Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
4 January 2022
A grey day with a breeze blowing down the pitch. The Town players warmed up in their usual way and then disaster struck. They mingled together and formed a circle, then started passing the ball between them in turn. After 30 seconds of half-hearted passing Cockerill called them over and the players jogged across the pitch (again half heartedly). Then they started some amateur callisthenics. It was all done with little enthusiasm, and that, as it turned out, was a portent for the game itself.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, Butterfield, Gallimore, Lever Groves, Pouton, D Smith, Burnett, Coldicott, Lester and Allen. The subs were Croudson, Black, McDermott, A Buckley, and Ashcroft. Groves played at centre-back with Lever, everyone else was where you'd expect them to be.
Town kicked off from left to right as the Town support saw it (and right to left as TV viewers see it). The ball was played back to Groves who whacked it forward, in the air, towards Allen, who was unable to out-jump someone eight or nine inches taller than him. This was one of Town's better moves. Although Ipswich had 80% of the possession on the first 15/20 minutes they did not actually have any shots. But slowly they got nearer and nearer the goal. They were greatly assisted by the linesman directly below the Town fans who only gave Ipswich offside once in the first half (and then when they weren't – a lone exhortation from the Town support seemed to elicit a raised flag). As the Town fans were congregated on the side, from about five to 35 yards out from the Town goal, they had a perfect view of the offsides not given. They were not pleased as it seemed that Ipswich were offside most of the time.
But don't allow this to be an excuse, Town were increasingly unable to cope with Ipswich's speed and organisation. Coyne made his first save after about 20 minutes when Naylor poked a shot through several static Town defenders, from about 15 yards out. It went straight to Coyne. A couple of minutes later a corner on Town's left was flicked on at the near post to the unmarked Johnson, about five yards out. His flick header was turned over the bar by Coyne. A few minutes later another corner was headed, from the Town right, high across goal. Coyne tipped it round the post for another corner.
Town's response was a surging run down the right by Coldicott, who produced a swerving cross across the face of the goal. Lester dived in at the near post and the ball flew through everyone. A couple of minutes later Allen, with his back to goal, turned quickly to his left, about 20 yards out, and hit a swivelling half-volley, which went straight to Wright.
The less than mighty Mariners were becoming increasingly panic stricken and error strewn, especially Messrs Lever, Gallimore and D Smith. Ipswich began to exploit the disorganisation on the left of Town's defence and penetrated the penalty area at will. This produced corners and blocks, mainly. D Smith in particular was guilty of awful positional play. He was constantly in the hole between Ipswich players, a real piggy in the middle at times. The right wing-back and Stockwell literally rang rings round him, and Gallimore was thus exposed to two players attacking at pace. Now as we know Mr Gallimore is not blessed with exceptional pace at the best of times. These were not the best of times as he was on the wrong end of a crunching tackle in the first minute that led to him receiving treatment off the pitch. When he returned he was limping heavily and he did not move freely all afternoon. I can't recall him running faster than a rapid trot. It didn't aid his recovery when Johnson stamped on his ankle after Gallimore had cleared a ball down the line. This was a very late challenge, the ball was already 30 yards away when the studs landed.
On 35 minutes Ipswich had a series of corners which eventually resulted in a goal. From the third (I think), taken from the Town left, the Ipswich left wing-back, Clapham, took a quick short corner and received the ball back. No Town player had gone out for the short corner and, therefore, Clapham managed to get to the corner of the penalty area unimpeded. He burst in to the area between two defenders and curled a left-foot shot over Coyne and into the top right-hand corner of the goal. Quick thinking from Ipswich and a fine shot brought the goal. Town will, no doubt, view the goal as laziness at a set piece.
Ipswich continued the pressure on Town and nearly scored again five minutes before half time when a ball over the top for Johnson (the supposedly injured Johnson – who the Town supporters decided will never play for Scotland/Ireland/Wales/England/Jamaica – there are so many to choose from), just inside the right of the Town area left him free. It was half blocked by a combination of Coyne and Groves (who had been wrestling manfully with Johnson for 10 yards), but the rebound fell for Johnson who hit a shot inside Coyne's left-hand post. Fortunately, though he had positioned himself too far over to the left of the goal, Coyne managed a sprawling save with his right hand.
Coyne was also forced to save at his left-hand post after Naylor turned Lever and rolled into the area after another ball over down the left-hand side. Coyne stood up and made himself big like Schmeichel used to, and the ball thudded off his chest for a corner. He also easily caught an overhead kick from a corner.
Town's response to the goal was a free kick from Burnett, about 25 yards out, which he curled straight into Wright's hands; and a Pouton shot which was deflected to Wright (it was going wide anyway).
Then the whistle blew and we were glad to be only 1-0 down at half time. I have only described the actual shots from Ipswich which required action from Coyne, the rest of the time it was mainly Ipswich pressure, particularly down the Town left. They had obviously done their research and exposed the Gallimore/D Smith combination incessantly. D Smith was about 20 yards too far away from his wing-back, and even when he got near he was not fast, or strong, enough to deter the forays from Stockwell. There were many panicky moments, especially down the centre with the Ipswich forwards rolling and turning like Town fans think Lester does. Lever was getting more and more jittery and Groves was having a very difficult time physically.
Town played with very little shape, and whenever possession was gained it was handed back immediately. There was no play through midfield at all. Ipswich pushed up very tightly on the middle four and this encouraged the back players to hit long balls down the channels. Lester slipped seamlessly into the form he showed against Portsmouth. He didn't control the ball once, let alone pass it. He started to pull his own shirt, pleading for a foul before the ball was played to him. In short he was a waste of space. Allen was, yet again, always moving and showing himself, being available for passes. And he did have Town's only shot from open play. Pouton had only once got past the wing-back using one of his tricks (a Beardsley-esque step over), most of the time he was attempting to keep the ball in play from a Coyne kick. My memories of Pouton in the first half are of him leaping on the touchline trying to head the ball back.
