It wasn’t a good day at the office, let’s be honest.
An extra days rest, a slightly rotated side and a buoyant mood following a draw against hotly tipped Bournemouth meant Ipswich were favourites to win the Huddersfield game, particularly from the viewpoint of the Blue Army following.
A la Watford, a rotated Ipswich side had fans on Twitter wondering why Bishop and Sears had dropped to the bench, and where David McGoldrick was as he was replaced by Stephen Hunt on the Ipswich bench. Zeki Fryers continued at left-back, with Chris Wood and Richard Chaplow coming into the side. The reported formation was 4-4-2, which would have seen Varney play down the right and Tabb on the left. My understanding of this was that it as a 4-4-2 off the ball moving to a more narrow 4-3-3 when in possession, with Varney and Murphy either side of Wood, spearheading the attack. Tabb and Chaplow would be either side of Skuse, who would do his usual job mopping up in front of the back four.
But it didn’t really pan out that way.
An early chance for Jay Tabb was blocked away and a early shot from Nakhi Wells was blocked by Tommy Smith of Ipswich; and just as Ipswich were beginning to get their way back into the game (following a minor scare for Cole Skuse), a wayward pass from Fryers toward Berra was underweighted, allowing Wells to show his talent to nip in and finish past Bialkowski. A balanced opening ten minutes was suddenly followed by a half dominated by the home side. Huddersfield by and large have nothing to play for, but seemed to utilise the absence of width in the Ipswich side and the lack of confidence being displayed when the Tractor Boys had the ball to wreck havoc down both flanks.
The heatmap above, from WhoScored shows a few key things. The middle of the park for both teams, particularly Huddersfield, was bypassed and emphasis was put on the flanks. Given the joy that was being found on Ipswich’s left, the young left back Zeki Fryers was targeted by Sean Scannell – Time and time again, the full-back seemed pegged back; in total, Fryers lost possession 3 times, more than any of his back 4 counterparts. The formation seemed to trouble Ipswich, as the 5-3-2 with both James and Scannell bombing forward especially with Conor Coady doubling up alongside Scannell when he could. The organisation and energy of the Terriers seemed to be greater, which is odd because that trait is normally associated with the energetic, hardworking Ipswich. After predicting a 2-0, 3-0 even 4-0 win before the game, fans were quick to scapegoat Chris Wood, Zeki Fryers and (of course) Tommy Smith for the woes that Ipswich faced being 2-0 at half time. As @Chompx3 on Twitter mentioned, W 13% D 27% L 60% is the record that Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich have in the league when going down by a goal.
Chris Wood and Richard Chaplow were replaced at the break by Freddie Sears and Teddy Bishop but it was Jay Tabb who produced the cross for the energetic Luke Varney to nod home (becoming [via @Chompx3 again] Town’s 19th different scorer this season) – The introduction of Jonny Williams no doubt will have excited fans, but the energy and drive to carry the ball forward was too late and Ipswich dropped the 3 points.
The possession was just not there for Ipswich. Far too many wayward passes and the second half was when the team begun to get a foothold in the match. However, after spending much of the first half ball-watching and sweeping up the occasional Ipswich attack, the Huddersfield back three kept calm and were assured when releasing the ball. As the full-time heatmap shows, there was a definite move along the left hand side (Tabb, Williams) but not enough within the final third, whereas Huddersfield enjoyed dominance down the flanks.
With regards to Chris Wood, I’m on the New Zealander’s side. He’s not played much all season, but it just hasn’t clicked yet for the striker. Of the mid-season signings of Sears, Wood, Chaplow, Varney, Fryers and Williams, it was Wood who the Ipswich fans were crying for (ignoring the fondly named ‘Joniesta’) and it has been Sears, Varney and Chaplow who have made the impact (the ‘underwhelming signings’) So what’s gone wrong?
This could be linked to the fact that Wood is not a striker of the same mould as Murphy and Varney, in that his aerial prowess isn’t there when it comes to the flick ons and knock downs that the former two have become known for. Nor has he been on the ball enough to show a talent to create (of his 11 passes, 9 were forward but he lost possession 6 times in one half).
Zeki Fryers got some un-needed stick. Drafted in as a two-game replacement for Tyrone Mings, the Crystal Palace youngster stood up strong under a baptism of fire when Ipswich were incredibly lucky to gain a point at Portman Road. Against Hudderfield, he was targeted by Scannell whilst also being hassled by the likes of Coady, Wells and even Vaughan.
For this particular game, I would have rested Sears and Bishop yes, but instead of Wood, I’d rather have seen Paul Anderson on the right hand side, with Varney and Murphy up front feeding off each other. Both are strong in the air, and the crossing ability of Anderson coupled with his energy driving up and down the right hand channel would have been invaluable in defence and attack. I do not miss David McGoldrick, and the addition of Jonny Williams will be crucial off the bench, but the Tabb/Skuse axis with one of Bru/Bishop/Chaplow is one I think that works. The third striker is where I think the game was lost today – Varney works incredibly hard down the right, but if Sears was to be rested (ran his little socks off on Friday) then Anderson would have been the man to replace him in my opinion – if only for his dead ball delivery!
The next game, like this one, should not be underestimated. I feel Mick will show his stubbornness once more, but restore Mings at left-back, but continue with the front 5 – I’d imagine Sears will replace Wood. For a mass change, I’d haul off Murphy, who has not shown his late-2014 form of late (I’d wager that Murphy would have shot hard, early and true with his right after rounding the keeper – I’ve not seen the chance, but) (Perhaps the Brentford miss and Leeds penalty is still playing on his mind?) Though his running and aerial prowess is still there, would a front two of Varney and Sears not be worth trying? Or playing a **modern** narrow diamond of Williams, Tabb, Skuse and Bishop?
Blackpool, though relegated, have a team made up of players on one year deals. Virtually none will want to stay, I’d imagine, and they will be playing for a contract next season at a similar sized club – the rest of the season are job interviews for them. So the team should not be underestimated, and Ipswich need to return to the organised unit that press hard and play for each other – the ones which gained plaudits on Friday evening, and who worked hard to steal a win at Watford.
If Ipswich do not make the play-offs, which I believe we can but would not be disappointed if we did not, it will not be a huge issue. The team will have yet another summer to gel, develop the side and recruit within our means once more.
Any comments, debate or questions welcome to me on Twitter once more @Scribblr_42
Screenshots taken from WhoScored.com