The Verdict: Villa draw adds more pieces to the Paul Hurst puzzle... but it’s nowhere near finished yet
PUBLISHED: 15:52 19 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:52 19 August 2018
Andy Warren gives his Sunday verdict at the end of a week where Ipswich Town exited the Carabao Cup to Exeter and drew 1-1 with Aston Villa.
And so a few more pieces of the Paul Hurst puzzle fall into place.
We’ve been building a picture following the 43-year-old’s appointment in May, with every piece added along the way bringing cause for optimism.
The only problem is we are not yet sure how the finished puzzle will come together or whether it will resemble the picture on the box when complete.
That remains the case following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, but there were once again new, exciting, pieces to add.
We found out how a Hurst team responds to criticism from their boss and how they react when their backs are firmly against the wall. The answer in both cases was hugely promising.
It would have been easy for the Blues to have simply gone into their shells following Tayo Edun’s harsh red card, looking to simply limit the damage and stay in the game as long as possible.
What we saw, though, was a team who were still trying to win the game up until the final minute, despite their numerical disadvantage, and displaying 100 per cent commitment to a man. ‘Warriors’ was the word Hurst used to describe his players post-match.
Much of last season was spent debating whether it was the team or the fans’ responsibility to lift the other, but those within the white lines and those in the stands worked as one throughout this 90 minutes. This is how it should be. United, together, undivided.
Many will, perhaps justifiably after another disappointing cup exit to lower league opposition, have arrived at Portman Road on Saturday with magnified, nagging doubts.
Has too much changed too quickly? Is more Championship experienced needed? Will it take too long for these players to gel together as a team?
Hurst will be the first to admit these are all fair questions, and I’m sure I was not the only one who feared the worst after such an impressive start to the game was halted by Jonathan Kodjia’s headed opener for the visitors. Maybe that’s pre-conditioned in some way for those who have watched the Blues in recent years.
But this is a new Ipswich, a new puzzle with new pieces, and it’s fascinating to learn more about them as the weeks go on.
There are raw edges which need smoothing off, of course, with a key one being the need for more support for the lone striker to enable the Blues to carry an increased goal threat.
But the likes of Gwion Edwards, Ellis Harrison and Jon Nolan have already shown enough to suggest they will become fan-favourites, Hurst’s sides are playing with a new purpose and the Blues have played on the front foot in each of the four games played so far.
Flash back to the 4-0 home loss to Villa in April and remember how Bryan Klug’s Blues were cheered off despite a heavy loss and remember that feeling of tension lifting as the club prepared for its new era.
That feeling of freshness, openness, inclusiveness and honesty has been a key feature of the opening weeks of Hurst’s reign.
Of course a first victory as Ipswich boss remains a vital missing piece for the new manager, but complex puzzles take time and patience to complete.
There’s a long way to go but, right now, this one is coming together nicely.