Town had been really poor in the first half, mainly down the left. The supporters, numbering about 150ish, expected a couple of changes at half time. D Smith off, maybe Lester. The ball was being given away too much from the back, and the players seemed to be playing with fear of the opposition, like they expected to lose.
It started to rain at half time and the rain got more and more persistent as the half went along, driving towards Coyne's goal.
Changes were made at half time, and they weren't popular. Allen and Burnett off, with Black and Ashcroft on. Ashcroft played up front with Lester, Black played in his hole behind them. You know the position, the hole where the ball never goes. Pouton played in the centre, flanked by Coldicott and D Smith. No doubt Black will be described as helping out in midfield. I am not sure which midfield he was helping out.
It puzzled many in the crowd that, with Town 1-0 down, the management decided to take off the only acknowledged goal poacher, and the most creative player. They were replaced by the lightweight king of the pirouette and the tribute to Tony Rees made flesh (without moustache, but with optional chins). This did not work. The flow of the game did not alter and Town just got worse. Ashcroft did provide a certain presence upfield, and produced a couple of moments of interest, but never looked like scoring as he never got in goal-scoring positions. He should have replaced Lester, who was playing with the awareness of a particularly dead goat.
Ipswich continued to pressurise Town, though they did appear to try and score showbiz goals. They started to produce flicks and the runs from midfield became fewer in volume. Ipswich scored again after an hour. They won a corner after a shot from 25 yards deflected off Gallimore and looped onto the top of the net. The corner, from the Town right, was swung in to the far post, about five yards out. Lever was unmarked and produced a beautifully paced cushion-volleyed lay off across the six-yard box. Naylor slid in to score just inside Coyne's right-hand post. It was criminal (more of which later) for Town's defence to leave Lever unmarked so close to goal.
What was Town's response? There wasn't one. They just got worse. Passes were too short, control was lacking, movement non-existent. It was very fortunate that Coyne was in such good shot-stopping form, and that Ipswich stepped off the accelerator. The other moments of danger created by Ipswich were when Coldicott headed a cross from the left across the face of goal; a free diving header 15 yards out was pushed out for a corner by Coyne, from just inside his right hand post; and a deep cross which Groves back-headed away when under intense pressure. Ipswich tended to over elaborate near goal, which is the main reason why there were not more chances. The Town defence was stretched out wide and pulled apart very easily. Only Butterfield, and to a certain extent Groves, had decent games. Poor old Lever has a Toblerone head and banana feet, more proof that he is a fine Division Two defender. He did his usual trick of falling over at an inopportune moment, and succeeded in getting himself nut-megged by a man who was falling over backwards.
Town's attacking in the second half was restricted to one shot, by Coldicott, as the 90th minute was struck. He hit a shot a yard wide on the keeper's right, from 20 yards. Lester should have had a shot after about 70 minutes when Ashcroft laid off a lovely first-time flick to Pouton, who ran on through the centre about 35 yards out. Pouton drew the defence and threaded a beautifully paced ball through the defence releasing Lester. Unfortunately, Lester displayed the acceleration of the aforementioned dead goat, somehow managing to allow Wright to reach the ball first. Lester did produce one pass to a team mate in the second half, a challenge by a defender made the ball ricochet off his shins to D Smith.
The only other moments of any interest for Town were a backheel by Ashcroft which set Lester free to run into several defenders; and a couple of surging runs by Pouton down the centre which fizzled out through lack of support. Kingsley Black? He headed the ball a couple of times, piroutted three times, but did produce one decent cross which went exactly to where Ashcroft's head had been two seconds earlier, but wasn't then.
The thing that woke up the Town supporters was George Burley's kind offering of the head of Gary Croft. With 10 minutes left he brought little Gary Croft on at right-back, giving him 10 minutes of tough tackling pacey trickery from Black to contend with. Ha! Yeah right. The former Town starlet arrived to a mixed reception from the Town support. Some boos and some applause. The singing soon started "You're going home in a taxi", "Croft's got more points than Town", "He's going down, he's going down, he's going, Crofty's going down" and other such cruel (but funny) asides (including a couple of minutes of Police siren noises as he ran down the touchline right underneath us). The two things he had to do he did poorly. He kicked the ball out for a throw-in, and miscontrolled the ball for another throw-in.
With one minute of injury time played D Smith was finally put out of our misery when he was replaced by Adam Buckley. Some may say this was a waste of time. And they did. And it was.
And the referee finally ended the turgid dross after three minutes of injury time. Time moved exceedingly slowly in the second half, just when the Town supporters wanted it to go as quickly as possible. There are only a couple of positives from this game – Butterfield and Coyne. Though with Butterfield that doesn’t include his distribution which is still on the Dean Crombie side of inconsistent. Allen and Burnett seem to have evolved into playing scapegoats, they are the first players off when Town don't play perfectly, and neither deserved to be withdrawn today (especially Allen). Why has Lester suddenly become Mr Untouchable for the management? He is playing like he knows he is guaranteed a place in the team, no matter what he does or, more accurately, what he doesn't do.
Some of the defending was appalling today, some comically bad. Town did not exist as an attacking force in the second half, and only just in the first. Right from the start the players seemed to have the wrong attitude. They looked, collectively and individually, unprepared for much physical and mental exertion. Ipswich? Well they are easy aren't they. We are their "bogey team" so we don't even have to try.
To sum up Town as a team today. Artless, witless, clueless, pointless.