I’m staying up to write tonight’s game up for you, mainly because it won’t take all that long.
The euphoria from Saturday has already worn off for some, and whilst tonight always looked like a free hit, I’m seeing words like ‘trouble’, ‘relegation’, ‘no fight’ again, and it’s just really disappointing. Sure, we didn’t play well tonight, because a very good Ipswich side didn’t allow it. However, plenty seemed to think at 2-0 down it could have been seven or eight, and I’m utterly baffled as to what game other people were watching.
The result on Saturday made us think we might go there and get something, but Michael made a big call in the team selection; he saved Tom Hopper and Joe Walsh for the weekend, That’s as simple as it gets; he didn’t ‘change a winning team’ for the sheer hell of it, he planned ahead. Which game is more important, the free hit against Ipswich, or the one that could leave us two points, or eight points off the bottom four? I see the term ‘no brainer’ used a lot in football, this was a no brainer. I also suspect Cohen Bramall, injured at the weekend, was only given 45 minutes as he too will play on Saturday.
We didn’t start badly either; the first 20 minutes or so were end-to-end. Ipswich have got better under their new boss; I felt they deserved nothing from their game at our place, but there’s a real zip to their play now. We know they’ve got good players, we know they are labelled big spenders, but it doesn’t always manifest itself in good performances. Right from the off, they were at it as well, looking like a side harbouring hopes of a Championship place. For me, that adds context to the game; they’re the in-form team in the division, they concede very few at home and they’re winning games.
I guess it’s annoyed me a bit that there’s been this huge focus already on how we didn’t attack well, how we didn’t get balls into good areas, but actually, massive credit to Ipswich. When we did look to get into forward areas they hunted in packs, defended in numbers and crowded out our main threats. John Marquis barely got a kick all night, but watch the balls into him; mostly, he was surrounded by blue shirts. Likewise, when Norton-Cuffy got down the flanks, there was always several blue shirts close. I think we got frustrated by that after the first 20 minutes, and all that positivity ebbed from the watching fanbase, certainly those on social media.
Ipswich then got ahead, and from there until half time, things were tough. I’ve seen Whittaker get blamed for giving the ball away for the first goal, but that’s harsh; there was a missed tackle from TJ in the goal as well, and it just wasn’t a great one to concede. Buoyed by the 25,000 home crowd, Ipswich smelled blood and for a period they went for the jugular. Mind you, they didn’t actually get far; Jordan Wright barely had a save to make on what was a solid debut for him.
The second goal killed the game as a contest and there was more than a hint of offside about it. Still, there’s ample opportunity to stop the ball before it falls to Kayden Jackson, standing in what appears to be an offside position. He swept the ball past Wright for the second and the referee may as well have blown the whistle there and then.
I thought we lost our composure after that; we collected a few bookings and it all got a bit niggly, but there wasn’t any real threat of it going to three, four or five. Ipswich were never in any danger, and until the half time whistle, only one side were likely to score, but they didn’t pour all over us, not really. They were just better; better players doing better things right. When we did get the ball we panicked, hurried and made poor decisions. It certainly wasn’t Gillingham bad though; it was just below average.
Of course, there were players who didn’t look that comfortable. Liam Cullen was largely anonymous throughout the half, and to be fair, Morgan Whittaker wasn’t great, but he certainly wasn’t the worst Imp on the field. Chris Maguire looked completely out of sorts, and TJ didn’t look anywhere near as composed as he did at the weekend, nor did Lewis Fiorini. In fact, as the half time whistle went, I’d say only McGrandles and Poole were putting in a shift they could be proud of, which isn’t enough.
Michael made a change at half time, bringing Cohen on into the wing back role that many feel he is made for, but it didn’t change an awful lot. The second half was tough viewing, even for a neutral. Ipswich seemed happy with their 2-0 lead, and only threatened on occasion, whilst we huffed and puffed but instead of blowing down a straw house, it seemed like we were trying to blow down the west face of Lincoln cathedral. However, let’s be right here; we were playing a very good team, in good form. They concede very few at home, so week in, week out teams go to Portman Road and struggle to score. So, as much as we weren’t at it, some of the ‘credit’ for the lack of goals has to go to the home side playing well. They marshalled us at the back competently and coherently. Sure, we could have brought Hopper on, but would that have been sensible, with Wimbledon this weekend? No.
