Dave Gooderham: Judge showed why we didn’t need to sign Szmodics, or any other playmaker, in the transfer window
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Two words seem to be dominating the Ipswich Town landscape at present – “must win”, writes Dave Gooderham.
I've used it myself more than once in this very column over the last few weeks and one caller on Radio Suffolk used it when previewing Saturday's match against Oxford.
Of course, she was right. One look at the league table shows how tight and tantalising it is. A win over Oxford could push some daylight between Ipswich and the sides, Oxford included, below them - and indeed could see them leapfrog back into the top six.
Draw or lose and the atmosphere inside Portman Road and on social media channels could become sour once more. I don't want to contemplate anything but another three points this weekend. Why should I when I left Portman Road on Saturday evening with more than a spring in my step?
Burton Albion, a rather poor League One outfit, had been well and truly put to the sword on an afternoon when four goals could have easily been seven or eight.
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A quick, and slightly concerning, caveat to that is the thought of Kayden Jackson going one-on-one with the opposition goalkeeper in the play-off semi-final, when the stakes are at their highest. A great performance by Town's number nine but he still needs to be more clinical. And he was not alone.
But to point to the negatives after Saturday's comprehensive win would be unfair. So let's focus on a huge positive. On his day, our Irish Messi should be the best player in League One. Some supporters might have moaned about Peterborough landing Sammie Szmodics in the January transfer window. But when you have Alan Judge in this kind of form, was another playmaker really needed?
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His assist for Jackson's second goal was sumptuous to say the least. His boot-throwing antics aimed at manager Paul Lambert comical and hopefully a sign that he is enjoying life in Suffolk.
I always hoped certain Ipswich players would rise to the occasion and challenge when they were truly needed - and Judge did that, and more, on Saturday. He is a class apart at this level and we just need to see that on a more consistent basis. But it does help playing him in the right position to show off all that diminutive dynamite in his boots.
Other plus points? Four goals always helps and recovering from an early goal points to the type of resilience that will also be needed in the run-in. Jackson took his goals well, Flynn Downes is too good for this level (and I fear Ipswich Town) and Will Keane showed that he is one of the brainiest players in the pack.
After that, there were not too many low points with Lambert right to declare this as the most complete performance under his regime. Of course, it now has to be followed up in the next "must-win" but we must all savour such performances as well. Soak it in, smile about it, laugh at Judge and his boot-throwing, before we turn our attentions to the next test at Portman Road.
A lot has been written this season about Town's young guns who, as it turns out, aren't quite as young as we give them credit for.
Maybe it's because I'm about to turn 41, maybe I'm growing romantic (in a football sense) in my middle age, but I wanted to end this column by spotlighting a couple of old stagers.
Cole Skuse should be offered a new deal, albeit on less terms for less years, but hopefully with some coaching role included. There I've said it. And I'm not going back on it. Skuse, for some odd reason, has seemingly lost favour with a section of supporters. The emergence of Downes probably hasn't helped the 33-year-old.
But in this division, and even in the Championship, we are going to need a couple of old heads. Not too many, but a few who have been round the block and know all about game management. Luke Chambers is one, of course. But Skuse's experience also remains vital and I hope common sense prevails on all sides when it comes to striking a new deal.
Talking of experience, who can not be warmed by having Terry Butcher back in the fold? I feel privileged to have met the big man, and even been coached by him in a charity game, and his enthusiasm for football - and Ipswich Town in particular - is always infectious.
The young guns will give Butch the respect he deserves and should learn so much from him. Not least how lucky they are to play the game we all love.