Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United
PUBLISHED: 20:56 27 April 2019 | UPDATED: 20:57 27 April 2019
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Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at Sheffield United this afternoon as the Blades effectively sealed promotion to the Premier League. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
GULF IN CLASS
This was a 2-0 thrashing.
Scott Hogan's finish on the run (24) and Jack O'Connell's thumping header at a corner (71) barely told the tale.
It looked every inch the Premier League versus League One match-up it will soon be. A gulf in class. Men against boys. A chastening experience beamed to a national television audience.
And it should come as no surprise either. There was a reason the Blues went into this game as mammoth 20/1 outsiders.
Sheffield United are a well-oiled machine. A team full of leaders and top players. Today they could smell promotion.
Town, by contrast, are injury-ridden, tactically experimenting and – most damaging of all – physically and mentally shot following an emotionally draining campaign.
To be honest, we could have all done with the season ending once that big red 'R' appeared following the Birmingham game.
These last few games, against good opposition, were always going to be difficult to navigate.
Town's fate is of their own making. Boy have the football Gods kicked them while they are down though.
Will Keane last just six minutes before pulling up with a recurrence of the hamstring injury which kept him out for eight games recently.
Town have now got a big decision to make regarding how far they push the boat out to try and sign the soon-to-be out-of-contract Hull City loanee this summer.
Then Kayden Jackson felt a hamstring tighten up after the break and had to come off too.
It left the Blues, remarkably, with barely a single fit striker or winger at the club.
Jon Walters came and went earlier in the campaign. Keane, Jackson, Freddie Sears, Jack Lankester, Grant Ward, Gwion Edwards, Ellis Harrison, Collin Quaner, Ben Morris, Ben Folami are all currently in the treatment room.
COLE'S NEW ROLE
One positive to take from today was the performance of Cole Skuse at centre-back.
Lambert had started with a diamond midfield and two up front, but Keane's early injury forced a tactical reshuffle.
He matched up the home side's wing-back system. Skuse sat at the heart of a back three with Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala either side of him.
The 33-year-old has lacked dynamism since his ridiculously quick return from knee surgery. What he never lacks is his ability to read the game.
His interceptor skills came to the fore here. While others around him looked panicked on and off the ball, he calmly stepped in when necessary.
It's a role that might just suit him in the twilight years of his career.
Town have gone the entire campaign without keeping a single clean sheet on the road (25 games in all competitions).
They have conceded, on average, two goals a game away from home in the league (46 in 23).
There's a very good chance they will end the season with just four wins to their name. That's the joint-lowest in Championship history alongside Blackpool in 2014/15.
BLADES OF GLORY
It's been a long journey to this point for Sheffield United.
They recently spent six years in League One. There were near play-off misses. Then Chris Wilder arrived. Now it's two promotions in three seasons.
That's how quickly things can turn.
And theirs has not been a story of a mega money takeover turnaround either. It's been a slow, steady rebuild. A team worth more than the sum of its parts. A team with an identity. A club with a connection to the fans.
Ipswich Town have to take inspiration from that.