Barely having had time to catch our breath since the last game, the Lads took on Ipswich, who presented much more in the way of footballing opposition than recent opponents , but we got past them with a performance that went from comfortable for the first forty minutes to scrappy for half an hour, before veering back to sort of comfortable but ineffective, and ending up taking a deep breath and seeing the game out as deserved winners. Goals from Wyke (again) and Leadbitter (from the spot) came either side of an equaliser to give us a big win.
Somehow, Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday seems much more of a chore when you don’t have to go through the trouble of actually attending games. With the new lockdown announced, our holiday on the Costa Del Eshington (Newbiggin by the sea) has been cut short by a day, but at least they had an internet connection. There’s been next to no time to discuss team selection, and following Saturday, I’d probably only push for one change. As O’Brien was less than effective, I’d be hoping that Chris Maguire would start, but only if he’d got his breath back after chasing up-field to provide both a diversion for the opposition and an alternative to Gooch as we scored our second at Gillingham. One change, unless Parky feels liberated enough to pick Graham or Grigg up front, that is. For once, he agreed with me, and Aiden was out and Chris in.
Internet set up, match pass bought, Maxim s from the Co-Op, lucky sock courtesy of our Hannah, seat in the kitchen booked…. and the kick-off was delayed by half an hour while they looked for a USB cable or something else internet related, meaning that I could have nipped to the pub after tea and still been back in time for kick-off. Mind, the countdown clock the club website still aimed for the original starting time. Technology, eh? Those poor Ipswich fans won’t get home until the wee small hours…
McLaughlin Wright ©Flanagan
O’Nien Leadbitter Scowen Hume
There were no familiar faces in the Ipswich line-up, although some of us will remember Andre Dozzell’s dad Jason, but apparently they’d made three changes from the weekend. We lined up attacking the Roker End on a dry and what looked a cold night without much in the way of wind and took the kick-off. Mind, if there’s no crowd, there’s nobody to generate the litter that is usually a good indicator of the wind conditions, so we’ll just have to watch what the ball does in the air to be sure.
We looked quite lively from the off, which was nice, and chased the ball down when we conceded possession – promising. A couple of minutes in, Hume took an elbow as he sought to sprint away onto a return pass down the left, but the ref took the “Ritchie Pitt” option as it was dead early, and let their fella off with a stern (I hope it was stern) talking to. Soon after, O’Nien’s long-ish throw was knocked off Wyke’s head for our first corner on six minutes, but Scowen’s dead-ball was headed “out the back” before we regained possession. Gooch carried it inside and put it through to Wyke in the box, who held off his marker to slot it under the keeper. Si, senor, give the ball to Wyke and he will score….a good goal, and a nice reward for our players being lively and not giving Ipswich much of a chance to settle on the ball as they tried to play it out from the back. No long hoofs from their keeper so far, and we eventually found out why. Put him under a bit of pressure, and his kicking makes Lee Camp look like Jordan Pickford, as balls sailed aimlessly into the West stand in the first half and the East stand in the second. No wonder he preferred to keep it all Milton Nunez (short and simple), which helped us hold the visitors by chasing them back.
With Maguire drifting about behind Wyke, he was able to bring in O’Nien and McLaughlin, and when a cross came in from the right, it was a bit behind Wyke who could only head over the bar. Well over the bar. On 22 minutes a foul 22 yards from our goal gave Ipswich a central free kick, which was fired into the wall, or more particularly Scowen’s face. Job done, but I bet that stung, and Josh needed a spot of treatment as we reflected the fact that Burge still hadn’t had to do any work. A driving run by Hume on 28 brought second corner as he left two defenders trailing in his wake and the third getting a grateful toe to the cross. This time Scowen’s effort was headed away
Their first attempt on target came after the first time they’d actually built an attack that got into the last 20 yards, as they came down our right-hand side, played it into the box, and Lankaster shot left-footed across the goal from the left and just inside Burge’s left-hand post. 38 minutes gone, and that was very much against both the run and balance of play. A bit of slack marking there, and we had some more defending to do a couple of minutes later when they won their first corner on our left. Naturally, Ipswich were buoyed by the goal and lifted their game a bit, putting in a dangerous cross from their left after McLaughlin missed an interception – then the stream broke. “Off Air”, it said. When it came back, two added minutes had been announced, we made a real arse of letting the ball run for a goal kick, and Ipswich won the ball, only losing it when Burge went down bravely at two pairs of feet close to the front post. From being well worth our goal lead, we could well have been going in for our tea and biccies a goal behind. For half an hour we were comfortable, both in and out of possession, but a break for the visitors got them back into the game and had us looking nervy for a few minutes. A good time for the break – one that will allow us to get our breath back and come out refreshed for the second half.
