Forget Saipan, Haaland and Vieira
The international break allows pause for breath and those of us who support struggling teams will for once be anticipating this weekend with some relish. Just about a quarter of the season has now gone and given the reliability of the table after 11 games in providing an indicator of the final standings come May, it’s time for us to further analyze Ipswich Town’s frankly cataclysmic season, already featured in Lloyd’s post earlier today. Such is the pull of a certain Irishman that two BBC bloggers have placed the Portman Road outfit under the microscope in recent days, with both Paul Fletcher and Robbo Robson predictably opting for micro level, psychological analysis of the one man rather than the club or team as a whole (the latter failed to name a single current Ipswich player in his appraisal of the situation). In truth, managers don’t score goals and although many pundits are revelling in the Corkster’s predicament, a more holistic assessment is now in order.
Fletcher was at least perspicuous enough to admit that the Suffolk side’s opening day reverse at Coventry could easily have turned out differently and thus created a momentum they clearly now lack. In addition, eye catching signings such as Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards joined after those first few faltering performances, so cannot really be overly blamed for the debacle. Ipswich followed up that Ricoh fiasco with a flaky penalties success at Shrewsbury in the League Cup, a draw at home to Leicester and a by all accounts abysmal 3-1 spanking by Crystal Palace. That Glaziers match was the first sign that things might be seriously amiss and with fixtures against high flying West Brom, Preston and Boro to follow, garnering points would always be tough. So it turned out to be; with just a single chalked up.
But it’s two of the club’s more encouraging performances that show where the problems lie. The keystone cops defending in evidence in otherwise creditable 3-3 draws when faced with South Yorkshire duo Barnsley and Sheffield United saw Town literally throw away points – and a last minute Jon Macken goal in the same administrative division on Saturday provided more despair: all this bookending a hiding in the Bobby Robson tribute match. Ipswich certainly lack a decent out and out striker, with Tamás Priskin an underwhelming summer buy, but they have just about outscored most of the sides propping up the league and Jon Walters has returned convincingly from injury – it’s at the back that the issues remain.
Liam Rosenior’s arrival from Reading had been celebrated by fans of the Berkshire side and despite a goal against Barnsley, his rashness can be a liability. Tommy Smith has a glittering career behind him in youth football but is raw at 19 and Gareth McAuley has been utterly inconsistent, earning rave reviews in the draw against Blades, but some 3 out of 10 marks against Middlesbrough, Palace and West Brom. Worst of all, Irish loan signing Damien Delaney has been practically dismissed by supporters given the lowness of his ratings at fan site twtd.co.uk. Given that the aforementioned Leadbitter is a player very much in the Keane mould, his encouragingly impressive half dozen displays show that the occasionally bearded one can be a good judge, but the defensive blunders need erasing quickly. Forget Saipan, Haaland and Vieira, forget the lone wolf psychology, the Tractor Boys just need to start defending.