Town supporter, James Melsa, gives us account on the start to the season the Blues have made
The following article is the views of James Melsa and not necessarily those of Ipswich Town FC.
Many eyebrows were raised across the football world when they saw the result of Town's final pre-season game, just a week before the season.
Mick McCarthy's side were defeated 6-1 by Charlton at The Valley, with Harry Redknapp's Birmingham waiting around the corner. But in true 'Jekyll and Hyde' fashion, Town followed up that game with a fine performance to kick off the season on a winning note.
Reverting to what has become a reliable formation, Mick set the team up 3-5-2 with Jordan Spence joining Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith at centre back, flanked on the left by Jonas Knudsen, getting the nod over Myles Kenlock, whilst the right side saw the debut of Dominic Iorfa. In midfield, Cole Skuse was supported by Grant Ward and Andre Dozzell, leaving Freddie Sears and new boy Joe Garner upfront.
There wasn’t too much between the two sides in a well contested first half despite the lack of chances at either end. Birmingham probably shaded it with a couple of chances falling to Michael Morrison and Che Adams, whilst Town had some good spells too. Bartosz Bialkowski saved well for Town from Roberts, whilst Adams also went close for the visitors.
Town’s best effort came midway through the half, a neat one-two between Garner and Ward saw the midfielder break through on goal but was unable to steer his effort on target with Stockdale closing him down.
The half ended on a sour note for Town as young Andre suffered a serious knee injury and was being driven down the tunnel on a stretcher. Another home grown talent replaced Dozzell, Flynn Downes, who had impressed in pre season was given the chance on the big stage and his second half performance didn’t let anyone down!
The second-half saw Town survive a brief scare as Donaldson looked to break through and was body checked by Spence – as the away fans bayed for a red card, the referee correctly administered a yellow as there was cover coming across. From the resulting free kick Town survived a goal bound effort which got hacked clear to Ward. Ward broke with the ball excellently and drove forward before he released the overlapping Knudsen whose cross found Garner ghosting in ahead of the Birmingham full back to drive his shot under the despairing leg of Stockdale and to send the Portman Road faithful into raptures.
With Town in front they took a firm grip of the game from there on and one that they never looked like relinquishing. Whatever Mick said at half-time had the desired effect. Town were first to every ball and began to impose their full-backs higher up the pitch. Skuse was winning everything in the middle; Ward was far more involved and industrious and the increasingly more impressive Downes were ensuring Town dominated the midfield and dictated the play.
The three points were the perfect tonic for Mick and the boys. The loss of Dozzell was a huge blow as he had began to really pull the strings in the heart of the midfield, however the introduction of Downes, whose cool demeanour on the ball belied his age and experience provided Town fans with a real sense of optimism. We can’t expect to rely on these youngsters to carry us all season in such a demanding league but their emergence and energy will definitely help the other experienced lads in the tougher games to come. Joe Garner was a constant threat upfront, holding the ball up and never giving the Birmingham back line a moments peace. Plenty of reasons for Town fans to be enthused and with Didz and Celina getting match fit, plus the addition of Martyn Waghorn, that freak result against Charlton is nothing but a distant memory. Roll on Barnsley!