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Parking Ticket

Ipswich Town 1-1 Luton Town (Friendly)

Saturday 24th April 2004 was the last time I was in Ipswich. A couple of goals from David Johnson helping my team Nottingham Forest beat his old team at Portman Road, Johnno's very welcome neat finishes coming either side of a Dean Bowditch strike for the Tractor Boys.


That action came in English football's second tier, a level which Town have recently been promoted back to after a few rough years in the doldrums, people my age, or older, will remember the good old days for Ipswich. The Bobby Robson era brought FA Cup and European success; they were twice runners up in the old top flight before Robson got the England job. His star-studded side of John Wark, Mick Mills, Arnold Murhen, Paul Mariner and more, helping the Blues to a UEFA Cup final win over AZ Alkmaar in 1981, those two legs which ended 5-4 still very much remembered today.


Funny enough, around the time Bobby Robson was replacing Ron Greenwood at FA HQ in 1982, David Pleat was dancing his way into English football's top division with little old Luton Town. The Hatters lasted ten years before relegation ahead of the Premier League era, they haven't been back since, until now.


It's a good three-hour drive from my house in Nottingham, down the A1 I go, onto the A14 where I miss a turn and end up in Cambridge heading up the Histon Road which adds ten more minutes on my journey, back on the dual carriageway with signs for Felixstowe and Ipswich it's a quiet and calm drive South East to the sleepy old Suffolk town itself.


I'm early so pull up at a Morrisons for a pee but as I check twitter to see if the game is all ok and on time without hiccup, it’s only then I notice it's not actually being played at Portman Road, but at the Colchester Community Stadium which is luckily, only fifteen minutes down the A12... My long awaited return to Portman Road, I suppose will have to wait.

The Venue


There’s nowhere to park in Colchester, the club’s website says ‘get here early’ expecting congestion with all car parks already sold out, ‘use the park and ride’ they say, not feasible when you’ve got a three-hour journey back home and don’t know the area particularly well.


I'm scurrying around the industrial part of town off Axial Way near a Volkswagen dealership where I notice a few cars parked on a roundabout, I stick it there for safe keeping, others have done it, a couple of fans get out their cars to check signs which there are none, “you’re good to park here” I tell someone in a blue shirt, but as I later notice, parking two wheels on a curb will cost you thirty five bastard quid!


Unknowing I’m about to get a ticket off the aggrivating wankers that are North Essex Council who’ve clearly deliberately sent a little Hitler out during the match to claw in as much tax as they can from the lost day trippers of Ipswich and Luton who all (like me) struggle to find somewhere suitable to stick their motors, I walk over a stupidly named roman road to United Way where it’s a building site, nothing bar a fenced in David Lloyd Gym before finally the ground appears beneath the dust, modern, cantilevered, like every other four stand small newly built venue in the country, think Burton, think Chesterfield, think unimaginative boring and bland, I’m still disappointed it's not Portman Road, I had my camera fully loaded in particular for the Bobby Robson statue.


Inside however you get a great close-up view of the playing surface and three like-minded sides of your blue seated panorama. After waiting around for the turnstiles to finally open an hour before kick-off, I walked in to immediately order a Steak & Ale pie, Pukka as standard, fully wrapped, with a cup of PG Tips tea, that cost little more than a fiver and hit the spot, as I made my row up to seat 90, row G, elevated half way but close to the pitch and also that of the home team technical area.


The Game


The crowd has filled nicely, I’m sitting beside an Ipswich fan to my left, a Watford fan from Colchester on my right, we’re all tightly packed in as the players walk out “there’s over 6,000 in tonight” the fella to my left says, “they usually only get four here when Colchester play”


Kieran McKenna’s side in blue immediately impress, they play out from the back, thread balls down the sides, look to break fast but dominate possession, Egyptian midfielder Sam Morsy is captain, he’s short, stumpy, runs funny but dictates the midfield centrally, spreading balls out wide and following his pass to receive again.


Rob Edwards Luton see much less of the ball, they’re organised, ugly, 3-5-2, they wait to counter and are far more direct, they use Doughty and Ogbene as wing-backs a lot, and when that doesn’t work, just lump it forward to Adebayo and Morris up top.


But Ipswich are dealing with Luton’s physical front duo, Woolfenden and Burgess head everything away, they are snapping at the sizeable centre forwards and don’t give them an inch, it doesn’t take long for the recently promoted Championship side to score, a cross from the right by Wes Burns seemingly misses everyone, although Nathan Broadhead in true striker like fashion claims the goal.


The Score


Broadhead is soon subbed with an injury, I tell the fella to my left “I hope it’s nothing serious” as Harness is brought on in his place, perhaps just as an early season precaution?


The game is of good standard, but chances are few and far between, Ipswich hit the top of the crossbar with a header by Burgess whilst Luton rarely threat. I’m talking to the chap on my right, a teacher who lives in Colchester, he’s a Watford fan so has an obvious dislike for Luton, he’s talking about their number of Managers and that he just wants to see more young players come through, I ask him who’s the last ‘real’ Watford Academy talent and he tries to claim Jadon Sancho… We end up agreeing at Ashley Young who he tells me was one of the best Watford players he ever saw live… I’m thinking no prizes for guessing the best as he counts down his top three… “Gerard Delofeu sneaks in for that wonderful goal at Wembley but Ashley is second, the best I’ve ever seen is John Barnes though” He did give me an honourable nod to Nigel Callaghan, saying “Because Barnes was so good, he never gets a mention” going on to say “his delivery was brilliant” before telling me “he went on to become a DJ in Corfu you know, he didn’t keep his slim figure though” I reply “I hope he kept his mullet”.


