Ipswich Town 0 Portsmouth 0: Jordan Cross' verdict as 'boring' Blues thrill with faithful finally witnessing team in their image

The disdain of a packed Portman Road crowd was audible, but at the same moment so was their frustration.

By Jordan Cross
Sunday, 13th March 2022, 10:01 am
Updated Sunday, 13th March 2022, 10:12 am

This was the anticipated afternoon for the heaviest of League One’s financial hitters to pit their wits against a similarly in-form foe and prove their worth, as they finally begin to punch their weight under one of the game’s managerial bright, young things.

But for all their attacking might, a stoic, stubborn and unflinching opponent had driven the Ipswich faithful to distraction as they refused to yield. Now was the time to make their feelings known.

‘Boring, boring Pompey,’ came the Tractor Boys’ assessment of Danny Cowley’s men, with an unconcealed contempt for what they were witnessing from their opponent.

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Truth is, these were the exasperated words of a sizeable fanbase who could see their side had just about run out of ideas.

Truth is, it couldn’t have sounded any sweeter to the 2,000 travelling Pompey fans if Ipswich were singing the Chimes.

If you wanted sure evidence a side starting to realise their sizeable potential at this level had hit a red and black brick wall, this was it.

If you wanted a compelling argument for why the man winning royal blue hearts and minds undeniably changed tack for one of the toughest assignments of the season, look no further.

Danny Cowley at Ipswich yesterday.

He couldn’t say it in the build-up to the game in the tribal business of football, but Cowley respects Ipswich. A lot.

He appreciates the size of the club, he understands how their monetary muscle has raised the bar at this level and he believes they now have a coach at the helm who is going to realise the club’s potential. If not this season, then next.

A playing budget which the benchmarking reports suggest is a smidgen shy of £12m, or getting on towards three times Pompey’s, is the context behind a move which told of the esteem the Blues boss had for his opponent.

Cowley was fearful over what would unfold if his men attempted to stand toe to toe and slug it out with Ipswich. So he devised a gameplan which saw his men box clever and attempt to outmanoeuvre their opponent.

Danny Cowley praised the travelling Pompey fans for their support at Portman Road

The pattern was quickly set, with Pompey sacrificing the possession they often cherish with a low block denying the space for Ipswich to exploit.

It was a policy transferred beautifully from the Roko training pitches to the cut and thrust of battle between two sides toying with renewed top-six hopes.

It took until first-half stoppage time for Ipswich to seriously extend Gavin Bazunu, as Kayden Jackson just about won his foot race with Hayden Carter. His angled drive couldn’t beat the Irishman, but his straining in doing so was enough to put paid to his afternoon.

Cowley, meanwhile, set his side up to find the opportunities to break out in counters when they presented themselves. And those moments were certainly there.

When the two-on-two breaks arose, however, Pompey either couldn’t find the final pass to beat an impenetrable Ipswich back line or the legs to get in behind a defence which has now conceded a single goal in nine games.

Yet they still could muster what Cowley viewed as the afternoon’s most presentable opening in the 22nd minute. Frustratingly, Aiden O’Brien couldn’t steer Ronan Curtis’ cutback on target from close range, however.

In return, though, Ipswich could offer little of more significance as Pompey’s 3-4-2-1 formation became more 5-4-1 as the afternoon progressed.

Conor Chaplin buzzed and probed for chinks of light in the visitor’s rearguard action which weren’t there.

Then Bersant Celina again found Bazunu in a similar bloody-minded mood to the rest of his defence, when he was extended in the 75th minute. That after Sean Raggett had flashed a header just over the bar and on to the top of the netting.

But Ipswich’s irritation was maddening by the time Dominic Thompson and Cowley did their touchline foxtrot, as the Ipswich man tried to retrieve the ball for a throw - prompting an eager audience from both sides to join them on the technical area dancefloor.

The Ipswich man, Ronan Curtis and the Pompey boss were those censured, but it was a surefire signifier of a job well done by the man who’d constructed the successful battle plan.

The home side had their cause for consternation late on, as Macauley Bonne fired home from close range with Luke Woolfenden wrongly adjudged to have played an active role in the move from an offside position.

The nuances of the offside rule were still being debated and the lack of VAR rued, as the man who’s invigorated Pompey season gave his latest rousing post-match address.

‘I think we might not be able to compete with Ipswich off the pitch right now, but we’ve shown that we can compete with them on it - and in the stands,’ said Cowley with the underdog narrative he is peddling sitting snugly on this occasion.

It’s a rhetoric which is being received readily by listening Pompey ears, with 10 games now remaining to decide the season’s outcome.

The back-of-fag-packet maths and amateur number crunching leads to a suspicion an unusually inflated play-off total may be required this term, one which would take a special run to hit.

But with an indomitable team finally being shaped in their image, it’s going to be fun finding out for the Fratton faithful.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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