Before I start today, I think we should all take a moment to understand the difference between fact and opinion.
I say this because many people came at me last night on social media, believing their opinion as fact. It isn’t, nor is mine. What I write over the next two pages will be how I saw the game, what I believe unfolded. I’m lucky enough to have patrons give money to the site each month to read that opinion, which does make it a professional opinion, but an opinion, nonetheless. When you post on Twitter about a game, that is your opinion, and just because mine is written here and yours is on social media, it doesn’t make it any more or less valid. For the record, I have not been drinking, I watched the same game as you, and I am always as balanced and honest as possible. If we don’t play well, I make it clear I do not think we played well. If I see something I don’t like about our game, I say it. Case points; Rochdale, Fleetwood, Oxford, and Shrewsbury were all games I could have glossed up, but didn’t. I call the game how I see it, and if you don’t agree that’s cool, but it doesn’t make my opinion, or yours any less valid. Football is like art in many ways, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The only fact in football is the points you take from a game and we took none. Did we deserve any? I think yes, many of you think no and as much as we discuss it, it won’t change the fact we got none. That does shift some of the validity onto those bemoaning our outing, but it really does not justify comments like ‘long, hard season’, ‘clueless’ and ‘no idea’, because those are (in my opinion) comments that are lazy, easy to roll out and reactionary. I should know, because I watch the games with my Dad, whose ‘go-to’ place after a defeat is anger at the team. Balance comes in the days after, when the hurt of defeat has left him. As he sits on a fishing lake this afternoon, I hope that anger subsides and for the record Dad, mine has too. I apologise for asking you to look at my back when you got a moment, because you were clearly a qualified physio knowing so much about Liam Bridcutt‘s fitness…..
Anyway, we got in town really early, and so it felt like an age before I got a look at the team. As always, I found there to be a couple of surprises, both of which I guess can be justified. I thought Robson might have started over Bramall, but clearly Michael had seen the space they were to leave on the left-hand side. I also thought Jackson over Montsma, but injury has necessitated that change. I’ll be honest, I’m finding the Jackson and Walsh situations very frustrating indeed; here are two good League One centre backs who can’t stay fit for more than five or six games at a time. It doesn’t help the players ahead of them, and whilst Eyoma and Montsma are a decent pairing, the latter runs hot and cold like a mixer tap. He was great against Cambridge, but struggled again yesterday. However, I could see the idea, get him on the Hollywood balls to Bramall, and utilise the former Arsenal man’s pace. At first, it worked, but after about 15 minutes it stopped working and we didn’t change it.
I also feel a bit for Adelakun, two goals in two games and he’s been dropped for the next two. Thus far, Chris Maguire has shown what he can do in 20-second bursts, but I’m not sure there’s been a lot more from him. If you watch their goal back, they’ve got so much time to deliver the ball, when you’d expect the wide man to track back. Michael said afterwards Maguire came off because he was struggling and he ‘hoped’ that was the reason he was so lethargic. Me too Michael. Me too.
I thought the first 15 minutes hinted at an Imps win, genuinely. We found plenty of space down the left and delivered a couple of good balls into the box. It became apparent that this was one of those games where we needed someone a bit more lively in the box; the balls from Bramall and Scully early on were good enough to cause an issue, but they always fell an Ipswich defender. We know we missed out on a player in the transfer window, but that player was a wide man who could play through the middle. One type we haven’t had in Michael’ revolution is a Tyler Walker, a Matt Rhead, even a Matt Green, who will be regularly attacking deliveries into the box. Sometimes, such as last weekend when we thrashed Cambridge 5-1 (which many people have quickly forgotten about) we don’t need that type of nine, but today we did. That’s not me criticising Hopper, it’s only like playing Bramall instead of Robson because we need more pace on the left, or Jackson over Eyoma in midweek because we need a more ‘belts and braces’ centre back rather than a ball-player. I guess that was an early warning sign of the frustration to come, seeing good deliveries not attacked. However, they were good deliveries, we did get balls into the box and that defies the ‘clueless’ comments, in my opinion.
Scully has a penalty shout (not for me) before the opening goal, and for the first time I can talk about Ipswich. I might draw ire from some of their fans, but I didn’t rate them at all, not for the money those players have cost the club. They play a bit of decent football, but they are not in the same class as Rotherham, for instance. Even Bolton impressed me more during our game. They’re maybe a top ten side, but on this showing, nothing more. They reacted well to our early threat, marked Scully tightly and pressed well when we were in possession, but I didn’t see any fizz from them, any excitement that I expected from such a star-studded squad. They could have been 1-0 up though, a good effort back off the bar caused panic for us; it was no different to our chances, a good ball causing problems, but once again an opponent had a presence in the area to do something with the delivery. That was the difference.
When they did score, it was a shithouse moment that referee Ben Speedie will want to forget. Look, the build-up was lax from us, I’ve touched on that, but the goal wasn’t a fair goal. Macauley Bonne has clearly shoved Eyoma in the back to get the header in, it’s clear on all the replays, it’s a foul. It’s not even a single-handed shove, it’s two hands in the back, boom, on the floor, 1-0. I know these things happen in football, but if that doesn’t go in, the game remains 0-0 and we’re not facing two banks of four for the next hour or so.
The 15 before halftime weren’t great, I admit that. The only player who was putting in a seven out of ten performance in that period was Lewis Fiorini, my Man of the Match. Ted Bishop was anonymous against his former club, Maguire so much so he came off, whilst some of our balls began to go astray. Cohen Bramall is quick, but when faced with players he faded and once they marked Scully, we were restricted to playing across the back, out wide, and back again. I was still 100% confident at half time that we’d get back into the game, I really was. It would be remiss to say we deserved to be ahead, but did Ipswich deserve to lead? They’d played some nice football, yes, and hit the bar, but their goal came from a foul, not good play. On the balance of it, they maybe shaded the opening 45.
They certainly did in the stands, and before I move onto the second half, I have to applaud their support. Every single blue shirt we passed in the street said hello, and in the stands they were loud and proud. It is easier when you’re 1-0 up, but to be fair to them, they travelled like a big club should, filling the away end. Rotherham, 45 minutes up the road, didn’t manage to do that.