I find the journey to Ipswich one of the easiest from where I live and I had a choice to go from my local station, Blackwater via Reading and Paddington, or Farnborough Main via Waterloo. In the end I elected for the latter; since on the way back one or two of the changes were a bit tight especially if my train ran a couple of minutes late anywhere so it seemed prudent to choose the more reliable, more frequently provided service. It meant a car journey to Farnborough but Mrs Bazza obliged by dropping me off at the station in plenty of time to get a ticket. I tried to persuade her to join me as her sister lives near Kelvedon which is on the line from Stratford to Ipswich and she could have taken the opportunity to visit. As it happens a trip up to Essex has already been planned in the next couple of weeks so she decided to stay put, probably glad that I was out of the house and not under her feet!
The game at Ipswich seems to have taken on an importance for all the wrong reasons with our wretched form and our nosedive down the table. Whilst I don’t subscribe to the doomsayers who say we will get relegated and it’s all Zola’s fault and he is a demon sent by Old Nick dressed up all in Claret and Blue, I would be telling fibs if I didn’t say I was a little concerned. The last two games had yielded excellent draws at Cardiff and home to league leaders Newcastle which were thoroughly deserved results so there’s plenty of room for optimism and the glass should be looked at as half full. It is also good that Clayton Donaldson is back playing and training since I agree with recent articles in the press that he could be a key player for us during the run in. His period of injury, last season coincided with our demise, last season and it is definitely the case this time around. So Portman Road was going to be a vital fixture given that I am not expecting anything positive to come out of Tuesday’s encounter against Brighton 🙁
It wasn’t long before I reached my destination. The thing I like about the trip to Ipswich is that there is a welcoming pub right outside the ground in view of the ground. A couple of restorative pints of the local bitter were enjoyed whilst the Liverpool derby was being shown on the telly, an entertaining encounter which the Reds won 3-1. The time flies when you’re enjoying yourself they say and before long it was indeed time to move off in the direction of the ground where – following a fortifying steak and ale pie and another pint – it was time for kick off.
The team appeared to be unchanged from the outfit that took the field against Newcastle. Overall, it was a first half full of effort but low on quality. The home side played rugged no nonsense, direct football with little to stir the blood. For our part, we tried to play things a little more expansively but in truth the failure to provide accuracy of final ball ruined what moves were made. In a half lasting 49 minutes, Ipswich really should have opened the scoring six minutes before the break when from eight yards out, Freddie Sears fluffed his shot wide of the near post. The referee signalled a corner although I didn’t see a deflection so there must have been a block to prevent the goal. A minute later the home fans woke momentarily from their slumber when the ball was in our net but the cross was over the byline already and therefore the goal was never going to count. The Birmingham players had already stopped in any case. Derision and taunts of ‘sit down, shut up’ came from our section at the temporarily excited home support in the Sir Alf Ramsey stand who soon dozed off again.
I met Saul and his little boy Josh standing next to me in the away section. As fate would have it, Saul told me that he, his wife and Josh were season ticket holders at Portman Road and lived only ten minutes away but Saul was clearly a lifelong Birmingham supporter proudly wearing the red away strip. He told me that his missus was sitting over on the opposite side of the ground where he would normally be but for today his true allegiances had to come to the fore and he needed to be with the away support. It was also clear that Josh was being raised in the right way and his Dad was steering him towards the light! 😀 Saul told me during the game that perversely, it was the best he had seen Ipswich play and that all season they had been truly awful.
The second half started brightly for Birmingham when following a good passing move down the left flank a pass inside found Jutkiewicz who took a touch and unleashed a shot which was well saved by Bialkowski, easily the home side’s best player. Following in however, was Jonathan Grounds who kept his composure to lift the rebound into the net to delight the rapturous away fans who erupted in cheer. A couple of minutes later Blues should have secured the win when a lovely flowing move, culminating in a glorious pass into Jutkiewicz, saw the striker with a free shot that either side of the keeper from ten yards is 2-0. Alas, the big man blasted it straight at the keeper and the chance was gone for an unproductive corner. This was the best chance of the game by far. Ipswich huffed and puffed and frankly didn’t look as if they were going to restore parity until wide out on the right wing a move that promised little resulted in a hopeful cross by Grant Ward. It was one of those occasions when despite the fact he didn’t mean it, the ball eluded everyone and ended up flying into the far corner for 1-1. It was a fluke but sometimes life is like that. The game petered out after that and although Birmingham had the better of the half-chances that were created, a draw was all it was worth in the end. The best opportunity for a winner came when Ipswich’s David McGoldrick nearly headed into his own net from a corner in time added on but the excellent Bialkowski saved his team mate’s blushes at the expense of another corner.
The Good: The trip, the easy access to the pub just outside the station, the company of Saul and young Josh and the fact we didn’t lose a game we really should have won.
The Bad: Jutkiewicz’s miss when we were 1-0 up. We really have to bury chances like that.
The Ugly: The fluky cross by Grant Ward; cost us two valuable points.
Ipswich Town: Bartosz Bialkowski 8, Jonas Knudsen 6, Luke Chambers 6, Christophe Berra 6, David McGoldrick 6, Brett Pitman 6 (Dominic Samuel 70, 6), Jordan Spence 6, Cole Skuse 6 (Kevin Bru 45, 6), Grant Ward 7, Freddie Sears 6, Jonathan Douglas 6.
Subs: not used: Dean Gerken, Steven Taylor, Myles Kenlock, Danny Rowe, Toumani Diagouraga.
Goals: Ward 72.
Yellow cards: None.
Birmingham City: Tomasz Kusczcak 6, Emilio Nsue 6, Ryan Shotton 6, Jonathan Grounds 6, Krystian Bielik 7, Paul Robinson 7, Robert Tesche 6, David Davis 6 (Clayton Donaldson 82, N/A), Maikel Kieftenbeld 6 (Stephen Gleeson 86, N/A), Craig Gardner 7 Lukas Jutkiewicz 6.
Subs not used: Adam Legzdins, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Che Adams, Kerim Frei, Cheick Keita.
Goals: Grounds 47.
Yellow cards: Bielik 68.
Referee: Andrew Madley 5: Difficult performance to assess but although there was nothing contentious, the decision making seem to deteriorate as the game progressed. I lost count of the number of times Jutkiewicz, Gardner and latterly Donaldon were manhandled by the Ipswich defenders who lacked pace to cope otherwise. The home side got away with a lot of stuff; I suppose our lot were at it as well but it was less noticeable and we seemed to concede free kicks that didn’t appear to go our way. Fortunately, it didn’t cost us.