So, what went wrong in the first 20?
For the first 15-20 minutes against Ipswich we were far from our best, with no real possession or control at all. We couldn’t win a tackle, all the second balls were dropping to the opposition, and neither Pritchard nor Neil could get a sniff.
Comparing the first 15 minutes at home last weekend where we totally blew away Plymouth and scored twice, the two games couldn’t be more different.
So what went wrong?
In my view, Ipswich were quite clearly set up better, and way more “up for this match” in that first 20 than we were. With the new manager in the stands, they simply out-pressed and out-chased us, probably hoping to stake a claim for a role in teams to come.
They also focused a lot of their attacking intent on our interim left back, Lynden Gooch, so much so in fact that at times Norwood and Burns seemed to double up on him in attack down the Ipswich right wing. This created opportunities (which were thankfully not taken) as early as 5 mins in, and again on around the 10th minute, with Burns involved in both chances.
The positive point here is that we weathered the storm, and I would personally like to applaud the tactical maturity of Hoffman for potentially helping with that.
On around 14 minutes, Hoffman went down clutching his calf, which miraculously was fine for the rest of the game, after a short spell of treatment from the physio. I may be wrong, but I think he bought the team a couple of minutes to reset, to chat to the head coach, and to breathe. From shortly after that point (about the 19th minute) till when Dajaku went off around 35 mins in, we looked better. Not great, but better.
If that breather was intentionally created by Hoffman, I say well done lad. Thinking beyond your years is something we want in all our players. If not for a weird deflected a cross put into our box, they may not have scored at all.
It looks like Leon took a big knock. How much will that impact our form?
The game stopped for a while on around 35 minutes when a very hard tackle by Evans on Dajaku (which the ref deemed unworthy of even a yellow card) saw him carted off on a golf buggy. With the form our young German winger has had of late, this will cause a lot of concern for a large contingent of the red and white army, myself included.
While I agree he has been a big part of our now seven-game unbeaten run, the way that the team performed with Hume back on the left and Gooch switched to the right does leave some reasons to be positive.
A few minutes before the Ipswich goal, Gooch made a great run only to fail to find a target with his cross. Hume too made some great bursting runs, one of which drew a yellow from a retreating Ipswich defender to prevent a strong counter-attacking opportunity (and thank God, in bursting forward like that he didn’t twang a hammy).
Ipswich looked way less threatening with Hume in his natural slot, which is good to see given the stop-start nature of his contribution to the side.
While it is far from great that Dajaku had to be carted off, the timing of Hume getting back to full fitness was a real yet coincidental bonus. With the way he performed for about an hour, an hour which was forced on him rather than being planned, it could be said that if Leon does need a week or two to recover we thankfully have at least one option. That is as long as Denver stays fit, which is not something he has historically been great at.
Irrespective of the recovery time for the young German and the return to the team of Hume, we simply have to invest in more full back options in the January window. We were already very stretched, such that losing Dajaku even for a couple of weeks could be the difference between making the top two, and heading back to the playoffs, or worse.
So, was a point okay?
Reflecting on the game, I think a point was a fair result, though with Wigan getting all three points at Oxford with an 86th-minute winner from ex-SAFC man James McClean, we will need a couple of good results across the rest of December and into January to make ground up on the top two.
Ipswich created a few chances, from which thankfully they could not capitalise on early on, but then converted a deflected cross very well. We scored a great goal to equalise with a sweet ball from Neil putting the unstoppable Broadhead in, who finished so calmly and strongly, my desire to sign him long-term could not be stronger than it is right now.
We may well have nicked the win if Ross had done better in the 55th minute, but to be fair the keeper did well to prevent the lofty Scot and his attempt to nick it past him. Ross had another chance in the 84th minute, but he got the ball stuck under his feet and couldn’t get a shot away.
Personally, I am happy enough with the 11 points we have from the last five games, and after losing three league games in a row plus an FA cup tie against Mansfield as recently as late October/early November, we have bounced back very well. Our away form does need to step up though, and we simply must despatch the likes of Doncaster, Accrington and Wycombe, all of whom we play away from home in the coming month.
Promotion is very much still there to be automatically won, and if we can convert a couple of away draws into away wins, that will really help our cause.
Could we have done anything differently?
Our options were limited today, as they have been for some time with all the injuries we have had to deal with. If I were in the dugout, I have to say that I would have brought on Kimpioka over O’Brien as our last sub.
I accept that Benji isn’t yet the finished article, but if you want to back one person out of him or O’Brien to do something which may change a game and maybe nick a win in the last 5-10 minutes, I would argue that is way more likely to come from Kimpioka.
I’m not sure if Lee Johnson was mainly putting O’Brien in the shop window one last time before the transfer period re-opens, but the future clearly is not with him, while it may well be very bright for the young Swede in red and white.
He has done well in the Under 23s, and can terrorise defences with his pace, movement, and unpredictability, qualities that can and do win penalties, especially from tired defenders who may have played twice this week. It is also a certainty he will run his socks off for the whole time he is on the pitch.
Other than that option with the last sub, in my view we equipped ourselves well, came back from a goal behind while playing away to one of our rivals for the top 6, and we scored the best goal in the game. I’d maybe have taken a point before the match (while certainly preferring 3), but truth is we are still one game short of the half way point and we are only a single point away from the fabled two points per game. Lots to stay positive about.
For now, we certainly should keep the faith, have some fun down at the Arsenal, and once we get past Santa swinging by, let's fill our sack with goals down at Donnie.
Merry Christmas all, and of course, FTM.