Ipswich got their season off to a perfect start with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Championship new boys Fulham at Portman Road.
Despite enjoying only a minority of possession, the Tractor Boys’ deadly strike duo of Daryl Murphy and a rehabilitated David McGoldrick both notched against a grossly inexperienced away side. Right-back Tim Hoogland added a late reply for the visitors.
In a new feature Scouting Report, we look at three impressive Ipswich individuals that caught the eye and heartily contributed to their victory.
1. Christophe Berra
Last season’s player of the year had Fulham’s £11 million summer acquisition Ross McCormack in his back pocket from the first whistle and delivered yet another dominant defensive display.
The 29 year-old Scot is Mick McCarthy’s on-pitch general and the crucial part of what is a well-established unit. Berra enjoys a intuitive understanding with both Chambers and Smith; which meant the Whites could never truly penetrate their back line.
Berra is not the quickest and appears somewhat ungainly in possession, but he reads the game effortlessly and is a huge aerial presence. He tested Joronen with a well guided header in the fourth minute, which represented a rare first half Ipswich incursion into Fulham’s penalty area and one of their better chances.
When McCormack endeavoured to run in behind, the centre back intervened with a towering header or a timely interception. When the striker dropped off and tried to float it to the back post, one of Berra’s long legs blocked the centre.
The graphic on the left shows Berra’s 12 clearances on Saturday- six of which were headed- which were a constant feature of Ipswich’s rearguard and a stubborn stopgap against some promising combination play in Fulham’s midfield.
2. Luke Hyam
The local favourite put in a tenacious and physical performance- both literally and figuratively at the very heart of a wholly industrious Ipswich midfield.
In spite of a numerical disadvantage in the middle of the park, Hyam was entirely undeterred and set about his task with characteristic fervour and bite in the challenge. One severe lunge on young Moussa Dembele comes to mind.
In addition to his defensive role in breaking up play and leading Ipswich’s energetic pressing action, the 22 year-old continually looked to make runs beyond the ball carrier and to pick balls up from the two target men up front.
Indeed, he footnoted a surging run from midfield with a cute through ball with the outside of his right foot to Daryl Murphy, which the Irishman went on to convert. This was a vital assist for a goal that really turned the tide of a game which Fulham had previously dictated.
The graphic on the right shows Hyam’s tackling in the tea-time kick off at Portman Road.
3. Daryl Murphy
The Irish striker provided an excellent focal point in the final third, displaying aerial prowess, killer instinct and, notably, a capacity to bring others into the game.
In a praiseworthy, unselfish performance, Murphy willingly ran the channels and stitched together
some high quality link up play which compensated for a lack of natural width in Ipswich’s system.
The 31 year-old fairly terrorised debutant Shaun Hutchinson for both goals: outpacing the defender to lash home the first and subsequently barging him off the ball to deliver a cross that would eventually lead to McGoldrick’s goal.
Murphy won flick-ons consistently, which was a crucial source of territory and opportunity for his partner in crime McGoldrick. He held the ball up expertly, a skill which Fulham were never able to master and consequently, they suffered for it.
Despite being at the centre of the action, the striker- who scored 13 times last season- only shot on two occasions as we can see above- scoring with one of them. Instead, he laid on two further chances for his team-mates in better positions.
Mick McCarthy has build a no-nonsense outfit without star players, but these three contributed more than most on Saturday and would surely be at the heart of a potential playoff bid for the Tractor Boys.