Stuart says: Eight observations following Ipswich Town’s FA Cup exit to Sheffield United

PUBLISHED: 18:38 06 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:09 07 January 2018

Bartosz Bialkowski reacts to Ipswich Town's FA Cup exit to Sheffield United. Photo: Steve Waller

Bartosz Bialkowski reacts to Ipswich Town's FA Cup exit to Sheffield United. Photo: Steve Waller

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Town suffered yet another early FA Cup exit this afternoon, losing 1-0 at home to Sheffield United. STUART WATSON gives his snap reaction.

That was grim

The game was won by Nathan Thomas’ 25-yard screamer – scored in the 25th minute – but, in truth, Sheffield United were comfortable from that moment onwards.

Town failed to produce a single shot on target and never looked like getting back into the game. David McGoldrick was meant to be spearheading the attack, but constantly dropped deep and left the hosts without any kind of focal point. The organised visitors, who missed chances to kill off the game, eased to victory.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy may have rested the likes of Cole Skuse, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner, and be dealing with a lengthy absentee list, but this was still a team full of first-team players. Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder had made eight changes to his team with Friday’s Steel City derby against Sheffield Wednesday very much in mind.

Referee Michael Jones speaks with Luke Hyam during the FA Cup game against Sheffield United.    Picture: STEVE WALLERReferee Michael Jones speaks with Luke Hyam during the FA Cup game against Sheffield United. Picture: STEVE WALLER

There is no way of dressing this up, this was a dire display wholly lacking in passion or invention. It’s understandable why Town fans turned to black humour towards the end, chanting ‘we want a shot’.

Where do we go from here?

Ipswich Town have now gone 13 matches without a win in the FA Cup, a run which stretches back to 2010. They’ve only faced Premier League opposition three times.

The top-tiers were shut as Ipswich Town's FA Cup game against Sheffield United attracted a crowd of 12,057. Photo: STEVE WALLERThe top-tiers were shut as Ipswich Town's FA Cup game against Sheffield United attracted a crowd of 12,057. Photo: STEVE WALLER

They say it’s the hope that kills you in football, but with the Blues it’s a feeling of complete predictability. This annual early exit just adds to a sense of a football club treading water and going nowhere. Where do we go from here? The Blues are 12th in the Championship table following a poor Christmas period. The goals have dried up (two in the last five and just eight shots on target produced in that time), with the gap to the play-off places now seven. Let’s be honest, a 17th successive season in the second-tier looks almost certain.

Manager Mick McCarthy is heading towards the end of his contract and several players face uncertain futures. There’s speculation that Bartosz Bialkowski, Tommy Smith, David McGoldrick and Kieffer Moore could all depart this month, while incoming deals, we are told, will be loans and free transfers.

Is owner Marcus Evans clearing the decks so that a new manager can build his own squad this summer? One thing’s for sure, the next six months could feel very long indeed.

Square pegs, round holes

It was the same old story of too many players’ attributes not being fully utilised.

Freddie Sears toiled on the wing, David McGoldrick dropped too deep, while Martyn Waghorn should have played further forwards when brought on. Town have attacking talent, but lack chemistry and cohesion at present.

Attendance

Despite large sections of Portman Road having been shut, the attendance today was 12,057 – not a lot less than some recent league games.

Tickets were priced at just £10 and many new, young fans may have decided to come along. Few will be rushing back after that dismal display.

Crowds have been on the decline, slowly, for a decade now. The Blues are getting down to the very core of their most loyal supporters now.

Drinan left on bench

Town finally got international clearance to complete the signing of striker Aaron Drinan from Irish side Waterford this week.

The 19-year-old has been training with the Blues since October and has really impressed Mick McCarthy and team-mates, earning comparisons with former Town man Daryl Murphy.

He remained an unused substitute today though, which was shame given his introduction would undoubtedly have lifted the crowd.

Hyam boost

One small positive today was the performance of Luke Hyam. The homegrown midfielder was making his first senior start following 19 months of injury hell. Running on pure adrenaline he charged about and made some trademark firm tackles before finally being withdrawn on the hour.

Smith on his way?

Tommy Smith was left out of the squad completely due to what we are told was illness, but it seems a coincidence that this morning reports surfaced of MLS side Colorado Rapids being interested in his signature. He’s had his problems with injury over the last year, but would the Blues really be prepared to let a centre-back go? With Adam Webster (Achilles) currently out, it would leave skipper Luke Chambers as their only recognised centre-back. Jonas Knudsen was the man to fill in at the heart of the defence today.

Keeping Bart?

Crystal Palace are reportedly in talks with Spanish club Getafe over goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. Despite reports to the contrary, Blues keeper Bartosz Bialkowski was never top of their wish list and the prospect of him departing this month have diminished. There’s still a long way to go in this January transfer window though.

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