Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 3-0 defeat at Millwall
PUBLISHED: 17:01 27 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:57 27 October 2018
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Ipswich Town lost 3-0 at Millwall in front of new manager Paul Lambert this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his snap verdict.
Caretaker boss Bryan Klug did the minor surgery he felt was needed to provide balance and allow his players’ prime qualities to be best utilised.
There were three changes to the team that lost 2-0 at Leeds on Wednesday night. More interestingly, he put players in different roles than they had been operating to accommodate a 3-5-2 system.
Trevoh Chalobah has been nurtured as a ball-playing centre-back by Cheslea and England, but had been too inexperienced and defensively suspect for that role under Paul Hurst. Klug – keen for his team to be able to play from back to front – immediately moved him into a back three alongside Luke Chambers and Matthew Pennington.
Grant Ward, who had been playing on the left wing under Hurst, shifted to right wing-back, with Jonas Knudsen on the opposite side.
Andre Dozzell, rested at Elland Road, came straight back into the side to provide the vision and creativity needed to feed the feet of strike duo Freddie Sears and Kayden Jackson. Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes were to provide the cover.
None of the above really matters when you have such a big frailty as Town.
Yes, there’s no doubting what has to be top of Paul Lambert’s list of things to sort out... set-pieces.
Millwall are one of the best in the league at scoring from them. Town are one of the worst at defending them. The nature of the crucial opening goal therefore shouldn’t have come as that big a surprise.
Big centre-back Jake Cooper peeled away from Chalobah at the far post to head a deep corner back into the mix and, after the ball hit Cole Skuses’ arm, Lee Gregory reacted quickest to hook home the loose ball from close range. Town players’ appeals for a foul were a little desperate.
It was very similar to Sheffield Wednesday’s opener at Hillsborough when Lucas Joao pulled away from Chalobah at the far post.
The killer second, scored six minutes after the restart (more on that in a moment), came from a poorly defended long throw.
It means, of the 25 league goals conceded by Ipswich this season, 12 of them have now come from dead ball situations (not including penalties).
It’s so fragile right now.
Town had actually enjoyed a reasonably bright start. There had been a zip about the warm-up and that carried into the game as the visitors played with positivity. Twice the Lions had to make last-ditch interventions following clever Freddie Sears movement in the box.
Falling behind changed all of that. Millwall got on top and Town dropped deep.
Neil Harris’ men had gone close just prior to the opener when Ryan Leonard’s crisp volley had flown narrowly wide.
They had two more big set-piece chances before the half was up too. Shaun Hutchinson fired across the face of goal after Downes could only glance a whipped Jiri Skalak free-kick delivery from the left further into danger. Then towering striker Tom Elliott headed a Shane Ferguson free-kick delivery from the other side straight at Bartosz Bialkowski.
Cole Skuse had gone into this game with an ankle problem. He was substituted at the break and replaced by Jordan Spence. It remained 3-5-2, with Ward moving into central midfield.
Could Town get back into this match? We never get the chance to find out because they always seem to go and shoot themselves in the foot again rather than finding a foothold.
The source of the goal... you guessed it, a dead ball. This time a long Leonard throw from the left was flicked on at the near post by Cooper and Gregory was on the spot to turn the ball into the net from close-range little more than five minutes after the restart.
For the seventh successive away game Town had conceded a killer second. It’s only at Rotherham and Exeter, back in August, that they haven’t let in more than one.
A third followed in the 70th minute and it was another poor one. This time a Shane Ferguson cross from the left sailed over Chalobah’s head and Bartosz Bialkowski, racing off his line, clattered into Luke Chambers when making a punch. Leonard was able to hook the ball into the unguarded net from the edge of the box.
Lambert watched from the directors’ box with his coat up around his mouth and flat cap down near his eyes. He will not have liked what he saw one bit.
The fiery Scot will have known this was big rescue mission, but perhaps not realised just how big. He’s taken on struggling clubs mid-season before, but none in a position as bad as this.
He meets staff and players at the training ground for the first time tomorrow and no doubt will have a few home truths to tell.
Ipswich Town Football Club have not played outside of the top two divisions of English football since 1957. They are currently rock-bottom – there can be no quibbles about that definition now – with nine points from 15 games.
Hull, the nearest placed side, moved three clear with a 1-0 win Bolton. The gap to safety has widened to five.
There are nine matches to play before Lambert gets the chance to add players to this squad in January. The damage could be done by then.
Lambert has to somehow get more out of this group of players and fast. The next two – home to Preston and away to Reading – already look like relegation six-pointers and we’re not even into November yet.