RAMBLE: Ipswich Town -v- Wednesday

RAMBLE: Ipswich Town -v- Wednesday

Ipswich away on a Tuesday night in February.

When the fixtures came out in the middle of last summer it probably wasn’t a game most Wednesdayites pencilled in as ‘must-not-miss’.

I’d been to Portman Road once before for the direst of dour 0-0 draws back in 2009 so it wasn’t even a new ground to tick off.

However, I booked my half-day without a second thought and, in hindsight, even more bizarrely decided to catch a 3pm train.

Now if you caught a train from Sheffield at that time you might just about get to Ipswich in time for kick off.

But when you’re travelling from London it barely takes an hour, which would leave me with over three hours to kill in an unremarkable county town.

iPhone battery: Perenially low

iPhone battery: Perenially low

As all iPhone users will know, the batteries are designed to last no longer than Sam Hutchinson usually lasts on the pitch.

I had the foresight to tweet the train company and ask if there would be power points on the train.

They politely responded ‘no’ which would mean a good 9 hours of trying to preserve battery, which is an art form in itself.

With the train heating on full blast and a couple of lunchtime pints settling nicely, I did my bit for battery preservation by dozing for most of the journey.

I did jump when the conductor came round asking for tickets and was completely thrown when he apologised to me for their lack of plug sockets.

Seemingly Greater Anglia Trains only have one employee who simultaneously drives the trains, checks the tickets and answers narky tweets.

Ipswich: Lacking in tourist attractions

Ipswich: Lacking in tourist attractions

Upon arrival in Ipswich it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out where away fans should congregate.

Even Beastie couldn’t get lost looking for the Riverside pub, which is 100 yards across the street from the station and barely a five-minute walk across the river to the ground.

I’d spent several happy hours there on my previous visit to the extent I don’t remember much of the thrilling 0-0 draw. But a combination of an empty pub, plastic glasses and a very dodgy pint left me questioning my choice.

At this stage it was still 4.30 and I didn’t fancy spending three hours in a pub with crap beer.

The only logical thing to do was to stroll down into Ipswich town and find somewhere better.

I went via the ground which gave me the chance to have a proper look in daylight, not that it took too long via statues of Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Alf Ramsay.

Legend: Sir Alf Ramsay

Legend: Sir Alf Ramsay

I was following signs towards the town centre but I wasn’t convinced it actually existed.

Eventually I stumbled across what looked like my kind of pub. In a side street, beams above the bar and proper ale on the pumps.

After a lengthy read of the paper and a chat with a few locals, I was eventually joined by a fellow Wednesdayite, Jordan, as the pub filled up with home fans.

News filtered through that Lewis Baker had returned to Chelsea, presumably because he wasn’t the first name on Stuart Gray’s teamsheet and Jose Mourinho is running out of options with only 65 men left in his squad.

By the time we left it was pretty packed and we headed back to the Riverside to meet up with Chris and Jamie who were just off the train from London, and Jordan’s Dad who had his ticket.

My second (and last) pint in there was much better than the first and soon enough we were strolling down to the ground.

Portman Road: Lacking in atmosphere

Portman Road: Lacking in atmosphere

As away grounds go it doesn’t get much easier, with the away section in the corner nearest to the pub/station, although I never enjoy grounds where you’re in the corner of one of the side stands.

It doesn’t encourage any sort of atmosphere (not that that seems to be encouraged anyway at Ipswich) and bad experiences at Swindon and Crystal Palace to name a couple have fuelled my dislike for being in line with the goal-line.

With Glenn Loovens serving the second game of his suspension we stuck with the same back four that played against Cardiff, with Claude Dielna filling in at centre half and new boy Marnick Vermijl keeping the right back berth.

We were forced to make a change in midfield with Chris Maguire beginning a ban of his own.

Kieran Lee filled in on the right with Lewis McGugan making his first start since rejoining alongside the tenacious Hutchinson.

Dielna: Not a centre half

Dielna: Not a centre half

Jeremy Helan was on the left wing which for me is his best position unless we start playing wing backs while Stevie May and Will Keane were up front.

FIRST HALF

Ipswich were the better side from the off, with Wednesday setting out their stall to get stuck in and try to catch the Tractor Boys on the break.

Hutchinson and Mattock both made some crunching tackles early on but a couple of opportunities to break out were scuppered by poor passes or unlucky bounces, with May looking to feed on any scraps and Lee looking to come into midfield as much as possible.

Worryingly Dielna was looking ponderous at best and indecisive at worst.

Inside the first 10 minutes there were a couple of occasions where he just backed off and let Ipswich have the ball or tried to dribble out of trouble rather than just getting rid.

This indecision seemed to rub off on the usually immense Lees and Daryl Murphy made a real mug of him on the quarter hour as he flicked it over his head while Lees just stood there and watched, but fortunately his shot went right across the face of goal and wide.

