Football is such a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s a saying I despise, by the way, one usually rolled out on some banal reality TV show by a non-entity soon to be gobbled up by the tabloids.
However, yesterday has to be classed as a roller coaster. I got on the ride in the morning, expecting nothing but defeat and an end to any notion of the second round. When the teams came out, the ride ramped up, slowly dragging us towards that crescendo, the opening goal. When we scored, it peaked, giving us that thrill and belief, only to add to the experience in the second half as we got a penalty.
From there, it all went badly wrong. A relatively weak penalty saw us begin to hit a low, then Andre Dozzell’s miss-hit cross went in leaving me fearing a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Only that didn’t happen and as the final whistle went we were back in the ascendency, hunting the in. Now we’re in the hat and a result which seemed disappointing when the whistle went is now more than satisfactory with the cold Sunday morning light shining upon it.
My apologies for an analogy that is almost as long as a Ben Ward hangover talk.
I went into yesterday with zero hope of a result. Why? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps I’m being ‘got at’ by the doubters and the moaners. Maybe I felt that getting the highest-placed team (at the time) in the first round was a cross we wouldn’t bear. I certainly thought our hosts would play a full-strength first team. After all, they have no game next weekend and could surely afford to keep a few key players match fit.
I can’t say I was disappointed to see them name a weakened side. It’s hugely disrespectful to the competition in my mind when a side in the third-tier don’t take the game as seriously as they can what hope is there for the future? Let’s not be detrimental to our efforts though; this wasn’t their usual first team but there was no lack of class in their ranks. Emyr Huws has played for Cardiff, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Wigan. Andre Dozzell has England caps up to Under 20 level and Flynn Downes has been a regular for them this season.
We know Toto Nsiala is a strong defender, James Wilson has done so well they’ve given him a new contract and Will Keane up top once made Premier League appearances for Man Utd. Yes, it was a different XI to the one we expected, but it certainly wasn’t a gimme. Michael Appleton made minor tweaks to our side, putting Jake Hesketh in the ten role and giving Jack Payne a stab out wide. I’ll confess that worried me a bit; Payne hasn’t impressed me from the wing and I’d hope to see him keep his place behind Tyler Walker after our draw at Wimbledon.
The game started at a frenetic pace and although the atmosphere was clearly better than our third round tie a few years ago, I felt Ipswich were largely the same. They played some decent football, but the actual penetration was lacking. If they’d had Jackson or Norwood up top we might have been more troubled, but Will Keane looked disinterested at times and the only side likely to bag early doors was us.
We should have had a penalty, not that it matters these days as we’re better at missing them than scoring them. Hesketh, who I’m delighted to say proved me wrong from his first kick to his last, was clearly fouled in the area. I’m not going to say the referee bottled it, minutes later he denied them a stonewall free kick in the middle of the park too. He seemed intent on letting the game flow, which isn’t a good thing when he’s missing obvious penalties but I suppose it’s subjective.
After having such a lax attitude to the game before kick off, our endeavour and eagerness to get forward had me hooked like a fish out of a river. We might not be getting results, but this team of Michael Appleton’s doesn’t lack attacking intent. Bruno Andrade has been reborn under the new manager considering he missed much of the opening part of the season by being benched. When he gets on the ball he’s eager to make things happen and you just feel there’s a thrashing coming for someone.
Perhaps our best chance of the opening half hour came right on the stroke of 30 minutes. Payne crossed from the left, dispelling my fears about him being a wide player, and Tyler Walker should perhaps have done better with his header. When Ipswich did attack, we always seemed to have a counter and Bruno in particular moved the ball forward so well. One attack reminded me a lot of the goal Harry Anderson scored against Forest Green back in late 2017, a sweeping move up the field which the opposition had no answer for. sadly, whenever an actual chance presented itself, we were just lacking.
Jake Hesketh got in good positions, Tyler Walker worked tirelessly and both wingers had plenty of the ball. Another player I was really impressed with was Callum Connolly; his energy at the back has been a revelation and I strongly suspect that Cian Bolger will have his work cut out getting his starting place back. He’ll certainly play against Rotherham this week and that’s not necessarily a good thing for him; he might find that red card more costly than he imagined at the time.
With just seven minutes left on the clock, we got our deserved lead. The obvious provider was Bruno, his cross delivered perfectly to Tyler Walker who gobbles up chances like that. Walker’s run was spot on and he swept the ball past Will Norris to give us an entirely justified 1-0 lead. Only one side had shown real threat going forward, only one side had deserved to lead at the break. I’m sure James Wilson would have been angry with himself at half time because he had been given a chance to show Imps’ fans what we are missing out on, but he ambled around the back with Nsiala never looking entirely convincing.
Ipswich weren’t woeful; Hughes., Dozzell and Downes all looked dangerous when they got the ball, but too many players were missing for them. I forgot Will Keane was playing and the bright young thing Armando Dobra will have to shine much, much brighter if he’s to break through on a permanent basis. When the half time whistle came we should have been 2-0 up at least, but I could just copy and paste that statement to our last two or three matches and it still be applicable. However, I’d be worried if we weren’t creating chances, or rather I’d be more worried if we weren’t creating chances. everything we do, right up until that final touch, is good enough to consolidate and settle in League One.
It was certainly good enough to kill off the highest-ranked team in the FA Cup in the first half yesterday.