Norwich from their lowest ebb in League One to a mid-table Premier League finish would make everyone feel that little bit better about the drop.