Another display of defensive ineptitude brought the Portman Road roof down on poor Jason Steele on a night when we actually managed to score twice but conceded five to have the 740 visiting fans shaking their heads as well as their fists. Add midfield confusion and lack of forward movement in the centre of that department meant another 90 minutes we won’t get back.
Once Rob and I had done the tour of Ipswich, had a discussion on team tactics with Mr Swinney, and tried our best to guess both the players and the formation, we did a circuit of the ground and took up our seats – well, strictly speaking they weren’t ours, but they told us we could sit where we wanted. They drew the line at the Sunderland dugout, which was a shame, as we’d seen the team.
Five changes from the weekend, and I guessed correctly with the defence.
Jones Kone Wilson Matthews
Catts Gibson Oviedo
McManaman Vaughan McGeady
Well, something like that, but at least it wasn’t three at the back. Oviedo began by drifting to the left and McGeady drifting inside, but we’d barely had time to work out if this was a permanent tactic or just something to try and throw the home side off the scent when they popped a cross towards the penalty spot and Waghorn, who (he being an ex-Sunderland player) the sensible amongst us had backed to score first, got away from Kone, who should have been close enough to either win the header or get in his way, headed across Steele and in. 0-1, and only five minutes gone. It looked at that early stage as if it was going to be along night.
That changed, at least temporarily, when Oviedo did well to win a corner, which McGeady slung in effectively, and unlike most of our efforts in the last few seasons, found the head of a Sunderland player in the box. This time it was Billy Jones at the near post, and in it went to level things on nine minutes. Mebbe it’s not going to be such a long night after all. We kept going and Vaughan was unable to reach McGeady’s cross, and when McManaman retrieved the ball, he laid it back to Catts who couldn’t keep his shot down. Still, it was looking promising, which made it all the more frustrating when we kept losing out in midfield tackles, and Steele had to make a decent stop to keep us in the game. Despite having two wingers, and a full back in midfield, to cover the full backs, Matthews in particular was given a hard time out on our left. Rob reckoned that the formation has changed that often that the players don’t know where they’re supposed to be or who is supporting them on the field, but they’re all experienced professionals and should be able to work that out.
Waghorn obviously had his tail up playing against us, and pulled our defence all over the place. Ipswich had missed an excellent chance to go two up when they shot wide from six yards when he went out wide following a corner, we again failed to get anywhere near the cross and Spence headed home on 27. Woeful defending, and we were once again back into “long night” territory, and it so nearly got worse when Wilson fannied about instead of clearing it and was robbed thirty-odd yards out. Steele came out quickly and dived on the ball to save the day (for a bit, don’t get carried away) and it took a couple of minutes to glue him back together, as he took a fair old bang for his troubles. What was noticeable during this enforced break was that their players stood in a group, talking to each other, while ours wandered about drinking pop. Presumably Ipswich were discussing what to do next. Presumably we didn’t have a clue, or thought we knew everything.
Down at the other end, Catts – the only central midfielder who actually passed the ball forward – played in McManaman, and he worked a nice position to fire in a low shot across the keeper, who saved well. We managed to see out the half without allowing the home side any more shots on target, and were pretty glad to see the break after the three added minutes.
No changes for us, and no change to the pattern of play, but we did build an early attack which saw a flying header from Catts tipped over – a very good save to prevent what would have been a collector’s item goal. We hadn’t been going five minutes when Wilson sat down and his night was over. Lucky him. On came O’Shea, who is basically the same player minus the beard and a couple of stone – perhaps he could get things organised at the back. Wey give awwa, man. Five minutes later, Oviedo, who’d wanted much more time than any team in this division, other than a certain outfit in red and white stripes, will give you, made an arse of a ball out of defence, Waghorn was on it again, and Celina was on hand to put it away from close in. A very long night beckoned, and Oviedo was hauled straight off in favour of Gooch. Vaughan’s shot was well struck from outside the box, but no trouble for the keeper, then it was back down our end for more sloppy defending as Matthews appealed for offside rather than chase the ball, and Waghorn was away to supply the cross to the back post. Steele did well to keep out the first effort, but the second bobbled in – and there was still half an hour to go. This night could last forever.
With the boos of the visiting fans ringing in their ears, we broke came out of defence and Vaughan headed on to Gooch, who laid it out to McGeady. Our winger tricked his way along the edge of the box from the left then curled a beaut into the far corner – mebbe we could fight back, there were still 25 to go. Honeyman replaced McManaman, and McGeady was fouled in McGeady territory, 25 yards out and central. His free-kick glanced off the top of the wall and just over for a corner as we maintained a bit of pressure and the home side started to look a bit shaky. Another McGeady cross was flicked on by Gooch, but just beyond Jones’s outstretched leg at the back post. Matthews, we’ve just discovered, has a decent long throw on him, so we tried that, but to little effect.
We were moaning about the lack of free-kicks given for fouls on our midfield, but the truth is we simply weren’t strong enough physically. On 89, McGeady lost the ball on halfway, then Gibson missed/lost another tackle and they played the ball into the box, Steele forced Ward out wide, but was beaten by the shot into the far corner despite regaining his position. Oh delight. Five added minutes, but any longer would just have brought more home goals.
An evening of ramshackle defending, and lack of penetration from central midfield meant we got exactly what we deserved. Man of the Match? Vaughan was his usual abrasive self, and McGeady had a goal and an assist, but only it’s saying something when Catts was our midfielder most likely to. All of those good things were negated by the defence, who were about as organised as a charity shop window.
Where do we go from here, both on and off the field? I’m off to my cheap hotel room to watch some shoot ‘em up action film over the sound of snoring from the next room. Grayson will be either hiding under the stairs or, preferably, giving the players a powerpoint presentation on where things went wrong. Should be along presentation. Bain should be doing Short’s work and ……well, I don’t know what, but it’s his job. Next up, Preston, and they’ve no reason to be fired up, other than that Grayson used to manage them. Oh joy. I’ll not ask you to Keep the Faith – you can if you want to, but nobody could be blamed for questioning it now.
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