Despite Ipswich’s good league position and dominance in the game, there was absolutely zero atmosphere.

I guess this is what happens when you stick the away fans in the top corner but the fans to our left were literally sat there as though they were at the park or something. Baffling.

Golden touch: Lee gave Wednesday a surprise lead

Golden touch: Lee gave Wednesday a surprise lead

It came as something of a shock when Wednesday went ahead inside 20 minutes.

Lees knocked the ball long from a free kick well inside our half, which Keane won ahead of Tommy Smith.

He got too much on in though and it looked for all money like an easy claim for ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski as it bounced in front of him.

But with May bearing down on him and Cole Skuse not sure whether to leave it or clear it, Bialkowski ended up flapping at it and it bounced off his knee.

It couldn’t have fallen more perfectly for Kieran Lee who was in acres of space on the penalty spot and he caught the ball perfectly just as it bounced, firing into the top corner of the gaping net.

My immediate reaction is always to look at the referee and linesman for any reason why the goal might be disallowed but the goal was good and out of nowhere we were ahead.

The half continued much as it started with Ipswich coming forward, Wednesday looking ponderous and Murphy forcing Keiren Westwood into a couple of fairly comfortable saves.

Creative: Hutchinson was involved in most of Wednesday's best moves

Creative: Hutchinson was involved in most of Wednesday’s best moves

The Owls had two golden chances on the counter though.

First there was a three-on-two brought about after a crunching Hutchinson tackle.

Keane brought the ball forward with Hutch and May making runs left and right respectively.

The former Chelsea man chose to play in the Scotsman who had managed to break away from his defender and I said to myself: ‘He has to score’.

He didn’t as he dragged his shot wide of the far post and the fact he didn’t even force the ‘keeper to make a save was extremely disappointing.

Not long afterwards Hutchinson was again the creator as he played the ball in front of Keane as he dashed into the box.

He had only the ‘keeper to beat and a first time shot would surely have done the trick but instead he decided to turn back inside and the chance was gone as he was crowded out by defenders.

Lacking confidence: May desperately needs a goal

Lacking confidence: May desperately needs a goal

May and Keane made some good runs in that first half but they were each guilty of wasting glorious chances to put us in charge.

Hutchinson picked up his requisite yellow card for a late lunge on Skuse which probably contributed to his second half substitution.

The dying embers of the half saw Ipswich hit the post, again through Murphy with a downward header from a Stephen Hunt cross.

Thankfully the ball bounced into the path of Mattock who cleared and we were safe. For the time being.

HALF TIME: Ipswich Town 0-1 Wednesday

I had a natter with Chris at half time and we both agreed we’d not been playing at all well but we couldn’t complain with being 1-0 up. We both thought we might live to regret those missed chances though.

We also rejoiced in the fact there had only been one minute of stoppage time. Our train left at 9.43 which would mean a very sharp exit at the end of match.

I also quite enjoyed the fact they didn’t bother with any half time entertainment and instead blared out a combination of anti-racism messages and belting tunes like Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya!’ and Simple Minds’ ‘Alive and Kicking’.

I was still tapping my feet when the game resumed.

SECOND HALF

Assist: Vermijl aided and abetted Ipswich in scoring their first goal

Assist: Vermijl aided and abetted Ipswich in scoring their first goal

It didn’t take long for Ipswich to get back on level terms in the second half.

We continued where we had left off with some sloppy defending and indecision on the ball.

We did though manage to put together a really nice piece of patient passing football.

I can’t remember the last time we strung together more than 10 passes but the ball was eventually worked to May on the left-hand side of the box but his low cross hit a defender and went out for a corner which came to nothing.

Ipswich’s equaliser on the other hand came from nothing.

Vermijl was caught out too far up the field down the Ipswich left and he strained to try to keep the ball from going out for a throw in.

In doing so he both ended up off the pitch and gave the ball straight to Jonathan Parr.

He played in Freddie Sears who had the freedom of Portman Road to cut inside onto his right foot and curl in a cross.

Dielna was caught ball watching and Murphy steamed in to guide home a header past the helpless Westwood.

Leveller: Ex-Wednesday loanee Murphy grabbed Ipswich's equaliser

Leveller: Ex-Wednesday loanee Murphy grabbed Ipswich’s equaliser

Not long after that the excellent Hutchinson was replaced by debutant Filipe Melo to try to ensure we ended the game with ten men.

Hutchinson was clearly disappointed as he sat on the bench without bothering to put a coat on and he could only watch on as Ipswich continued to pile forward, having all sorts of joy down the left.

Stuart Gray tried to change things by replacing the struggling Vermijl with the returning Lewis Buxton, while Atdhe Nuhiu replaced Lewis McGugan, who had been struggling with cramp.

