since 1878

Southampton (2) 3 - 3 (1) Ipswich Town

FA Barclaycard Premiership 2001-02

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Referee: U Rennie

Manager: Unknown

St Marys Stadium

Attendance: 29,614

Manager: George Burley

Match Number: 2916

























Match Report

Town earn point in thrilling draw

Ipswich finally played the type of football we all know they are capable of against Southampton. But it was nearly too late, as Burley's battlers had to come back to earn a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw...

What a game. After finally arriving in the City, and finding our way to possibly the least accessible ground in the country, the legions of Town fans who had made the long journey south were finally given something to cheer. After twenty minutes, some Blues fans were still taking their seats despite the 15-minute delay, and could only have been mortified to discover Town were already down 2-0. At this point everyone feared and expected the worse, but we were rewarded with a spirited fight back that made the journey home so much better. For the first time this campaign, we saw glimpses of the Ipswich of old. Against all the odds (and recent form) Town pulled themselves up by the bootlaces, and fought back magnificently to ruin Gordon Strachan's welcome party. We fought back, not once, but twice (who'd have believed it!) from two goals behind to earn a vital point against the team just below us. We should really have taken all three points, as there was only going to be one winner after we equalised, but this fight back should do the team the world of good. St Mary's Stadium is your typical run-of-the mill 'wrap-around' new Stadium. We could have been playing at Middlesbrough, Derby, Reading or Stoke. But to be fair, it is a very impressive arena, with a giant TV screens providing a professional match build up. It's certainly a 'slight' improvement on the Dell. The Paparazzi were there to greet the ginger whinger back in management, and an air of excitement among the Southampton faithful was very evident.

Playing a 3-5-2 system, Venus joined McGeal and Hreidarsson in defence, with Clapham being recalled and playing wingback/midfield. Burley kept faith with Sixto, who played just behind the front two of Stewart and Armstrong. As the match kicked off, the match went to Southampton's script. The home team came out and hustled and bustled, but were restricted to a few long-range efforts. It was actually just when we appeared to have weathered the early storm, and began to take the game to Southampton, that the defence went AWOL. Pahars swung in a ball deep into the penalty area that initially looked to pose no danger. But the physical James Beattie climbed all over John McGreal to poke a header past Sereni. McGeal should have done better, but there was more than a touch of dubiousness about the Saint's first goal. It was another harsh blow, and again the confidence was sapped from the team. They were still trying to recover when the Saints made it two. Beattie turned provider this time, to whip in a cross that fell right on Pahars head at close range. Despite defenders in front of and behind the striker, a challenge never came. Not only was that disappointing, but the fact that Beattie was allowed to cross from the position he did deserves careful analysis. It was basically bad defending from start to finish. It took a long time for the shell-shocked Town team to get themselves together, and Marcus Stewart missing a sitter from close range didn't seem to help. But after 37 minutes, Armstrong won our first corner that Veno whipped in. Stewie stole in brilliantly to head past the stranded Paul Jones. It was a perfect time to get back into the match, and it suddenly inspired the team to attack. The final five minutes of the half was all Ipswich, and even though we ended the half 2-1 down, there was real optimism among the fans that this game was a long way from being over. As the teams came out Burley swapped Makin for Fabian, and Armstrong for Naylor. Bringing on Fabian was a positive move, his pace down the flank provided another avenue of attack, although Armstrong was perhaps unlucky to earn an early bath. As we had hoped, Town came out and attacked. Venus and Clapham both looked impressive, and we all thought it was a matter of time before we equalised. But completely against the run of play, Southampton scored on the break. The chance actually came from a Venus run. The big defender failed to shoot when in a good position, and had the ball nicked from his feet. It was quickly played to Pahars, who again had the beating of McGreal. Sereni parried his shot, but it fell to an unmarked Chris Marsden for another headed goal. We had done it again, thrown away the chance of a come back. No one thought we could comeback from this, but the players had other ideas. They continued to pass the ball around in the same positive manner, and soon the chances began to rain in on Jones' goal. On 61 minutes, Venus cracked home a stunner. He was enjoying getting forward, and after receiving ball from a smart Marcus Stewart lay-off, he smacked a shot that threatened to break the net. It was actually the only goal of the match scored by being kicked, and must the best goal to grace the new Stadium. It probably will be for some time to come. With the Ipswich fans now in full voice almost expecting a leveller, the boys duly continued to push forward. Eight minutes later, the goal finally came. It was a goal almost identical to Town's first, with Stewie racing on to nod home a wicked Venus in-swinger. What made this one all the more sweeter, was the fact that Stewart was being man-marked, or more accurately 'man-handed' at the time. Petrescu had been given the job of marking our danger man, but went as far as trying to climb in Stewie's shirt. Referee Uriah Rennie had a word, but didn't do much to stop the Romanian. But Stewie still remarkably shook him off and steered the ball past Jones. The Town fans were delirious at this point, and we could hardly believe what we were seeing. A winner looked to be on the cards, and more dangerous corners brought chances from Hreidarsson and Naylor. It wasn't to be, and the final whistle ended a whirlwind of a match. As I said in the preview, it was so important we didn't lose this won, and this result could really change our fortunes. As it is, Southampton must be wondering who on earth they will beat at home. Overall, this was a very heartening performance, as we played the best football of the season. The passing was so much better, and it improved as confidence grew. It's such a relief to see Stewie hit form again (Southampton fans must really be sick of him now!), and Peralta was an inventive inspiration in midfield. Venus again showed age hasn't yet got the better of him, and his wonderful goal was the icing on the cake of great performance. You can be critical, and ask how on earth we failed to beat a team we were obviously so much better than in all departments. If only we hadn't have conceded sloppy goals, we could have run out easy winners, and we really do need to start winning a few. But without a doubt, this should be seen as a point gained rather than two lost. In the second half Town became more and more confident with every minute. Even after Southampton's third, the heads didn't drop and the flowing football that has been missing recently flooded back. Hopefully the players can continue this form against West Ham, and earn a much a needed win.

From The Terrace

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