Second half changes are made by Ipswich but not by Luton who stick with the same eleven until the hour, the blues bring on a quartet of attacking pace with new loan signing from Chelsea, Omari Hutchinson exciting the fella to my left “he’s smaller than I thought he would be” he says before telling me “he’s supposed to be bloody quick this lad”.


To be fair to Ipswich, they’re all quick, Freddie Lapado is a real handful coming in off the left, down the right Kayden Jackson is linking up well with Kyle Edwards who has a bundle of tricks, but Luton make changes themselves and that soon brings them back into play, Ogbene breaking after being set away bundled over inside the box and Carlton Morris, with the away sides first real effort on target, dispatches his penalty with ease.


The last few minutes surprisingly swing both ways, an entertaining end with an attacking edge, Luton go close on a couple of occasions before Lapado fires wide from the angle, the two teams huffing and puffing ahead of the whistle being blown, a good workout for both, who’ll both have some positives and negatives on their own performances.


The Stars


I was really impressed with Ipswich and think they’ll do ok in the Championship, Manager McKenna has started to put the clubs ‘identity’ back in Town and they play good football, with neat and quick players, they’re a young but small side and have a lot to be optimistic about after a few pretty crap years before the season last and their thirteen out of fourteen match winning streak which helped secure promotion.


Christian Walton in goal is tall and handles well, Woolfenden and Burgess are almost old-skool defensively, organised and strong physically, verbally communicative with the rest of their team, Morsy was high quality in midfield always offering himself up whilst Wes Burns attacked at every opportunity down the right, in George Hirst and Nathan Broadhead they have two uncomplicated strikers who will get goals, what I liked about their style is they get crosses in from wide positions and don’t mess about, the wingers frequently getting to the bye-line to cut it back quickly into the danger area. In depth they have Lapado, Jackson, Hutchinson and Edwards who probably wouldn’t look out of place in an Olympic 100m semi-final sprint field.


For Luton, well despite their unflattering style they still have a lot to be optimistic about, in the Premier League for the first ever time and in the top tier of English football for the first time since 1992 I think they’ll be a handful, especially at Kenilworth Road. They have a real good old fashioned front two in the leggy Elijah Adebayo and the handful Carlton Morris who I predict will comfortably be a Premier League player, even if Luton are not, in two and three years time, whilst the wingback Ogbene shown pace, his opposite flanker Doughty shown skill, in midfield it was good to see former Manchester United Academy star Tahith Chong eloquently spraying passes, he burst past a defender with lightening speed in the second half before crossing the ball completely out of play, one that's previously flattered to deceive, I feel in a central position in the Hatters heart he can perhaps be a pivotal player next season, speaking of pivotal, it was also great to see Tom Lockyer back after feinting in the playoff final, he epitomises the Luton ethic, captain and leader, underrated, he’s a good footballer and a solid competitor, they’ll need plenty of others to show his heart, desire and work ethic in the season to come.


The Verdict


Ipswich will be ok.. I’ve gone on record to say that in the Championship, anything can happen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this team don’t shock a lot of people by challenging for the playoffs, but in reality, like the fella to my left said “it’ll be too soon to go up again” and I predict a mid to lower table position clear of relegation worries.


For Luton, anything above 18th and the relegation drop will be a bonus. The consensus is that they’ll get battered every week, the fella on my right saying “they might trouble Derby for the lowest ever Premier League points tally” but I’m not so sure… Teams won’t like coming to Kenilworth Road and with their awkward set up and organisation, their strength and fire power up top, they might just handle themselves better than some might say, all things considered, they’ll do very well to survive in the cut throat Premier League and will probably snap my hand off at seventeenth right now.


The Teams


Ipswich Town: Christian Walton, Janoi Donacien (Dominic Ball 46), Luke Woolfenden (George Edmundson 46), Cameron Burgess (Elkan Baggott 62), Leif Davis (Greg Leigh 46), Sam Morsy (Lee Evans 46), Jack Taylor (Kyle Edwards 46), Wes Burns (Kayden Jackson 46), Conor Chaplin (Omari Hutchinson 46), Nathan Broadhead (Marcus Harness 34), George Hirst (Freddie Lapado 46).


Luton Town: James Shea (Matt Macey 75), Chiedozie Ogbene (Joe Taylor 86), Mads Andersen, Tom Lockyer (Allan Campbell 61), Alfie Doughty, Luke Berry (Louie Watson 61), Jordan Clark (John McAtee 86), Dan Potts, Tahith Chong (Aidan Francis-Clark 61), Carlton Morris (Cauley Woodrow 75), Elijah Adebayo (Joe Johnson 61).


7:30pm Kick Off. Tuesday 25th July 2023, Colchester Community Stadium (att 6,000).

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