Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food for Thought for Keane & Co as Pilgrims Set Sail with Three Points.

I witnessed one of those games again at Portman Road. You know the ones, where your team thinks, "Hey, these guys are in the bottom two, therefore by power of deduction they must be completely and utterly useless. We don't have to turn up! Easy night all round!"

Once again we lost to a team below us, which is an all too familiar tale around these parts. I don't know what happens. We play really well against teams above us and them BAM! Relegation threatened side comes to Portman Road and picks up three easy points. Which we hand to them on a plate. Don't we Delaney? 

To be perfectly frank it had been coming. Ever since the Cardiff game where we won 2-0, the edginess has been back and that feeling of invincibility seems to have returned. We are not good enough to go down. Yes, we have a good team on paper, but unfortunately Roy Keane seems to take the piece of paper which the good team is written on, rip it up and chuck it in a hat with at least 20 other names. He then proceeds to blindfold himself and pick eleven names out. The rest have to fight it out for a place on the bench. 

However, last night, Roy Keane went against tradition and decided rather than making four changes, he'd stick with the same team. Carlos 'What's a winger?' Edwards, the clearly knackered David Norris, Jack Colback and Jon 'Seriously, give him a break' Walters were our missing midfield. Every time I have seen Carlos Edwards play this season, he always, always, always comes into the centre of midfield. Yesterday it provided sod all help to Shane O'Connor, who kept making runs but had nobody in front of him because Edwards was chasing after Norris. Edwards, you've been put in a position. STAY THERE. You've lost your pace, you're not going to go and break through the middle of a pretty solid midfield. Use your skill and KEEP ON THE WING. O'Connor will help you, like David Wright tries to help Jon Walters when he can actually keep the ball. Which isn't very often at the moment. 

This feels a rant I've had before. In fact, I know I've had this rant before. Back in November. So, here is what I said back in November:
  1. Jon Walters - Something's up. He's not been playing as well as we know he can. Is he injured? I doubt it. Does he need a rest? I would probably say yes. He may be a big player for us, but at the moment, he's not playing well. He's far better on the right wing, and yet, I think, Carlos Edwards plays in this position. Which leads me onto my second problem...
Oh wow, deja vu! Four months on and he's still not right. It turned out he did have an injury and it doesn't surprise me at all if he has another one. Even he must admit this season has been a very, very poor one for him. My personal opinion on the captaincy in football is that it means nothing, the coach is shouting at you on the side line. However, other people's views are a lot different and they feel as though the captaincy may have become a burden to him.
2. The midfield - As always. Grant Leadbitter, the poor sod, really has no idea what he's got into. He's by far the best player on the pitch and yet he was stuck next to Liam Trotter for most of the start of the season. Carlos Edwards, on the right, goes too far into the middle, leaving the entire right wing exposed. Poor Liam Rosenior! Oh David Norris and Luciano Civelli, curse your knobbly knees!
I really am becoming repetitive! Well, in this blog post Carlos Edwards is on the left. However, the fact is, Carlos Edwards seems to prefer playing in the middle. He marks the player that a central midfielder should be marking, whilst he should be jogging about outside the box to the right or left of the goal, waiting to fire a shot way over the bar or a cross to the other corner flag. Come on, watch Jaime Peters. He'll give it a crack! 

Another thing, now that Norris is back, him and Leadbitter in the middle did look good on paper (there's that phrase again), but they are just two similar players, both going in hard and getting the ball but then not really picking out the right pass. Leadbitter is more likely to pass it about once he has the ball, but whether he notices David Wright or Shane O'Connor on the wing making a decent run is an entirely different matter...
3. The defence - If only they learnt to defend for over 90 minutes. We'd be mid-table and laughing right now. But no. Instead, what happens? Last minute equalisers against Sheffield United and Watford. Last minute winner against Barnsley. Injuries have not helped. Nor has Gareth McAuley deciding to play like an idiot again. He's got better now. He's remembered how to play.
OK, I will concede that the defence has got much, much better in recent months. Last night was the first time we'd conceded at home for six hours (or something). The defence is settled. Ish. It helps that the two central defenders haven't changed, although after last night I'm expecting Tommy Smith to appear again. 
 4. Roy Keane - PLEASE KEEP THE SAME BLOODY LINE-UP FOR CONSECUTIVE GAMES AT LEAST ONCE THIS SEASON. I don't care if Pablo runs over your dog or David Wright tells you your beard looks like tiny hamsters are gnawing at your face, don't drop players who have played well for ones who are clearly crap. Pablo is an invaluable player. He holds the ball up. If the chance comes to him, he will always try and tap it in. To me, we appointed Roy Keane to try and attract the big news media. To make Ipswich Town more famous. Boy, did that happen. But for all the wrong reasons. Now the media vultures circle above Keane's head waiting for the next outburst to write about.  
Well, I've had my wish a couple of times this season. But when he probably shouldn't be keeping the same team! After the Scunthorpe game he should've kept the same line up. We lost 2-1 to Watford. A settled side is key, but we just haven't had that. And I think that explains why we're in this position. Oh, and with regards to the media vultures? They seem to have lost interest. Which is wonderful as we can go back to being Ipswich Town. Although I still seethe whenever I see 'Roy Keane's Ipswich Town' in the papers. 

5. Finally, how I miss Gio. But he's not going to come back. Evidently, the problems were there before Magilton got sacked.
 I've stopped pining for Gio, as have many other Town fans. Finally. But yes, the problems were there before Magilton got sacked and I get the feeling that Keane's making them worse. When Norwich went down last season all they did was bring in loanee after loanee. This season they have a settled side with home grown talent and look where they are. Colback, Murphy and thankfully, Healy will have to go back up the A1 to Sunderland and try to get their place back in Steve Bruce's starting XI. That's not stability! We have Priskin and Stead to come back in the summer, meaning that our strike force is going to be an ageing Spaniard, a 17 year old, a Hungarian who loves being off side and our joint top goal scorer with the mighty total of six. 

I really hope last night was only a blip, but I think it has been building. The Barnsley performance in the second half was absolutely woeful and we were gifted the win by their goalkeeper's rash decision.

Our run in does not fill me with hope. We begin with Swansea away this weekend, then a resurgent Reading on 3rd April. Derby away on Easter Monday. Forest 10th April. Doncaster home, 17th April. Then the biggy. Newcastle away, 24th April. Whilst I expect a drubbing, I sincerely hope we play a bit better than we did back in September. Once again I expect an emotional game, and because I've witnessed Ipswich on the road seven times (four losses, three draws) I've been able to get a priority ticket, which I have taken advantage of today. After last night's showing, I'm even more barmy than I thought I was... We finish on May 2nd, my last home game as a season ticket holder for a few years, with Sheffield United. From this run in, I'm really not expecting much. Especially if we play like we did yesterday.

Ah well, if we go down and I get into Lancaster, at least I'll be close to Carlisle... Or Blackpool and Preston, of course!

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