While the talking was going on in the dressing room (at least I hope it was going on) Max Power was out doing a serious warm-up, making me wonder if Scowen’s nose or teeth had been put out of joint by that free-kick. Must have been, as Power was indeed on the field as the game restarted, and it looked like he’d taken the captain’s armband.
Right Lads, let’s have you piling forward to the North End. Whatever Parky said in the dressing room obviously had an effect on McLaughlin, who firstly gave it away but chased back to win the tackle at the expense of a throw, then sold Hume short with a pass that let Ipswich down our left. A late one on Power gave us a free on halfway, then Wyke took a bang in the back challenging for a high ball in the centre circle, but recovered. It’s safe to say that Burge touched the ball more times in the first ten minutes of the second half than in the entire first half, but none were actual saves. It was very much a case of us carrying on where we’d left off the first half than reverting to how we’d started it.
Maguire was now on corner duty, and took one from left, but it was headed over by Flanagan as the hour approached and we started to get to grips with the second period. Flan then failed to reach a pass and Ipswich were away down our left, but when the cross landed, Lankaster blazed over at the back post. That’s what you get for spelling your name incorrectly, matey. Maguire then took a deep breath and chased a long ball down the right before turning back and working space for a cross to Hume at the back, but Denver’s return ball was blocked and cleared.
With 68 gone, Maguire rather surprisingly made way for Graham, but perhaps he’d had less of an impact than in the first half – or perhaps he’d run out of puff. On 71, a tackle in the centre circle by Dozzell on Leadbitter saw the ref produce his first card of the night – a red one. Perhaps a touch harsh, but I expect VAR would have deemed it serious foul play. Here we go, then - only ten of them to beat. Another foul straight afterwards was closer to goal, but when Leadbitter’s chip was headed away, it fell to O’Nien who hit it all wrong and wide. A decent chance, really. An equally decent cross from the right fell to Wyke, but when it sat up to be hit after Charlie had turned his man, he put out a couple windows in the Black Cats Bar. Oops.
Leadbitter was booked soon after for a foul in our own half, but we cleared the free kick comfortably. After O’Nien’s chase to the line and cross, we couldn’t get a shot away, and when Ipswich broke, Hume was lucky not to see yellow when he ran into/fell onto the back of an opponent. Almost immediately after we looked about to bring on O’Brien, a shot hit McGuinness on the arm and it was a “letter of the law” job. Penalty, over to you, Grant – and he did just what Maguire did on Saturday, sending the keeper right and hitting it to his left. 2-1, keep it that way.
Six to go, plus bits. Please, Lads, keep hold of the ball and see this one over the line. Graham brought Hume into play, and Denver won a corner which went right across to our right wing. O’Nien eventually put it back to the back post, Graham headed across, and Wyke knocked out a couple more panes of glass. Ha’way man, Chas – hit the target! I’m tempted to say even O’Brien.
With two minutes to go, we let Ipswich apply a bit of pressure and win a couple of corners before shooting wide, just to get us fans on the edge of our kitchen chairs. before Sanderson replaced Gooch to insure against any moments of madness, and five added minutes were announced. A deflected Ipswich short looped up and was taken by Burge, as we continued to let the visitors have a look in, but really we dealt with whatever they tried to throw at us.
A big, big win, and one that shows that even if we don’t maintain our form of the opening half hour or so, we have enough about us to beat one of the division’s better sides. OK, it wasn’t that pretty but it was eventually effective and with a bit more accurate shooting it could have been three or four. Honest, it could.
Man of the Match? For that first half hour, Maguire made things happen. Throughout, Leadbitter tried to keep things calm, and put away his penalty well. Also throughout, Wright bossed the defence, although his marras either side both had a serious wobble or two that nearly cost us. Hume and O’Nien did their usual stuff, while Scowen and Power had virtually identical games. Wyke took his goal well, but really should have doubled his tally, while Burge only had two saves to make – one he did and one he didn’t. For setting up the first goal, showing his customary and seemingly endless energy, and creating at least one good chance thereafter, I’ll give it to Gooch.
Happy days, and bring on the FA Cup...