I just felt the second half was hard to watch from both sides, Ipswich didn’t turn the screw, content to stop us scoring rather than committing too much forward, whilst we struggled to get going. Fiorini completely disappeared in the second half, and whilst Whittaker did get on the ball and play some nice simple passes, he didn’t use the attributes he has wisely enough when it mattered. I reiterate; he wasn’t the worst City player on the field, but as usual the social media experts have got the pitchforks out for him, whilst ignoring other poor performances. Even the subs didn’t make a huge difference; Scully came on but just spent the game running down blind alleys.
I’m actually a little perturbed by the representation of some players during the match commentary, which I’m sure is not intentional. There was a moment of play towards the end of the game where Whittaker played two nice passes, before the move broke down after him. He then chased the man who had the ball, then the man the ball was played too, before City won it back. Instead of hearing how Whittaker had chased his man (which he doesn’t always do), we heard ‘and Lincoln City win it back’. However, when he didn’t chase, or he didn’t get into good areas, it was highlighted. I’m sure it’s not purposeful, of course, but watching on iFollow or indeed at the game does mean you see a bit more. Had I listened on the radio, I’d be tempted to say he was the poorest player on the field, but having seen it with my own eyes, I have him in the bottom four or five, amongst others.
I can only recall Wright making one save on a competent and comfortable debut. I can also only recall their keeper making one save, late on, from Scully. In fact, in the eight minutes of injury time we looked like we were giving it a go; I’m not sure if that was just tiring Ipswich legs or not, but we did have a half chance. In fairness, that’s all it was, and there’s been few games where we’ve got nil and you think ‘yep, that’s fair’. Hell, even against Gillingham we had the one effort clawed back off the line. This game we had nothing really to cheer until the last few minutes.
If you’d asked me before Saturday’s game would I take three points from the two, I would. As I left the ground on Saturday I told my dad I felt we now had a free hit against Ipswich; they’re in form, so win, lose or draw we’d done the hard work against Wednesday. Yet, instead of standing by my convictions, I’m greeted with the whole ‘Appleton Out’ brigade, the ‘players don’t care’ rhetoric and you know what; I find it tiresome. We lost tonight, against a better side who stopped us playing, but the players didn’t go out there thinking ‘I don’t care, we won on Saturday’. It didn’t work, but we haven’t ‘reverted’ back to anything. I saw a comment a moment ago saying it was back to how we played against Gillingham, why did we change it from Saturday. I want to scream in that person’s face ‘we didn’t, we played three at the f*cking back’, but I’m beginning to think there’s no point. It’s just another case for my old friend, the mute button.
We didn’t play well tonight, but actually, we restricted them to three shots on target, two of which they scored. We were kept quiet by a combination of a strong, in-form defence and a tired-looking front line, lacking the tools to get through (as many teams have at Portman Road over the last couple of weeks). It’s disappointing, but it’s not meltdown, not in my eyes. Hell, I was even hearing how bad the other results were for us throughout the game, when actually only Morecambe got a point, everyone else lost and we’re pretty much in the same position as we were coming out of the ground on Saturday.
I respect people’s opinions on the manager, even if I don’t agree. I respect people’s opinion on the game, as it wasn’t a spectacle we’ll enjoy watching back and we weren’t on form at all. But I cannot respect anyone who acts like this is meltdown time, like we’re deep in the mire, when those same fans were happy after the weekend’s game and, aside from a single point for Morecambe, nothing has changed. We got what we expected to get from this game back in August when the fixtures came out, what we expected to get before it was rearranged and what the bookies expected us to get right up until kick off. Nothing.
Also (and I fear I’m ranting now which is dangerous), why is it such a big thing that the Ipswich commentators said we’re the worst team they’ve played this season? That’s opinion, but why is it reposted and repeated, but when a Sheffield Wednesday fan says we’re the best team they’ve played (as plenty did), or when Gareth Ainsworth says we’re quality, it gets ignored? If you’re going to ignore the opinions of people when it doesn’t fit your train of thought, you really should show some consistency when the boot is on the other foot.
Let’s just all keep our heads, eh? Let’s not look for a scapegoat who wasn’t as bad as people make out, and let’s not suggest that we somehow changed our approach from Saturday, or that professional footballers don’t care. Statements like that make you sound as lazy in your analysis as you suggest some of our players are when tracking back.
We move on, put this rather dismal evening to bed and hopefully avoid defeat at the weekend with Tom Hopper, Joe Walsh and almost certainly Cohen Bramall starting, which will take us a step closer to League One football next season. Who knows, we might even win, and then the happy clappers will be out in force. I might not like hyperbole in either direction, but at least with happy clappers, I don’t feel like I need to Google Gander Green Lane, in readiness for next season.