Destination Suffolk, where the lads had struggled quite often on previous trips. However, when the branch are on tour, the classic Pre match branch chin wag is to treat every game like a derby game where form goes out the window. After having been ruled out of a post festive trip to Rotherham due to hygiene reasons, Flaggy was back after a good old wash. Unfortunately, our branch footy team captain Mr Littledyke struggled to get the creases out, but it still stood proud hung hope next to our neighbour Flaggy from Sussex at the Station Hotel boozer.
Onto the day itself, a bit like previous away days our unreliable rail system threatened to scupper our plans. Then comes along a friendly reliable bus replacement service from Colchester to save our day. Before that though it was a trip to the Bricklayers Arms for quality fresh beer on tap and pie ‘n’ mash (not the Cockney version as gravy was included). After a good old refuelling scran stop it was an Asda round the corner which provided the cans to improve the crack on the journey to Portman Road.
Plunking our bots on the back of the bus thinking we were in an Inbetweeners episode we bumped into our good friend Stephen, a signing from the Essex branch a few years back. He gave us a good insight into being a lads fan growing up in Colchester, recounting our defeat at Layer Road ending Roy Keane’s iconic winning streak back in 2007. Despite being an invite only into the away end our dear friend Mr Vasey of course snuck on his red and white top zipped up and had to indulge a sour defeat amongst the home crowd.
As the banter flowed on the bus we were greeted by an unexpected sight of the Lads’ team bus whizzing past with a police escort. Gone are the League One days where our team bus was probably looked at like a National Express bus on motorways up and down the country. Shoutout to our driver, who showed top notch bus parking skills like a Big Sam defence away from home directly opposite the away pub. Onto the boozer crack, the Station Hotel was very welcoming. Never mind Dry Jan, to the London branch it was Wet Jan, with fair prices for a fair choice of pints on draft aside the beer garden where it was cans only.
It was a much sweeter experience than our previous visit where there was barely room to move a bit like a trip to the Roker End in the 70s. Chin wag commenced with members of the Harrogate and Suffolk Mackem branches who indicated where the best place to hang Flaggy was. A fence up a slight incline that gave Flaggy a towering view of the beer garden (sure to know). Our branch admirers Benny Dawson and Pauly Scott arrived to spice up the away day who made their way to Ipswich via the Cambridge route. They also provided strong vocals on Jack Clarke’s tearing apart again chant, which will be a miss if he opts for jellied eels at West Ham rather than mouth-watering cheesy chips on Wearside for now at least (please stay till the end of the season Jack Bonny lad).
Pints consumed, it was time to head to Portman Road which was only a stone’s throw away across the bridge over the river Orwell. Inside prices were pretty reasonable along with scran however bottled beer didn’t go down well on the tastebuds to calm the pre match nerves. However, the game started pretty convincingly with another performance from Abdullah providing the assist for Clarke’s rocket of a shot to put us 1-0 up at the break. However, after half time the game got gradually worse and worse. Even more so with the introduction of Aouchiche, missing a sitter and giving away a free kick that lead to their winner. However, as a branch we don’t just put the blame on one individual for a defeat. On a whole the team second half just weren’t clinical especially defensively where we allowed a striker like Conor Chaplin who looked like you could fit him your key ring looking at him from the stands get a free header in the box.
Eyebrows were raised even more so with Mr Beale as his decision not to start a striker angered the crowd as the chanting turned a bit toxic second half demanding one to be played. Final result a 2–1 defeat which was a tad unfortunate considering they were only out the automatic promotion places on goal difference before this one. The effort there but it just wasn’t enough as the game got stretched when we missed our chances (bring on those new signings). Back on the bus we went to Colchester with a bit of deflation to be fair as we had to embrace the confidence of Ipswich fans who could be set for a return to the Premier League for first time in two decades. Keep the faith our time will come.
The highlight of day was our train home, as we joined by our branch ticket and chair along with other familiar faces. The Asda alcohol raid made the trip filled with songs from all different angles and crack about whether Boro is a derby on not, which is up for debate as they are in the horizon again, unfortunately to be played at their gaff where we’ve got a pony record at as of late. Of course, Flaggy played out the rest of his day on the train back despite one of his bungees been left behind in Ipswich. Overall, a solid day out for the Wear Down South crew kicking off 2024 with a solid display of good crack and bevving. Till next time Tractor Boys, hopefully next a better result.