Carl Marston’s notes on the Blues: Downes is a class act, and Norwood will score plenty!
Former Ipswich Town writer CARL MARSTON cast his eye over Town, for the first time in several seasons, at Burton Albion last Saturday. He was encouraged!
Having reported on Ipswich Town's underachieving years during the Roy Keane and Paul Jewell eras, I thought it about time that I took another look at Suffolk's premier club, on the downward spiral, on the opening day of the season last weekend.
Duties elsewhere, in non-league circles and covering the fortunes of Colchester United in the fourth tier, had kept me away from Portman Road and in fact all Town's fixtures in recent seasons.
My expectations were quite low, at Burton Albion last weekend, based on what I had heard, seen, and read about during last season's miserable relegation campaign.
But I must say that I was encouraged by what I saw.
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True, a 1-0 away win at Burton Albion, who were a non-league outfit as recently as 2009, does not immediately suggest a season of huge success, capped by promotion back to the Championship.
But a win is a win, and Town showed the qualities necessary to be involved at the top end of the table during the course of the coming eight months.
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For old time's sake, here's a few observations from a correspondent who struggled to find any positives from those distant eras under Keane and the early days of Jewell.
Ups and Downes
For me, one player stood out from both teams on Saturday - Town midfielder Flynn Downes.
It's always heartening to see a home-grown talent make the grade, especially in the cauldron of central midfield, and 20-year-old Downes looks a class act.
Attached to Town since the age of seven, this was a very mature performance from a player who stamped his authority on the game early on, and did not let his standards drop.
This was his 40th league appearance in a Town shirt, but to me it could have been his 400th!
Threat from the flanks
Luke Garbutt and Danny Rowe gave Town some real width, and more importantly some high energy.
Having reported on Garbutt's second-ever loan spell away at Everton, at Colchester United six years ago, I always knew that he was a big talent and a possible regular Toffees left-back.
Unfortunately, he has not really progressed enough to make the grade at Goodison Park, on the Premier League stage, but Garbutt will be a force in League One.
Operating on the left side of midfield gives him more freedom to roam forward, deliver crosses and of course test his shooting skills. Marking his Town debut with a goal, and the winning goal at that, was the perfect way to begin an important season, both for himself and his new club.
On the other side of the pitch, I was even more impressed by the attributes of Danny Rowe, especially during a sparkling first-half display.
Rowe seems to have benefited from previous loan spells at Lincoln City. He was always in the action and was behind most of Town's best attacking moves.
If he can maintain these high standards for the whole season, then Town have a willing outlet on the flank.
A big presence
Tomas Holy, at 6ft 9ins, is a commanding presence and, but for one lapse which almost led to a late Burton equaliser, delivered a competent debut.
Town fans will have found it strange not seeing either Dean Gerken or Bartosz Bialkowski between the sticks, but Holy certainly filled the gap between the posts at the Pirelli!
I thought he looked comfortable in dealing with crosses - as you would expect from a keeper of his size - and he should put a few strikers off whenever he advances off his line to deal with loose balls or stray passes.
Hopefully, his kicking will improve, and hopefully he will cut out the sluggish error that almost allowed Liam Boyce to score after the striker charged down his attempted clearance.
Big potential up top
I have had the good fortune to see James Norwood in action on several occasions for his former club, Tranmere Rovers, and I can confirm that the 28-year-old WILL score a large number of goals for Town in League One this term.
He was frustrated at the Pirelli Stadium, in terms of chances to score, but his hold-up play was good and he kept Burton's defenders on their toes all afternoon.
He might not score the 29 goals that he managed for Rovers in League Two last term, but I will be surprised if he doesn't threaten the 20-mark for Town.
The fact that boss Paul Lambert was prepared to operate with two strikers on Saturday was also a good sign for the future.
In short - encouraging!