It’s easier to get to Ipswich these days. The last 30 miles or so used to involve inevitable queues behind lorries, tractors and other slow moving vehicles to such an extent that you had to add an hour on to estimated journey times.
This ease of travel appears to have inspired the town’s football club to add a convenience charge to their ticket prices, unless there are other reasons for them to hike up the cost of entry to an eye watering £35. Perhaps the promise of the sparkling football invariably served up by Mick McCarthy lead teams adds a premium?
In a week when the BBC released a study of football match ticket pricing that Goebbels himself may have balked at releasing, swathes of empty seats at Portman Road suggested that clubs have some way to go before they get their message (pay up and be grateful) across.
Yet another intrusive and disruptive international break meant that Town’s horrible performance at Wolves festered much longer than would normally be the case and another difficult assignment, a long way from home, had to be negotiated against an Ipswich side not quite living up to last season’s play off campaign.
Town were boosted by the news that their highly paid and oft injured striker would be finally fit enough to make the squad as a substitute.
When James Vaughan finally appeared from the bench to replace the infuriating Miller, it was a full 20 minutes later than many amongst the fleeced away support thought appropriate.
Poor Miller manages to combine undoubted strength with clownish ineptitude; he rarely makes the right decision on the ball, has little apparent football intelligence and there are few signs that a goal is going to arrive any time soon.
It’s not lack of effort and there are even glimpses of ability from time to time, but a battering ram is crude when effective and can be damaging to a team when not.
Sadly, it has been a long, long time since Vaughan has offered anything a great deal better in the increasingly rare times when he is available for selection, though we can generally rely on him to exhibit flashes of stupidity and ill discipline to add to his impressive record of bookings and sendings off. It’s little wonder that the owner’s patience was already exhausted with a player who collects a significant wage while nursing a string of injuries and allegedly plays little or no part in extra curricular club activities (important when immersion in to the community is pretty crucial).
By the time Vaughan had stupidly, if gently, bounced the ball in to the face of an Ipswich player, a decent point had nearly been secured. A point which could and probably should have been 3 points after a first half of excellent containment ruined by a wasteful attack who had plenty of opportunity to further antagonise a disgruntled home crowd.
With loanee Ward returning to Bournemouth for an injury to be assessed, captain Mark Hudson returned to the defence and Carayol made way for Wells to join Miller up front.
Hudson had an excellent game and lead a solid back line – Davidson, who appears to have dispensed with his top knot in a surprise move, wasn’t flawless but his Molineux nightmare wasn’t repeated. The impressive Cranie continued his good form and with Lynch working well with the returning captain, a mundane home side were comfortably contained in a decent first half display.
With little to worry about at the back – Steer was hardly involved – Town were able to break quickly on several occasions only to falter, yet again, in the final third.
7 or 8 promising attacks lead to opportunities which floundered on poor decision making and slow execution. It wasn’t just Miller who lacked composure up front – Bunn had a great opportunity to shoot inside the box but decided he needed to beat one more man and Scannell broke clear but rather than drive in to the box tried to pick out Wells with a lofted lob in to the keeper’s arms.
The best chance fell to Wells. A flick on by Miller bounced a little high for the Bermudian to get much purchase on the ball under pressure from the keeper and Berra cleared from off the line – another opportunity spurned.
Of all the attacking players, Nahki was the pick. He worked hard and tried manfully to link with Miller and at least resembled the player he can be. Scannell’s form continues to frustrate. The ability is still there but his final ball isn’t.
A lead at half time would have been deserved. The home side were lethargic and toothless, and catching them on the break was quite easy; if only we were able to capitalise.
The second half was a different story. While the Tractor Boys were still labouring, they did at least quell Town’s ability to get forward regularly and a dour 45 minutes ensued.
Steer was called in to action more frequently, mainly dealing with less than threatening shots but towards the end the previously composed defence started to become more ragged. A scrappy passage of penalty box play allowed an Ipswich player to turn on the byline and deliver a dangerous low ball which was turned over the bar when it looked easier to score.
While Vaughan’s eventual dismissal would over shadow it, a piece of gamesmanship from the home side also created danger. Steer had put the ball out of play for an injury to Lynch only for Chambers to throw it to Maitland-Niles to put in a cross which was headed over. Remarkably little fuss was made of this on the pitch, though the away support was furious.
Town came back in to the game towards the end and created their only real chance (though Lynch had headed wide from an earlier corner) when Huws – again effective – found space for a shot which the keeper parried to Wells. A mishit attempt by the striker fell sharply to Lynch who could only fire over.
The home side then had their best chance when the ball fell to McGoldrick only for Steer to instinctively turn his shot round the post with his leg.
A defeat would have been harsh on Town, but the attacking failures (10 goals in 11 games is somewhat flattered by 4 against a desperately poor Bolton) are becoming a crisis and lack of firepower is going to keep us towards the relegation zone unless something is done, either through reorganisation of existing resources – which seems unlikely to be successful – or the loan market now that there is another loan space available.
Vaughan is clearly not the answer if he manages to curtail an already hugely interrupted career with stupidity as he did in injury time. Some, perhaps many, have clung to the hope that he would come back to resolve our problems up front (based on little evidence over the past 18 months) and while the sending off was, on review, a little harsh, the petulance was the last thing we needed from him.
So, two uninspiring teams fought out a largely drab goalless draw but, thankfully, at least the cost of witnessing it hasn’t risen since last season. Other than the £10 extra it did cost which, I guess, will be explained as being on the wrong side of the averages.