Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Ipswich V. Preston


Because Pompey were playing on the Sunday I decided to take the opportunity to use the Saturday afternoon to go and watch the Ipswich Preston match with a mate.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ipswich, I suppose it comes from when, as a kid, I was sent to a military boarding school ten miles south of the town. I was there in the late seventies and early eighties and during that period Ipswich had a fantastic team and a fantastic manager.

But it’s not just the team that I’ve a soft spot for- I also like the town. The reason why is because the school I went to was Edwardian in outlook- a grim, cold, backward sort of place. So I looked forward to trips into Ipswich- which was the nearest town- with the same enthusiasm that I might have today for a trip to Dublin or New York, and odd as it may sound I’ve never quite lost that feeling.

I’ve been to see Ipswich a few times over the last couple of years and I thought this was their best performance. It was not a particularly entertaining game– but that was because for about 80 minutes Ipswich played with a structure and a discipline that gave them total control. From where I was sitting- very high in the Greene King Stand I had a great view of how Ipswich kept their shape in a way to constantly dictate the pattern of the game. Preston on the other hand looked clueless and totally out of their depth when confronted by such a professional performance. So it was no surprise that Ipswich took a two goal lead.

I was impressed with the way Ipswich played-though from what other fans said they are not like this away from home, but based on this performance I could see no reason why a team that plays with such professional diligence wouldn’t make the play-offs. But what about after that- could they cope with promotion?

I think the answer came in the last five minutes. Preston brought on Neil Mellor and suddenly the whole game changed. Mellor is a Premiership quality player though problems with his weight and with injuries has seen him drop down a division.

Here’s a video of what he was capable of.

He instantly transformed the game, he took up positions in between the Ipswich defenders in a way that forced them to adapt to what he was doing- and he could drop deep-and in doing so hit one fantastic pass out to the wing- a real flash of Premiership quality. In the end he won a somewhat dubious penalty- which he scored. You were left wondering why Preston did not bring him on earlier.

And that will be Ipswich’s problem – being well organised and professional in the way they play could possibly take them out of this division - but I don’t yet think they can cope with the kind of quality that Mellor showed in the last few minutes of the game , which is exactly what they will find week in, week out in the Premiership

Click on the picture of Paul Mariner to see Ipswich in their prime beat Man Utd 6-0