Ipswich 2-5 Southampton: Saints And Sinners
Tuesday 16 August 2011
Defensive calamities and indecisive first half tactics saw Ipswich Town suffer a 5-2 thrashing from newly-promoted Southampton on another bad night at Portman Road.
Following the Blues' disappointing display against Hull City on Saturday, manager Paul Jewell made the decision to change his formation from 4-5-1 to a variation on 4-4-2, with Mark Kennedy playing in a holding role behind the rest of the midfield. Loanee Keith Andrews was given his first start in an unfamiliar midfield which saw central players Lee Bowyer and Grant Leadbitter starting on the left and right wings.
Damien Delaney and Tommy Smith were retained in central defence while Jason Scotland lined up alongside Michael Chopra up front, leaving Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the bench along with Lee Martin who had been a fitness doubt ahead of the match. Southampton meanwhile included former Blues Kelvin Davis and Dan Harding in their starting lineup.
Southampton began the evening as the Championship leaders and quickly made an impression, Adam Lallana striking narrowly wide before the visitors made the breakthrough after just 4 minutes. Rickie Lambert exchanged passes with David Connolly to slot through the Ipswich defence and dodging Leadbitter's sliding challenge to hit past David Stockdale.
Just six minutes later, Southampton were 2-0 up. Lallana sent Rickie Lambert breaking into the box again, leaving Smith and Delaney in his wake before striking across Stockdale and in off the right-hand post.
Clearly Jewell's experiment with his formation had failed quite spectacularly, and the Town boss quickly moved to change things to an orthodox 4-4-2, with Lee Bowyer coming back into the centre and Kennedy slotting into left-back behind Aaron Cresswell on the left wing. Despite the changes, Southampton could have made it three on 18 minutes, Guly Do Prado striking wide.
Mercifully, the Blues gradually began to settle into the game, keeper Davis forced into a good save from Bowyer on the volley before Cresswell struck wide from close range when he really should have done better. Stockdale saved from Lallana at the other end before Scotland missed the target before Delaney was booked on 35 minutes.
However, just as they were getting into the game, Town were caught at the back again before the interval. Guly somehow managed to skip through the backline to go one-on-one with Stockdale, and despite the keeper doing enough to force him away from goal, David Connolly was on hand to receive the ball and drive home for the visitors' third of the night.
Boos sounded around Portman Road as the half time whistle brought to a close a disastrous first half for Town. Jewell was therefore swift to make changes, Emmanuel-Thomas and Martin restored to the lineup in place of Kennedy and Scotland.
Thankfully, the changes were to have a positive impact after the break. Chopra was unlucky to see his 18-yard shot crash back off the bar, but just as the Saints defence looked to have flicked it clear, Keith Andrews stole the ball back and powered in a superb drive from 20 yards for a goal on his full debut.
Cresswell made a fantastic goal-line clearance from Lallana's effort to keep Town's deficit at two goals, and astonishingly they were to reduce that to one just 2 minutes later. A defensive scramble saw a high ball drop for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to roll a shot beyond Davis from 8 yards and bring the score to 2-3.
Suddenly the home fans were on their feet and Ipswich looked capable of pulling level against a Southampton side left shellshocked by the fightback. The Saints might have put themselves further in front however just three minutes later when a mixup between Stockdale and Carlos Edwards almost set up Lallana before Connolly fired straight at the keeper. At the other end, Leadbitter narrowly failed to reach Cresswell's delivery before the impressive Emmanuel-Thomas forced a save from Davis.
Sadly however, any hopes of Ipswich rescuing a point from the match were killed off on 75 minutes. Substitute Morgan Schneiderlin was found in space in the centre and played a perfect chip over the entire Town backline for Adam Lallana to sneak in and hit a shot into the floor which Stockdale couldn't prevent looping under the bar and in for 4-2.
Chopra and Frazer Richardson were booked in quick succession as the game drew towards its conclusion with Ipswich looking deflated by the setback. To make matters worse, the visitors were to make the scoreline even more emphatic in injury time, Lambert playing a through ball to Adam Lallana who easily outpaced Edwards and Delaney before tapping in the Saints' fifth of the night.
The final whistle was accompanied by more boos from the Ipswich fans having watched their team suffer a third straight defeat at Portman Road. Worse still, the result makes it 17 goals conceded in the Blues' last 6 home matches - a further demonstration of Town's dreadful record in front of their own fans.
Paul Jewell was left speechless by his side's poor defending, with centre-back pairing Smith and Delaney coming in for particular criticism. The display merely serves to highlight the urgency of Jewell's search for further defensive reinforcements, with the gap left by the departed Gareth McAuley looking bigger than ever.
The manager himself will also be left facing some tough questions having evidently gotten his tactics badly wrong. The early experiment with Bowyer and Leadbitter on the wings of what might be called a 4-1-3-2 formation was clearly an utter failure, and the decision to leave Emmanuel-Thomas out of the starting lineup was made to look all the worse by his excellent performance from the bench.
Whilst the table will be of little concern at this stage, the defeat drops down into 16th place with several teams below them yet to play this week. Credit must be given to Southampton however, who put in an excellent performance and could well be in the promotion mix this season having maintained the momentum from their last campaign. The win keeps them top of the Championship table, and it is clear that there is still a mountain of work for Jewell to do if Town are to have any hope of catching up.
Ipswich: Stockdale, Cresswell, Delaney, Edwards, Smith, Leadbitter, Bowyer, Andrews, Kennedy (Martin 46), Chopra, Scotland (Emmanuel-Thomas 46) - Not used: Lee-Barrett, Ainsley, Ellington
Southampton: Davis, Richardson, Harding, Fonte, Seaborne, Cork, Guly (Schneiderlin 71), Hammond, Lallana (De Ridder 90+3), Lambert, Connolly (Fox 77) - Not used:
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