Ipswich Town 0 Watford 2 (19/02/2013) 20/02/2013Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
Five thunks from the ever reliable three points at Portman Road. No, it doesn’t get boring.
1- Another away win, another three points. Tenth away win of the season, 38 away goals a figure only twice bettered over an entire campaign, both in promotion seasons. And any number of other statistics, never forgetting lots related to our record at Portman Road… perhaps now that we’re, you know, good, these parochial concerns shouldn’t matter. But they do, and I think that’s a good thing.
This wasn’t quite a case of merely turning up, taking the points, going home again though. As so often, we started like cooped up labradors suddenly released for a roam in the park… full of energy, full of purpose. That analogy falls down quite quickly actually, because there’s nothing random, indisciplined or wildly excited about it… but in any case, it was too much for an Ipswich side that started slowly. Jonathan Hogg sounded an early clarion by belting a drive square against the bar three minutes in and almost splitting it. Would have been a Johnno goal, that one. Such was the density of the fog at this point, pawing damply at our cold faces, that Dad and I were both able to misread an 8 for a 9 and award that near miss to Troy. Our early dominance was evident despite the mist, more chances came and went before Ikechi Anya gave us the lead in the 18th minute rounding off a much more elegant move than our position at the far corner enabled us to follow at the time. ”Anya!”, I tweeted informatively, to which my non-football neighbour tweeted back something about Orinoco Flow…
The point is, the opening blitz hasn’t always worked for us in the past, particularly where we’ve not capitalised with an opponent pinned back who then gain in confidence. Here, it could be argued, it was crucial. The one-goal lead was never secure… we were on to for the most part, save a spell at the end of the first half, but it wouldn’t have taken much and would have felt a whole lot different without that lead. Mick McCarthy already has his stamp on this Ipswich team and significantly opted not to come out and chase the game straight away, whither a whole host of teams have gone in other away fixtures this season. They lost anyway of course, but in the meantime the game descended into a stodgy mess. Whilst we had more of the chances, we also rode a penalty appeal as Lee Martin went down – looked a little desperate to me, but it could have been given – and any number of lobbed balls into a congested penalty area by a lively Carlos Edwards, bodies flying, ball bouncing. Only when Chalobah skated onto one of those Abdi through balls were we able to relax.
2- Much discussion beforehand about the potential for team rotation of course, and whilst there isn’t an automatic causal link between a good decision and a good outcome consensus would probably be that three changes, one of which enforced by Daniel Pudil’s illness, was about right. Of the new boys Ekstrand slotted straight back in, tough and immaculate, and Hogg had one of his better games on a difficult pitch that demanded graft. Of Fernando… it’s slightly unfair, however accurate, to highlight that he hasn’t really played well since signing that contract. Unfair, since Vydra’s form has restricted the Argentine to cameo roles and occasional starts – other than that ill-fated defeat at Bristol he’d managed less than 45 minutes in the past month. But this was still below par, even if he was more involved, more in tune, more connected than we’ve seen for a while. One move summed his evening up entirely – haring after Deeney’s through ball in the second half he cut from left to right across the box past one marker, dummied to fool a second, and then fired wide. So nearly brilliant, which describes much of what Nando has offered so far.
As ever the bench betrayed our strength in depth, our greater resilience to the physical demands of the coming weeks than some of our rivals, we hope. So Craig Forsyth reprised his role at left wing-back, and looked every bit as solid, aggressive and confident as he had looked gangly and awkward last season. Alex Geijo also got a rare call and looked tidy, strong, cohesive and in his determination to get on the score sheet stood out for his urgency in the closing ten minutes. The only player who obviously struggled was, unusually, Marco Cassetti who seemed thoroughly out of sorts at wing back before switching into the back three in the second half to resume his utter mastery of any ball foolish enough to stray within his reach. This switch was first betrayed when we noticed that the support to Troy in another breakaway move was provided by Lloyd Doyley, who gave a predictably energetic and wholehearted interpretation of the wing-back role for half an hour.
3- Always more noise away from home of course, and the array of chants provided by a noisy near-1000 away following (at an eye-watering £31+ a head) spanned the range from the sublime to the ridiculous. I haven’t quite sussed the lyrics to the Anya-based recital of the “Heartbeat” theme yet, but the “Doo doo, doo-doo doo” bits are lots of fun. Craig Forsyth has his own chant, which you’d have got long odds on at the start of the season, a welcome reprise of Allan Smart’s number. Even Mark Yeates was welcomed to the field in song (yes, Dave). Scott Loach was asked, in more concise terms, whether he felt that his place on the Ipswich bench reflected negatively upon his ability, our manager’s height and nation of origin were referred to quite a lot. And then there was the stuff about our playing style. ”Sexy football!” I can accept. It is, and why not sing about it after all. But, “we’re Watford FC, we play on the floor”? Here, of all places? Where we’ve spent so many years fighting harder and wanting it more than an Ipswich side that has fannied around and whose supporters clung to the “yes, but we try to play in lovely triangles unless you try to stop us you big meanies” straw for all they were worth? We won because we were the better side, and that included matching Ipswich for effort. But that we played it on the floor? Incidental. Know your history, boys.
4- As for Ipswich… as above, they’re Mick McCarthied, they’re tough and awkward and with a few more bounces of the ball (or decisions from a card-happy referee) weren’t really that far from a result. Perilously close to the relegation zone or not you kind of feel they ought to stay up… survival is merely a case of being less awful than three other teams after all and even in a season without an obvious basket case they ought to be able to manage that. Which is probably ok by me, six wins and two draws in eight visits and so forth.
5- Most satisfying is that we showed we can win a different type of game. We’re lethal on the break, yes, and woe betide a side who tries to play carefree open football against us. But McCarthy’s approach, slow start aside, is what you’d have prescribed as The Way to Beat Us. Get in our faces, defend deep, don’t give us space to play around in, much less to play into. Play on the break, don’t give a stuff about what you’re supposed to do as the home side. Make it ugly, make it difficult. It worked for Bristol City. It didn’t work tonight. Particularly in the wake of putting Birmingham to the sword so comprehensively this was hugely impressive stuff in its own way. Again. You Orns.