Oh calm down, everyone – it’s just a bit of snow.
Snowy spectacular or just frozen farce, Ipswich Town’s dramatic 3-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday evening has become something of a surprise talking point in national newspapers this week, amongst all the usual travel turmoil and delivery dilemmas.
Why, when conditions weren’t deemed fit for purpose at the palaces of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool et al, was a full 90 minutes allowed to proceed at Portman Road where players were left trotting around that arctic plateau? With the deluge forecast well in advance, shouldn’t the match have been called off from the very beginning? And when it came to the crunch, did referee Stuart Attwell – just 28 years of age – simply bottle it in front of the home crowd (and manager) by making the call to resume play in the second half?
That debate can rattle on. Leicester are entitled to their grievances, and Sven-Goran Eriksson can have his rant about playing in conditions which the Swede himself should be more than accustomed to. Frankly, as far as Ipswich Town are concerned, it makes no difference whatsoever.
What matters for Town, and for Roy Keane, is that this extraordinary affair could well be the most significant point of their season.
With 22 players-a-stumblin’ around that white wasteland, it could hardly be seen as a quality game of football. Despite that however, one team clearly adjusted perfectly to playing in the snow, whilst the other – perhaps a virtue of their fluid style of football – could not cope with the crippling conditions.
You won’t see it in any poll of greatest-ever performances, but Ipswich should be proud of what they achieved on Saturday. After losing 6 on the trot, they knew that they desperately needed a win. They would probably have built up to this crucial contest with the hope of banishing their demons and putting on a masterful display of true footballing class… only to run out onto a pitch that might have lent itself better to adorning some appropriately-branded wellies.
You can’t deny it – that would have been a test for anyone. A game where you really need to play your best, and instead you’ll do well just to play at all. Town could have just given up there and then; hobble about freezing your proverbials off and hope enough of the other kids complain for teacher to send you all back into the cosy changing rooms after ten minutes. ‘Never mind, lads – it’s nearly the Christmas holidays anyway.’
Of course, if you have a teacher who is renowned for being ‘ard with a capital ‘A’, you’ll just have to get on with it. Certainly Keane isn’t the sort to be impressed by excuses and wouldn’t have settled for anything less than 100% effort come rain, snow, sleet, hail, cats or dogs. Stop whinging and get some bloody points.
That might not have been Keane’s exact team talk, but it must have been something along those lines. Having not scored 3 in any league game since the opening day and struggling for first-half goals all season, Town came out into the cold as if they’d had a belated November firework shoved up somewhere unmentionable. At times they had seemed incapable of a decent display during this run, but now the Blues suddenly looked like world-beaters (or perhaps Scandinavia-beaters anyway), racing to a 3-0 lead for the first time this campaign – and all in the first half as well.
Admittedly they had a helping hand in their domination – Leicester looked like a bunch of boys that just wanted to go home, and Mark Kennedy was spared his blushes when the post saved him gifting an own goal to the Foxes at 1-0. Nonetheless, the standard of football that Town did manage was surprisingly good. Shane O’Connor might have been frozen out of the first team for a while but he took to the ice like an eskimo, while Jason Scotland – born in the tropical temperatures of Trinidad – rattled in his first two goal haul of the season with a performance that displayed an ability to cope with the snow rather better than that of his namesake country in recent weeks.
We can speculate all we like about how they did it. Maybe their long ball play was more naturally suited to the surface than a Leicester side used to zipping it about the floor. Maybe the playing surface levelled the playing field for Ipswich against a team that on any other day would’ve beaten them. Maybe they just got sick to the back teeth of losing and thought they’d show the finger to Mother Nature for trying to ruin their chances, lest they face the furious furnace of Keane at half-time. However they did it though, they certainly didn’t look like a team that hadn’t won a game since Bonfire Night.
We’ll never know how that match would have panned out if the weather had been less remarkable. For that we have Alan Ferguson and Stuart Attwell to thank. Ferguson and his groundsmen certainly earned their Christmas bonus that evening with the Herculean task of keeping that pitch remotely playable, while Attwell – who could easily have cracked under the weight of Leicester pressure – was merciful to Town’s cause by not cruelly wiping out their healthiest advantage of any game so far this season by abandoning the match. Many will raise eyebrows over the temporary second half suspension, but maybe it just did the job.
What is important for Ipswich, however, is the impact this could now have on their season.
Without this result, they faced the bleak prospect of going into the Christmas cavalcade of Championship contests without a win in nearly two months. Keane, who was being quite widely tipped to get the boot if Town made it an unlucky seven in a row, would probably have worn Marcus Evans’ patience thinner than Bob Cratchit’s wallet. Carrying on in that vein without even so much as a shimmer of light could easily plunge Ipswich Town into the depths of depression and send them into the New Year in worse shape than ever.
For all we know, that might still happen. But having stopped the rot, the Blues might just be able to recover a season that has gone badly wrong.
As bizarre as Saturday’s game was, it possessed a significance, a power to inspire the team to put things right. They were down on form and down and luck, and they had to try and spark a turnaround in fortunes in the worst possible weather, but somehow they did it. Not only did they do it however, but they did it spectacularly. After all their recent woes, the Blues finally reminded themselves how to win, how to score and how to keep a clean sheet. It was a true team effort – indeed by all the staff at Ipswich Town Football Club – to pull that result out of the bag.
And make no mistake – the timing could not have been better. Going into Christmas in bad form is a recipe for disaster, but get into the winning habit and you can pick up the points quickly over the festive programme. To suggest that Town will suddenly find positive consistency after this negative run would be rather naive and premature; a home loss to Watford on Boxing Day might plunge them right back where they started. But at least they now have some hope, some self-belief. And if that astonishing win over Leicester is anything to go by, they certainly have some character in there too.
So Saturday’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ could potentially offer the miracle cure for any Christmas Blues at Ipswich. And who knows; it may just be the pivotal moment in a campaign that has posed potential peril where it had once offered so much promise.
It may be the start of Winter, folks, but for Ipswich, things might just be hotting up.
What did you make of Saturday’s game? Do you think it could be a turning point in our campaign, or just another false dawn? How do you think we will perform over the Christmas period? You can have your say by voting in our latest poll, or you can write your own article for the site on anything and everything Ipswich Town. You can also share your views by joining our forums. Click the banner below and become part of Vital Ipswich: made by the fans, for the fans!