IPSWICH TOWN 1 BRENTFORD 1
Portman Road, 4 March 2017
Sometimes the result of a football game seems less about ‘which team will win?’ and more about ‘which trend will prevail?’ Brentford’s previous five games had seen a highly entertaining 26 goals. Ipswich’s previous three games has finished one each. Something had to change: what would it be? In the end it was to be Brentford’s high scoring run that petered out, despite their fluid attacking football flowing on several occasions over Ipswich’s flood defences. That perhaps makes it sound more one sided than the relatively even possession statistics suggest. Yet the bottom line doesn’t lie; at heart this was a dull game of few chances, with just two shots on target by each team.
Thankfully for those of us who witnessed it for 97 minutes, that lack of goalmouth action was often skilfully disguised by two midfields trying pass the ball in neat triangles and often below shoulder height. Brentford were better at that than Ipswich – which is probably why they won ten corners compared to just two for the home team – but after a bright start of several half chances for both sides it was Ipswich who took the lead. Inevitably perhaps Tom Lawrence was involved: not via a rasping shot from considerable distance, as has been his trademark for the last three months, but with a quick pass from the right hand side of the penalty area back to his supplier Huws. Whether Lawrence meant that pass to happen in the way that it did is entirely another matter, but just as swiftly as Lawrence had passed the ball to him, Huws touched and then instantaneously struck the ball right-footed from inside the Brentford box, past a static Bees goalkeeper. The fact that Huws shot into the ground first before the ball then bounced forcefully into the net, added even more to Brentford’s defensive confusion. Ipswich fans were taken by just as much surprise as all the players, but it was a strong finish derived from patient, sustained passing involving over half of the Ipswich team.
That patience was also over-cooked by the normally reliable Ipswich captain Luke Chambers. On occasions seemed to be playing his own personal game, on pause and at least a second behind the actual action. Three times in the first half he uncharacteristically dallied on the ball, or mistimed touches. A Brentford equaliser nearly resulted from one such time lapse in the 35th minute, when the lively Canos robbed him near the half way line to set up two shots from team mates. Berra blocked them both: but even he could do little to save his team nine minutes later. Indeed all of Ipswich’s central back three – like the rest of the team – were flummoxed by a delightfully chipped and perfectly timed Sawyer pass, from deep in a crowded attacking midfield space. Yennaris ran onto it and such was the pass’s subtlety that it created time enough for him deftly to size up the situation and then knock the ball past a helpless Bialkowski. Two fine first half goals had been well taken and patiently created. What might the second half bring?
Given a more clinical touch it might have been early goals for McGoldrick in the 51st minute, who after being set up by Lawrence comically mishit his shot, and then for Canos a few minutes later. Once again he was set up by Chambers losing the ball – and once again was thwarted by a Berra block. But it was also Canos who created the best Brentford chance of the second half. After sustained Brentford possession he played a one-two with Vibe that left Chambers and Spence stranded, and Canos in sufficient space for a clear shot at goal from inside the penalty area. Bialkowski was well positioned but could not stop the shot entirely and it appeared to be trickling over the line. Then Kenlock with excellent reactions and impressive maturity, appeared from nowhere smartly to turn and slam the ball to safety from inside the six yard box.
Ipswich’s Bru came on for Huws, and Flo Jo for Canos then Vibe for Shaibu for Brentford. No clear further chances ensued, time ticked on, eased by lots of midfield tip tapping and then … a change of style. The 6 foot 5 inches Moore (previously at non-league Torquay) replaced the Welsh international wizard ten-goal-Tom-Lawrence (previously at the Premier League’s still-reigning champions Leicester). Might such radical action grab a winner for the home team? Certainly it was Ipswich who, at the death, nearly won it. Bru and Skuse combined skilfully to set up Skuse with a fleeting one-on-one with Brentford’s goalkeeper. Skuse had had a fine game but even he would probably admit that he is not an instinctive finisher; and Bentley smothered an under-powered shot.
That proved to be the game’s final and perhaps clearest goal scoring opportunity. One-all it finished and whilst it was a fair result, Brentford fans were the happier. Ipswich’s crowd meanwhile appear simply glad just not be losing. After a lengthy wait they are at last are watching a side that can keep midfield possession and actually pass the ball on the floor. The booing of early January has dissipated; now it is mid table mediocrity and the ‘chides of March’. As the guy behind me commented on the way out “I can’t believe it. We had nothing to go for in the second half … but we didn’t even go for that.”
That might not make much logical sense, but weirdly it summed up the contradictions of a pleasant whilst essentially dull, early Spring afternoon. And at least it was said with a smile on his face…
Match review by Grant Bage