Yesterday was quite difficult for me personally. Still in the grip of flu, I had to make the tough choice not to attend the game. I want to be better for the New Year and an afternoon in the cold wasn’t the wisest choice.
It is a decision I may live to regret. Thanks to iFollow I watched every minute of the game and had the benefit of instant replays and the like as well, so perhaps my enjoyment of the match was different from the usual experience. Instead of 10,000 fans watching a sensational and enthralling game of football, I got my dog and the chance to watch the goals back instantly. Given the quality of some of those goals, that was a real pleasure.
I’ve missed two league games this season and in the course of doing so missed 14 goals; five for us (yesterday) and nine against. In the games I have seen, I’ve witnessed 11 goals, ten for us and just one against. Basically, I stay away and there are goals galore, not all for us though. I’m hoping very much to be there New Year’s Day for a boring 1-0 win…..
Anyway, on to yesterday. Usually, I go through the game step by step, talking about chances and key incidents and then perhaps touching on a goal or a decision which turned the game. To do that for yesterday’s game would be impossible because we registered more shots on target than we have in the last six league matches according to Soccerbase. I counted at least one before the opening goal and once the net started bulging it was incredibly hard to keep track at all.
Ipswich are no slouches by the way. They’re struggling at the moment and Paul Lambert seems to want to get out before a complete collapse ensues, but they’ve got very good players capable of turning a game in an instant. What we had to do was keep it tight, nick a goal and then let our strong defence do the rest. That seemed like the game plan, especially with an unchanged side being named which meant the same resilience we saw against Oxford United, a game in which I felt we matched a promotion-chasing side.
One aspect of recent matches that has frustrated fans has been conceding the first goal. Do that, and we seem to lack the confidence to get back into a game. Get the opening goal ourselves and we usually defend resolutely, as seen at Burton and against Tranmere. However, to score within just a few minutes of the game starting presents a different prospect and that’s the scenario we found ourselves facing. Harry Anderson, a player who thrills and frustrates in equal measure, was clearly on it yesterday. He took a great ball in his stride and fired a confident finish to set up a real encounter.
I felt after the goal, the first goal that is, we sank back a little. Maybe it is because this was Ipswich’s first team, the full monty as it were. Norwood, Edwards, Jackson, Judge, the whole lot. They have quality in abundance and played their part in a thrilling, end to end first half. Norwood and Luke Garbutt had efforts for the visitors, Joe Morrell managed to curl one into the arms of Will Norris. This, all inside the first fifteen minutes.
Believe me, the atmosphere was electric even down a computer screen. My plan had been to have to game on in front of me and maybe get a game or two of FIFA in, but I didn’t get the PlayStation on. The engrossing encounter clearly had goals in it from the first ten minutes and to look away for a second was to miss something crucial.
I’ll touch briefly on the referee, a first-year official who wanted to let football be the winner. I felt he perhaps went easy on their lads in the first half, certainly the opening fifteen minutes. It seemed to me Ipswich had this notion we were still the robust, angry side from a couple of years ago and came to match fire with fire. One or two tackles were borderline and I felt an early yellow card might have tempered some rather tough challenges. I suppose there’s also a school of thought that the best games are the ones where the ref allows a bit of aggression as it fires players up.
I’m sure he got the free kick right that led to Ipswich’s first leveller. I know Michael Hortin felt it was soft if it was Morrell’s challenge that earned it, but the clip just before from O’Connor was perhaps worthy of punishment. If giving a free kick away was not punishment enough, Luke Garbutt’s excellent strike certainly did for us. 1-1 and at that stage I wondered if we’d missed our big chance.
If that was my worry, it certainly wasn’t the managers. The players kept on it and we were handed a boost when right back Donacien went off, with Gwion Edwards slotting into his position. That left one player out of position and when he got a booking within a minute or so of moving, he was left on very thin ice. That was crucial by the way; it pulled their defence out of shape and helped push the pendulum back in our favour.
Just before the break, Harry had an effort come off the post and you felt that perhaps that was warning enough of our intent in the second half. Giving up a lead hadn’t affected us as much as I feared and with their enforced change we took control once more. That control was emphasised moments before the break with a move of real quality.
Neal Eardley’s ball into the channel wasn’t unlike the old John Beck balls into danger alley, only it was a precise pass that found Tyler Walker. I’m not quite sure what brought Will Norris off his line so urgently, but Walker kept his composure to lob a truly spectacular finish into the back of the net. It was a sumptuous finish, one requiring balance, poise and technical ability which the Forest man has oozing from every pore. With barely any time left for the restart, both managers had their team talks changed dramatically and as the fans filtered away for their half time beverages, it was the red part of the ground with smiles on their faces,
Me? I lit the wood burner, poured another glass of summer fruits juice and began to wonder how I could possibly sum up a thrilling first half. If only I could foresee what was up next.