Dave Gooderham: A salute to the super Town fans, and a chance for fringe players to step up in the FA Cup

Ipswich Manager Paul Lambert at Rochdale Picture Pagepix

Ipswich Manager Paul Lambert at Rochdale Picture Pagepix

In an ideal world, the 906 incredible souls who travelled 230 miles to Rochdale and back would be treated to a festival of football. After all, they equated for almost a third of the crowd at the Crown Oil Arena, writes Dave Gooderham.

Ipswich players listening to the last post at Rochdale Picture Pagepix

Ipswich players listening to the last post at Rochdale Picture Pagepix

And, as we know, this sign of commitment from the Blue Army isn't a one-off. The size of away following, especially in comparison with the rest of League One, has arguably been the biggest highlight of the season - even more so than the table-topping stars they are cheering on.

Ipswich Town fans, home and away, I salute you. Like the men in blue on the pitch, you have taken to life in the third tier admirably. One day soon, I hope, you will have a big score to cheer on. But right now, it continues to be '1-0 to the Ipswich'.

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Five away days, and two on the bounce, have seen just a narrow one-goal victory on each occasion. But I guess who cares as long as the three points return to Suffolk.

Rochdale on Tuesday night mirrored what we have seen before. Ipswich not exactly performing at full pelt, but not needing to. Riding a storm, grabbing a goal and then showing commendable game management.

It is hard to argue against that, especially when the table looks so healthy. The gap between first and third is growing all the time - with consistency a big problem for divisional rivals. We should know even more, and hopefully feel even more confident, at the end of this month after facing up to Oxford United, if that game's not postponed, and Blackpool.

Ahead of that, we have to face up to life in the first round of the FA Cup. Saturday's game against Lincoln City would have been more difficult had the Cowley brothers still resided at Sincil Bank. But without them, Lincoln have struggled and home fans should arrive at Portman Road for a rare 3pm kick off with strong optimism.

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The cup hasn't been kind, we all know that with Town not tasting progress for 14 games in the famous old competition. But we now have the sweet taste of victory running throughout the first team squad, no matter what personnel goes out.

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Just as in the EFL Trophy, I want Paul Lambert and his men to take it seriously. For some, it has to be used as a marker to try and convince the manager that they deserve a regular first team spot.

Emyr Huws, Will Keane, James Wilson, Tomas Holy - the list goes on. All, I'm sure, will be needed as the months go on and they need to impress and be ready to step up.

While Lambert seems to have thankfully settled, for now, on a 4-4-2 formation, some of the starting spots remain up for grabs, even without the expected tinkering.

Ipswich players listening to the last post at Rochdale Picture Pagepix

Ipswich players listening to the last post at Rochdale Picture Pagepix

Jon Nolan didn't quite work at Rochdale in the heart of midfield although Nolan, Huws and the like face a real battle wrestling starting spots from young gun Flynn Downes and the evergreen Cole Skuse, when both are fit and available.

Out wide, Danny Rowe has done his case no harm after his match-winning performance at Rochdale. Gwion Edwards, I'm sure, will hope to get more chances further upfield rather than just manfully doing a job at right-back on Tuesday night.

While Alan Judge is showing glimpses, though only glimpses, of his true form - despite his personal admission that, shall we say, he has underperformed this season. It's a family newspaper after all.

If we are being picky - and why shouldn't we strive for footballing perfection - creativity remains a problem for me. At times, in the first half at Rochdale, it was like me playing a game of FIFA 20. Get the ball out wide, swing it in and then hope someone gets on the end of it. Well that's how I play FIFA anyway.

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There weren't too many neat interchanges of play, linking up with frontmen or indeed giving them the right service at the right time. We must credit Rochdale a little for that and sometimes you have to grind and win ugly. What remains impressive is how assured Ipswich look when they go a goal ahead.

Ipswich fans at Rochdale - more than 900 made the trip! Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Ipswich fans at Rochdale - more than 900 made the trip! Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

The marvellous travelling contingent might want a few more goals to cheer. But I'm sure one solitary, slightly scrappy, effort made that long journey back all the more enjoyable.