Ipswich Town 4 v Barnsley Match 2
Portman Road, 6th August, 2016
Bathed in Suffolk’s finest August sunshine, Ralph and I sauntered to Portman Road meditating upon why we loved football. New seasons and opening fixtures are always special, of course. For one day only and for every single club, supporters authentically can dream ‘this year – could be our year’. That new signing, this fresh formation, a crafty combination of youth and experience and hey: miracles can happen!
Only for most of us they don’t and by 45 minutes into Ipswich Town’s new season, they definitely hadn’t. Ipswich’s starting eleven contained attractive, attacking players. Unfortunately they were still squeezed into the dull and narrow 4-4-2 system that last season bored the Portman Road faithful, and many opposing teams, into sullen submission. It was a stifling first half but Barnsley were the brighter. Despite nine signings they looked every inch the side still on that amazing run, starting in the depths of League 1 at Christmas 2015, and ending in Wembley promotion glory some six months later. Indeed Barnsley should have led at half time, but for a wasted close-range header from Bradshaw straight at the goalkeeper; then a stunning reflex, strong wristed save by Ipswich’s excellent Bialkowski. Diving low to his right somehow, in the 43rd minute, he punched out Bradshaw’s six yard slam-and-dip shot for a corner.
Cue half time Ipswich yawns. Then adventurously and out of character, came two McCarthy substitutions. Home wishes were granted (groan) via second half debuts for permanent signing Grant Ward (from Tottenham) and year-long loan Connor Grant (from Everton). Within a minute the 4-3-3 formation paid off and Ward reacted coolly to slot home from inside the box.
Three minutes later Barnsley captain Hourihane deservedly pulled The Terriers level from close range before Ward, with another right foot shot ten minutes later, hit a second from 15 yards out. That was closely followed by a McGoldrick penalty, created by Murphy’s excellent run in the box. Still Barnsley refused to give in and a powerful header into the far corner, from a fine Hourihane free kick, saw Watkins reduce the deficit. Then and perhaps inevitably, given the carnival that had been the second half, Grant Ward completed a debut second-half hat-trick. From the edge of the Barnsley area he telescoped a sweet shot, so low into the corner that Barnsley’s goalkeeper could only assist it into the net, via an outstretched left hand.
Despite the result and far fewer summer signings than Barnsley, Ipswich looked markedly the less coherent side. They cannot rely on another hat-trick miracle next week at Brentford on 13 August and will quickly need to graft the right combination of their squad’s younger midfielders and defenders, with their more experienced attackers. Meanwhile if Barnsley can pick up a win in the next couple of games, starting at home to Derby next Saturday, there is no reason why they shouldn’t maintain their momentum from last year: at least whilst the August sun shines.
Ipswich are currently 15-8 to win away at Brentford, where they have struggled to win in recent seasons despite playing well. Man to watch – Daryl Murphy with two great assists against Barnsley.
Barnsley’s 2-1 to beat Derby home, which given their two goals and further chances against Ipswich, is well within their capability. Man to watch – Bradshaw who won’t want to miss any more chances and was unlucky not to score on Saturday.
Match report by Grant Bage