Setting the scene
Back-to-back home games against teams in the bottom half of the table were a great opportunity for the Albion to get points on the board and their season back on track after a minor wobble. Having comfortably dispatched of Burton Albion 4-1 on Saturday, hopes were high that all those who had sacked off seeing their partners, a set meal for two and a bunch of overpriced flowers in favour of spending the night with Mick McCarthy would be rewarded with another three points.
Given the manner of the weekends victory, it was little surprise to see Chris Hughton keep faith with the same starting XI as that which hammered Burton. That was in stark contrast to Ipswich who had a few selection issues not least in defence where they were without both of their first centre backs of Steven Taylor and Christophe Berra who picked up injuries in their 1-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday. So you can add “reserve centre back pairing” to the reasons as to why this was such a disappointing point.
Ipswich took the lead inside of 10 minutes through Luke Chambers. The Albion’s marking was non-existant with the defender meeting a beautiful free kick delivery from Tom Lawrence with a free header. It was a brave goal from Chambers as he got clattered by David Stockdale for his troubles. That meant lengthy treatment and the very sporting reaction of the The Amex crowd of booing him as he slowly trudged off the pitch having looked like he may have actually been dead minutes earlier. The equaliser arrived on the half hour mark, Bruno being pulled down in the box with Tomer Hemed dispatching the resulting penalty. That makes it eight goals for Hemed since we spoke to him in The Blind Busker on New Years Eve so yes, we will be claiming that whatever drunken bollocks we came out with is behind his recent run of excellent form.
The game could have gone either way and Stockdale was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers. Ipswich’s front two of Lawrence and David McGoldrick proved to be a real handful and the latter drew a brilliant reaction save from Stockdale in the first half. He then had to deny Lawrence with his feet minutes after the restart before the Albion box resembled a pinball machine; Chambers hitting the post and McGoldrick then seeing his rebound effort somehow diverted by Steve Sidwell onto the crossbar. It wasn’t just the frame of the goal at the south end of the Amex that was working hard as in the final seconds Glenn Murray contrived to rattle the bar at the other end with the goal at his mercy. There were also strong Albion appeals for a penalty when Solly March went down in the box. Half the ground thought it was a blatant spot kick, the other half thought he merely slipped. We’ll leave it up to you to make your mind up, but it is fair to say Roger East was woeful for both sides throughout the evening.
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This was a game that showed how reliant we are on a certain core of three or four players – the likes of Anthony Knockaert, March and Sam Baldock – to play well if the team as a whole are going to play well. This was a rare occasion when none of them did and as a result it was a bit of a struggle. Sidwell had another fine game in the centre of midfield, Stockdale made some vital stops again but Lewis Dunk was excellent bar another ridiculous booking for his ever growing collection.
We love an overreaction and a bloody good moan up as much as the next person but some of the bedwetting that went on as a result of this draw was completely over the top. Ipswich were what you would expect from a McCarthy side – well organised, compact and doing everything they could to get a result – and it was one of those nights where we couldn’t find a way to overcome that. There were plenty of attempts to shift the blame onto Mr East but at the end of the day he wasn’t the one responsible for Chamber’s having a completely free header, nor did he hit the bar at the end with a gilt edged opportunity. Our promotion chances aren’t suddenly over because we’ve drawn with a midtable team in arguably the most competitive division in the country. If we are six points adrift of the top two in a months time after facing the likes of Barnsley, Reading, Newcastle, Derby and Leeds then by all means get those self absorbent sheets onto the bed. But there is no need to panic quite yet.
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