Replaced: McGugan struggled with cramp in the second half

Replaced: McGugan struggled with cramp in the second half

Personally I would have gone with Sergiu Buș but the move saw Stevie May move out to the right wing and Kieran Lee come into the middle of the park.

One fan behind me clearly isn’t Nuhiu’s biggest fan and before he’d even touched the ball it was a ‘waste of a sub’ and ‘surely we had better options’.

This though was nothing compared to a bloke stood behind Chris who apparently decided Melo was useless and a dud signing after the bloke’s first 10 touches in a Wednesday shirt.

Lewis Buxton had certainly not touched the ball until he helped gift Ipswich  the lead.

He dwelled on the ball too long and Ipswich substitute Kevin Bru picked his pocket with ease before delivering a delicious cross into the box.

Darren Ambrose leapt about four feet off the ground but the ball still went over his head, only for it to fall perfectly for Luke Chambers who easily got in front of a static Dielna to head home.

The next 10 minutes saw Wednesday huff and puff but do very little with the ball, as the game meandered towards a disappointing defeat.

Livewire: Mattock struggled to contain the ever-lively Stephen Hunt

Livewire: Mattock struggled to contain the ever-lively Stephen Hunt

Despite coming from behind to lead 2-1 there was barely a peep from the Ipswich fans.

I watched the stand to the left for a little while, looking for signs of life and I noticed a few of them were waving their phones in the air with the torch on like they were at a Westlife concert.

Then I looked at the far end and there were half a dozen people waving back with their phones.

I’m tempted to say they could have just texted each other but they probably could have had a conversation from behind each goal and easily have heard each other.

With five minutes to go I decided I wasn’t likely to miss much on the pitch so I left early to make sure one thing I didn’t miss was my train.

As it turned out all I did miss was Dielna completing a fairly miserable game with a wayward free kick in stoppage time.

FULL TIME: Ipswich Town 2-1 Wednesday.

Hypocrisy: All 600+ Wednesdayites should have been escorted out if 'persistent standing' is such a problem

Hypocrisy: All 600+ Wednesdayites should have been escorted out if ‘persistent standing’ is such a problem

Thankfully we all managed to get to the station in plenty of time and the post-mortem began.

Unfortunately Jordan could only offer up a summary of the Liverpool v Spurs game as he had been escorted out of the ground in the first half for ‘persistent standing’.

He was unfortunate enough to be in the lower tier where there were only around 50 Wednesdayites, Tango the most prominent, and he too was asked to leave before half time.

It was explained to Jordan that Ipswich Town are stamping down on persistent standing and he was being watched throughout the first half!

Pretty laughable when you consider the 600 Wednesdayites in the upper tier were stood up throughout the game and not once were we told to sit down.

I’m sure it looks good in the figures though if they can say they chucked a couple of people out for standing up.

Well done Ipswich Town and Suffolk Police.

Earlier that day I’d been reading about a Wednesdayite getting a three-year banning order for throwing a tangerine at Fulham which could have incited trouble.

A tangerine. At Fulham.

Yet more proof that the law-makers in this country are out of touch with reality and football fans are fair game for being treated like crap while being charged a premium for the pleasure.

Ironically when we got on the train, Jordan and Jamie went to the bar and when they came back someone had taken what would have been Jordan’s seat.

We couldn’t help but tease him for his persistent standing.

Defeated: Plenty to consider after a disappointing night

Defeated: Plenty to consider after a disappointing night

It was a bad night, let’s make no mistake about that, although I think Stuart Gray is wide of the mark describing it as our worst performance of the season.

We were worse at Reading and that was only two weeks ago!

Due to my ever-decreasing phone battery I managed to avoid most of the kneejerk reaction from fans who weren’t there who no doubt will be calling for Gray’s head and doom-mongering about relegation.

We’re on a bad run and we’ve got some tough fixtures coming up but I think this team has earned the right to get a little bit more patience from the fans, particularly with a few new players coming into the side.

Glenn Loovens will be back on Saturday which can only be a good thing. Sorry Claude, you’re just not a centre half.

Hutchinson and Lee tried their hardest, while Helan was surprisingly quiet and ineffective.

The full backs were both pretty poor. Vermijl will come good once he gets a few games under his belt, though, and Mattock has had more good than bad games this season.

Keane has got some lovely touches and good vision but, as Chris pointed out on the train home, he seems to panic once he gets in the box. He’s not the goalscorer we’re crying out for I’m afraid.

Stevie May desperately needs a goal but I worry that a lot of Wednesday fans have already written him off.

We need to end this winless run before it becomes a real problem but I see no reason why that won’t happen against Brighton on Saturday.

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

Creg
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @CraigSWFC and @OwlsAlive


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