A good result - if not a great one - but taken in isolation, this frenetic and hard-won point at Portman Road was a useful return on an afternoon when, in the early stages at least, Sunderland could well have been blown away by an onslaught from Ipswich.
Ultimately, we didn’t crumble this time and walked away with a share of the spoils that keeps us in a solid third position in the league, albeit a click or two behind Rotherham and Wigan, but right in the automatic promotion mix as winter starts to bite.
It goes without saying that this season our form away from the Stadium of Light this season has been patchy. On home turf we are always a tough nut to crack, but on the road we’ve rarely dominated games and have also been on the receiving end of some fairly dispiriting hammerings as well.
To that end this result wasn’t bad at all, as it proved that falling behind in a tough environment isn’t necessarily an insurmountable challenge for this team, and that perhaps we DID learn some lessons from the dismal results at Portsmouth, Rotherham, and Sheffield Wednesday.
Considering Ipswich were being hailed as potential League One champions following a summer transfer spree, a four-point return is good, but we are now seven games unbeaten, and definitely showing signs that confidence is starting to increase.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about our performance was the way that we didn’t cave in, particularly as Ipswich implemented a gameplan that mixed some menacing attacking play with a physical approach that wasn’t cultured, but did have an impact for a time, as we struggled to get any real foothold in the game.
As the first half wore on, we did - through the likes of Carl Winchester - start to impose ourselves more, but when Leon Dajaku was stretchered off following an atrocious challenge from Lee Evans, which was followed by the opening goal from James Norwood, you did wonder if the same script was going to unfold again.
Fortunately, it didn’t.
Whatever was said at half time clearly had an instant impact, as Dan Neil - whose influence in the first half was largely negated - played a slide-rule pass for Nathan Broadhead, who duly dispatched it for another crucial and well-taken goal.
That set the platform for a second-half performance in which we strung some decent passages of play together, but without making that second breakthrough.
The big positive to take away from this game was the impressive progress of Broadhead, whose value to the team is now soaring, and for whom the prospect of a permanent transfer to Sunderland must surely be on the agenda if a deal can be struck.
The young Welshman really does epitomise most things that we ought to be seeking in a striker: good, intelligent movement, a useful turn of pace, and a keen eye for a goal. With Ross Stewart not at his best right now, the Everton loanee has really raised his game impressively & seems to be relishing the chance to show his worth.
Another standout performer on Saturday was Bailey Wright, who is currently in excellent form and is anchoring our defence with real calmness and is undoubtedly providing a reassuring presence for the likes of Callum Doyle.
As an exercise in highlighting areas for improvement, this match was also useful, because our lack of genuine muscle was once again exposed, and we did look somewhat lightweight in the real physical exchanges.
That is not necessarily a terminal problem, however.
Corry Evans is on the comeback trail, and I’m confident that if we can add some more toughness in defence and in midfield come January, greater protection can be provided for the likes of Neil and Alex Pritchard, and the team won’t find themselves being outgunned physically against roughhouse opposition.
Tomorrow night, assuming Covid doesn’t intervene, it’s Arsenal in the League Cup - a game that we should embrace rather than fear. With no league game until next Monday we can head to the Emirates, relish the chance to have a crack at a top-flight opponent, and see what happens.
If Sunderland’s players aren’t inspired by the opportunity, something is wrong.
We might lose heavily, of course, but how we acquit ourselves will be key.
It is a free hit and gives everyone a chance to regroup before we recommence our league campaign against Doncaster.