I returned to Portman Road for the first time since that bloody awful Sheffield United game in May. I've already seen Ipswich play this season, but this was in the League Cup against Exeter, where the average age of the team was probably the same age as me. What was even more special about this game for me was that this was the first time that I sat in the lower North/Sir Bobby Robson Stand. I say sat, I was stood up for most of the game. Anyway, comparing the miserable match I saw in May with the one I saw here, in the August sunshine and showers, I was pleasantly surprised. We've improved so much that I've become convinced the real Ipswich Town are locked in a lost wine cellar of the Cobbolds.
We began the first half looking lively. There were hugs and high fives a-plenty amongst the Town players, so this seems to suggest that the team spirit is good in the camp. Who knows, maybe they're all just really good actors. We looked slick, passed the ball well and had chances. We came close with a Leadbitter (I think) free kick and then even closer with a Tamas Priskin shot that hit the crossbar. Being the massive pessimist, I was thinking that it wasn't going to be our day.
Around the half an hour mark, there came a change. Not a substitute, just the fact that we went off the boil. Suddenly we decided the dreaded long ball was the way forward, when carrying on what we were doing in the first place was far more effective. It was a disappointing end to the first half, as we just seemed to fizzle out. However, my spirits were lifted when I overheard a bloke behind me say that we haven't scored in the first half this season.
We did see some net action in the first half though. One of the Bristol City players took a shot, missed and ended up running into the netting used to protect spectators from shooting practice. He got stuck and put up with the jeering of the North Standers as he desperately tried to unhook himself...
Half Time: Ipswich 0-0 Bristol City
Once the second half kicked off, you could see there was a difference in the Town side. They were spirited and returned to the passing game that had served them OK in the first half. You could tell it was going well as Keane didn't make any changes on the 50th minute.
Priskin, who whenever I've seen him is either always offside or looks about as cheerful as a Hungarian who is low on confidence can look, finally broke the deadlock near the hour mark. And with my blue-tinted glasses on, I'd say it was deserved. Yes, it was a massive, massive cock-up between Fontaine and good old Calamity James but the Priskin last season would probably have missed that. It may well be a confidence booster for the man, because this was his first goal in front of the Portman Road faithful. He's already doubled his tally for last season.
Now to his strike partner, Jason Scotland. When he arrived earlier this week and we said goodbye to Jon Stead, there was a bit of indifference and hesistancy amongst the Town fans. Scotland wasn't good for Wigan in the Premierleague, but in the Championship he was pretty good for Swansea. Considering the fact he was short of fitness, he played 90 minutes and managed to score on his debut. Once he does gain a bit of match fitness, he may well be a crucial striker for us. We have Wickham waiting on the sidelines with an ankle injury, but he's just a kid (like most of our squad) so now might be the time for both Scotland and Priskin to try and impress. Even though there is now an international break. Still, they both linked well, took advantage of defensive errors and basically, it was nice for two strikers to score after getting rid of three of them.
The reaction to Jon Stead was as expected. It must've been tough for the guy as he was here Sunday, gone Monday and then back here on Saturday. In a red shirt. Being marked by Gareth McAuley. I'm probably alone in hoping he went into the home dressing room by accident.
No matter how the goals came, it's three points. It's a decent enough performance and we're third in the league. It's also our first league clean sheet of the season and our third win. We look relaxed, we look like we're finally linking together. David Norris is excelling in his role as captain. When he went down in a heap outside the 'D' in front of the North Stand, I was holding my breath and hoping he was alright, as he really will be a massive player for us this season. In the end, I needn't have worried, because they make 'em tough in er... Plymouth.
Fulop 6: Having confused him for Brian Murphy in the highlights of the Palace match last week, I figured out who he was this time. He didn't really have to do much as the Robins didn't give him much of a challenge. However, he has a very useful kick and ran rings around David James.
Peters 6: Some of his passing was off today. Definitely had a better second half than first and did put in some decent tackles. Hopefully over the season he will link more with Carlos Edwards.
McAuley 7: The man's a rock. Hopefully he can stay clear of injury because he provides us with height at corners and also has started where he left off towards the end of last season.
Smith 6: The New Zealander seems to be forming a good partnership with McAuley, although I assume once Delaney's back he'll go to left or right back. He also made some good clearances, and I think any first team experience is valuable to someone so young.
O'Dea 7: He got forward, he looks strong and by heck he put in some crunching tackles.
Leadbitter 7: Unlucky not to score from his free kick. We all know how good he can be and it's fantastic that he's not got a chipped bone as was feared after the Burnley game.
Edwards 7: When he stays in position, he's good. And to be fair to him, he stayed in position a lot today. He seems to have been eating his Wheetabix in the morning, as he appears to be speedier than I remember...
Norris 7: Like Peters, played better in the second half than the first. But was still pretty good in the first half. The international break has come at a good time for him though, since he's played every match we've had, including extra time against Exeter and Crewe.
Hyam 6: He was awesome against Exeter, but not so good today. Too many loose balls. However, he's young and will certainly improve. Definitely someone to get excited about, anyway!
Scotland 7: Pretty decent home debut. Hopefully he can continue it once he gets a bit more match fit. He provided support to Priskin and clearly enjoyed the goal!
Priskin 7: He was good today. He was actually good. Only offside once if my memory serves me correctly. He looked like he enjoyed today as well and you could see the metaphorical monkey being lifted off his back as the ball hit the back of the net for the opener.