Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-1 home draw with Stoke City
PUBLISHED: 18:42 16 February 2019 | UPDATED: 21:56 16 February 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Will Keane’s stoppage-time header rescued a 1-1 home draw with Stoke City at Portman Road this afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Ipswich Town have conceded some bad goals this season. This was the worst of the 58.
There had been little between the sides in the first half.
Then, just three minutes before the break, came a calamitous mix-up at the back.
Sam Vokes’ headed flick-on looped just over Matthew Pennington and James McClean. Pennington put out his arms to shield the Stoke attacker as the ball bounced near the penalty spot.
It was at that moment that keeper Bartosz Bialkowski decided to make a late dash for the ball. It’s unclear whether he shouted for the claim, when that shout came or just how loud that was.
Jonas Knudsen didn’t seem to be aware of his out-rushing keeper until the last moment though. The Danish defender put a panicked header back towards his own goal. He had to do something with three players closing him down at that moment.
The alert McLean, sensing the danger, curved his run at the last moment and was left with the simple task of thumping the ball into an empty net.
Ipswich, as they have done all season, had shot themselves in the foot. That’s been the frustrating thing. So much of the damage has been self-inflicted.
Town’s new-look diamond midfield worked brilliantly against Derby in midweek. Here we saw its weakness.
Stoke boss Nathan Jones knows all about the system having deployed it to such good effect at upwardly mobile Luton Town.
He told Tom Ince and James McClean to get paint on their boots and stretch the pitch. Both exploited the space left down the flanks by Town’s narrow midfield.
Left-back Myles Kenlock, in particular, looked exposed as cross after cross came into the box.
Thankfully, Matthew Pennington was a magnet to the ball at the back. Then, after the break, the Blues made their greater numbers through the middle count.
NO END PRODUCT
Just like against Norwich and Derby, the Blues produced a gutsy response to going behind.
It would be easy for a team in this position to go into their shells and get edgy.
Instead, under Lambert, they continue to try and play football.
The Blues spent the majority of the second half on the front foot but, for all the neat passages of play and spells in the opposition half, it rarely led to anything.
Decision-making in the final third, or the execution of the final pass or cross, was never quite there.
On and off the pitch this all felt, perhaps understandably, a little flat at the end of a week of high emotions and high intensity.
WHAT A HEADER
Slick one-touch team goals and long-range strikes that cannon in off the crossbar are things of beauty. Personally, I love nothing more than a towering header.
Will Keane rose majestically on the edge of a crowded six-yard box to thump home Alan Judge’s swirling corner kick delivery two minutes into stoppage-time.
With his pony tail flapping through the air there was a hint of Andy Carroll about the goal.
It didn’t necessarily feel like that moment was coming. At the same time, judging the game as a whole, Town probably did deserve a share of the spoils.
Pre-season promotion favourites Stoke were very underwhelming given the names in their team. You can see why they’ve now won just one of their 12 games in all competitions.
THE JUDGE AND THE BISHOP
It was, once again, a joy to watch creative duo Alan Judge and Teddy Bishop operate in midfield.
Judge, at the tip of the diamond, was always on the move. Whenever a Town player looked up he always seemed to be 10 yards away demanding the ball.
The pint-sized playmaker curled a free-kick against the crossbar in the second half and always looked like the one most likely to unlock the door.
Teddy Bishop’s progress, following two years of injury hell, is also exciting. Once again the homegrown midfielder drove with the ball at every opportunity, skipping past players and getting the crowd off their feet.
Bishop has recently signed a new Town deal. The big question is how many of these short-term signings the Blues can keep for next season.
Judge has an ‘option’ in his deal, though it’s not clear if that’s completely in Town’s favour.
Hull loanee Keane will be a free agent in the summer and, while he’s expressed an interest in staying, it’s likely he will have other suitors.
James Bree, who had a good game at right-back, has made it clear he sees his future at parent club Aston Villa, while it’s highly unlikely Matthew Pennington, Trevoh Chalobah and Collin Quaner will stay on either.