Sunday, 19 December 2010

Vague Conclusions from Portman Road

Ipswich Town3-0Leicester
(HT 3-0)
Norris 6
Scotland 27
Scotland 39

If that was football, I'm Dutch. That this game even went ahead is a question of some debate and, bearing in mind the atrocious conditions it is a wonder that after a seventeen minute second-half delay the game reached its dire conclusion.

Inspection: Referee Attwell discusses conditions pre-match
Referee Stuart Attwell, the youngest to ever officiate a Premier League fixture, has come in for harsh criticism by Foxes fans and manager Sven Goran Eriksson, the Swede branding this match "bad PR for football". Indeed, with the game beamed live around the country by Sky Sports, it seems the referee was under intense pressure to allow the game to go ahead. Certainly that is the view of most Leicester supporters.

Attwell deemed conditions bad enough for a yellow ball (bought on not at kick-off but part-way through the first half) and blue painted lines to be required and, despite four potential injuries to Leicester City players, still thought conditions safe enough for the match to go-ahead.

It was Ipswich who took advantage of the conditions as Leicester - wearing for the first time their King-Power emblazoned black strip - struggled to initiate their usual pacey, passing style. Instead the home side's strength and adaptation to the poor conditions saw them take the initiative, David Norris opening the scoring just six minutes in before a brace from Jason Scotland put the game beyond reach of the Foxes.

Whiteout: Paul Gallagher battles through thick snow at Portman Road
Many will praise the referee's decision to suspend play for over a quarter of an hour midway through the second forty-five minutes, but his indecision and lack of authority was made plain as he was bullied into continuing the game by Tractor Boys' manager Roy Keane, himself under pressure after a run of six straight defeats before this fixture sees him teetering towards losing his job.

Perhaps criticism should instead be aimed at Eriksson, whose Foxes side have failed to shine away from home this season as they have once more built the Walkers Stadium into a fortress, symbolised by an epic 5-1 hammering of Doncaster Rovers last weekend. This was Leicester's third humiliating away defeat on the trot, still just six points from a possible eighteen collected by the Foxes away from home under the Swede.

Ipswich, in fairness, adapted much better than Leicester to what were truly atrocious conditions, the only winners on a very wintry afternoon in Suffolk. But the very fact that four other Championship games were postponed, due to much lighter conditions than those that suspended play at Portman Road, firmly places the spotlight over referee Attwell and pressure from Sky Sports that made this game reach its conclusion in farcical circumstances.
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