Ipswich Town 3:0 Leicester City
Leicester lost at a snow-bound Portman Road to an Ipswich side that adapted to the farcical conditions and deserved their win but the fall-out from the match brings in to question the competency of referee Stuart Atwell.
City fans arriving in Suffolk were greeted with leaden skies and dropping temperatures and the news that Chris Kirkland would be making his debut. By kick off the pitch was under a blanket of snow and the blizzard continued unabated throughout the entire (extended) match. The facts of the match will show that Ipswich won by three goals to nil with goals from Norris and two from Scotland. What the record books will not show is that the events from 5.20pm onwards never once resembled a football match. Credit must go to Ipswich for adapting to the conditions better than City and for showing more desire whereas City simply looked as if they didn’t fancy it.
The conditions got steadily worse throughout the evening and at one point the pitch markings were invisible. Players slid around on the snow and did their best to produce some football but the problem was that, by half-time, Ipswich were three goals to the good. If the score had been 0-0 then the referee would almost certainly have ended proceedings and abandoned the game. If City had been winning then I’m sure the army of stewards and helpers wouldn’t have bothered to clear the lines and parts of the pitch of snow. And if Stuart Atwell could ‘grow a pair’ then he would have had the courage to tell Roy Keane that the match was a farce and it would be played another day. As it was, young Master Atwell was under immense pressure from the home side to keep playing; they were three up and looking to end a six game losing streak so they didn’t give a damn whether or not the match was watchable or not and who can blame them? In the same circumstances I am sure that City would have felt the same.
Meanwhile in the stands the frustrated City fans were making their own entertainment with a repertoire of songs the best of which were: “Get the game off and Keane gets sacked”, “we never lose in the sunshine” and “We never score from a corner”.
The second half saw a seventeen minute interruption when the groundstaff were once again asked to clear the lines as the blizzard continued and players began to lose their footing. Once again Atwell decided that the game would go on (much to the delight of Sky no doubt – let’s not forget how much influence these paymasters can bring to bear on occasions like this) and soon after Miguel Vitor went down on the slippery surface with what looked like a serious injury. But despite this it became clear that this match was going to finish no matter what and Roy Keane would live to fight another day and it was equally clear that the only thing that mattered in this corner of Suffolk was three points. Football would wait for another day.
The other consideration (we are frequently told) is the fans’ safety but this seemed to go by the way when each opportunity to call the game off was turned down. Outside the roads were increasingly dangerous and, at times, impassable and getting worse with each passing minute, and City fans heading home were faced with a long and tricky journey.
The events at Portman Road shouldn’t cloud the fact the City were poor and lost this game because Ipswich showed a better attitude and ‘got on with it’. What is questionable is how little consideration was given to the supporters during the ‘finish it – call it off’ debates. If you paid on the day at this game it would have set you back £32.50 and for what? Certainly not a football match! But Sky were happy, Roy Keane was happy and you can’t help feeling that was all that really mattered.
Ipswich: Fulop, Zuiverloon, Smith, O’Connor (Edwards 77), Delaney, Leadbitter, Kennedy, Norris, Colback, Scotland (Livermore 69), Fallon (Wickham 62). Subs Not Used: Murphy, O’Dea, Peters, Brown.
Leicester: Kirkland, Davies (Hobbs 70), Vitor, Naughton, King, Dyer (Howard 28), Abe, Wellens, Cunningham, Gallagher (Fryatt 65), Vassell. Subs Not Used: Oakley, Weale, Moussa, Morrison.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire). Attendance: 16,728.
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