26th August 2023, Championship.
Wow! Leeds United confounding pundits since 1919 or so it seems! Having failed to beat our previous three league opponents despite bossing each game, we go to Portman Road and beat a team with a 100% record that had conceded only one goal this season! We did it because, for once, our finishing was devastating even though at the other end we still looked fragile, to say the least.
Seeing a front four of Gnonto, Rutter, Piroe, and Sinisterra on the team sheet looked like a huge step forward for us this season. Sinisterra and Gnonto seemingly having settled their respective issues, and the timely arrival of one of the most highly regarded goal-scorers in the Championship in Joel Piroe, it looked a bold move by Daniel Farke to throw them all in but it worked a treat.
Make no bones about it, this Ipswich side is decent – far and away the best side we’ve faced so far this season and with decent results already in their stats. Thus, to go a goal down inside 8 minutes could have really scuppered our afternoon. The goal looked to us in the stands, right in line with the final pass, to be well offside, but with no VAR there is no reprieve in the Championship, if the officials get it wrong, you just have to get on with it – and they got lots wrong today! The liner on the far side from us made several iffy calls while Bobby Madley was as random and inconsistent as ever. Rodon was unlucky then to slide in and scoop the ball past Illan Meslier.
So, a goal down but Leeds today had firepower and, for once, we used it to great effect. We only had 14 attempts at goal (Town had 21) but we found the target 9 times! That is the sort of strike rate we’ve been dreaming about for years!
In nine scintillating minutes, Leeds turned a one-goal deficit into a three-one lead, and the Portman Road crowd was stunned into silence while the Leeds fans went justifiably mental!
First, we saw those twinkling feet of Georginio Rutter again, something we’ve seen many times before but always to no great effect. This time though he added strength to hold off opponents and determination to get away from them as he wiggled through and then capped his close control with a delicious shot into the bottom corner across the keeper. If he can do this regularly then we will finally understand what we have bought. Next, it was the naughty boy Willy Gnonto, still getting a few boos early on although nowhere near as bad as it could have been. But Willy too showed us what we know he can deliver, an awareness and sharpness in front of goal. He nipped in first at the back post to meet a superb Sam Byram cross to give us the lead. Then it was our new man showing similar alertness in front of goal to be there on the spot when the keeper spilled a decent Sinisterra shot. It was the sort of finish we’ve seen go begging for months; so often the ball was there to be stuck in the net but we didn’t have Johnny on the spot. I believe we now have that man; Joel Piroe has done it many times before – 46 times in 96 games for Swansea for example.
So, three one up and just seconds remaining of the first half and we should have been in game management mode, carefully see those final seconds out. But Leeds had been forced to bring on Cody Drameh for Sam Byram earlier in the half and Cody looked all at sea. Skinned a couple of times already he then lost the plot with a suicidal attempted back pass that showed no awareness of players around him. Illan Meslier was able to put in a block tackle but was then out of position when the ball broke towards the byline and was pulled back and finished with the help of an unlucky deflection. It was yet another poor goal to give away and at a crucial point in the game. Farke knows about these sloppy moments as did the previous three managers who all spoke about them. Now is the time to stamp them out and it may still need the odd new face back there to finally make us more watertight.
In the second half, Ipswich showed us how good a side they are – head and shoulders ahead of anything else we’ve seen from the Championship so far - and we rode our luck at times. Illan Meslier also had to be on his best form on occasions too. Daniel Farke also made the brave decision at halftime to replace his substitute, Cody Drameh, with young Jamie Shackleton. For me, that was a masterstroke; Jamie put in a superb performance and is fast becoming our new utility player – comfortable anywhere on the pitch. It was one of his driving runs down the left wing that ended with a slide-rule-perfect pass into the feet of Luis Sinisterra and he also found the perfect finish.
That should have been the game done and dusted but there was still one final twist, albeit so late that many of the home fans will have missed it as they were already on their way home! Charlie Cresswell missed a tackle on the edge of the box and Chaplin was quicker than Joe Rodon to also produce a crisp finish in the corner. Once again it was a defensive error that gifted the chance.
So, the positive aspect was some clinical finishing against a very good Ipswich team and seeing the best of our attacking talent firing on all cylinders. The negative is going a goal down for the fifth game in a row, albeit possibly due to a poor offside call. Some of our defending left a lot to be desired too and conceding three goals is not great. If we can now sort out why we are so fragile at the back and correct it, then we are well on the way to a decent season.
Sky Bet Championship
Ipswich Town 3 (Rodon og 7’, Broadhead 45’, Chaplin 90’)
Leeds United 4 (Rutter 10’, Gnonto 14’, Piroe 19’, Sinisterra 75’)
Ipswich: Hladky (GK), Clarke (Williams 73’), Davis, Morsy (C), Woolfenden, Burns (Harness 84’), Chaplin, Burgess, Jackson (Ladapo 73’), Luongo (Taylor 84’), Broadhead (Hutchinson 73’). Subs not used: Slicker (GK), Edmundson, Evans, Ball.
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Ayling (C) (Cresswell 90’), Ampadu, Piroe (Gyabi 90’) Rodon, Struijk, Gray, Sinisterra (Gelhardt 85’), Rutter, Byram (Drameh 25’(Shackleton 45’)), Gnonto. Subs not used: Darlow (GK), Summerville, Greenwood, Hjelde.
Venue: Portman Road
Attendance: 29,606 (2,008 away)
Referee: Bobby Madley
Booked: Morsy, Luongo, Woolfenden (Ipswich) Shackleton, Meslier, Ayling (Leeds)