Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town’s 1-0 win at MK Dons
Ipswich Town remain second in the League One table following tonight’s hard-fought 1-0 win at MK Dons. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
GAME OF TWO HALVES
Ipswich Town extended their unbeaten start to the League One season with a hard-fought 1-0 win at MK Dons.
Jon Nolan's well-taken 12th minute volley proved the difference in a classic game of two halves.
The Blues dominated possession during an impressive first half performance in which the Dons rarely got near their goal.
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Nolan's fine side-footed finish was all they had to show for their efforts come the interval though.
That's because Kayden Jackson was bravely denied one-on-one by keeper Lee Nicholls, while Kane Vincent-Young steered a difficult chance just wide at the end of a slick team move.
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MK Dons made a double sub and switched systems at the break. They upped their game and really got on top as Town legs tired.
It got nervy, but the Blues held on.
Tomas Holy made three decent saves and James Wilson, in particular, defended superbly as the Dons pushed hard for an equaliser.
There was a roar of relief from the packed away end when seven minutes of added time were negotiated, with Paul Lambert marching over to acknowledge the 3,000 fans who had been in fine voice.
That's W5 D3 in the league now, with five clean sheets. Coventry's last-gasp winner against AFC Wimbledon means Town remain in second with a game in hand. Up next... Gillingham away (Saturday).
The formation was advertised as wing-backs when Ipswich Town's put out their line-up graphic on social media an hour before kick-off.
Cole Skuse was meant to be playing in the middle of a back three and, in the opening few minutes, it looked to be that way.
However, MK Dons not playing with their usual wing-back system - they deployed 4-2-3-1 - seemed to lead to an early on-pitch discussion among the Town players.
Plan B was quickly enacted as Skuse moved to the base of a diamond.
The reason Lambert ditched that formation during last season's relegation battle was because his team was getting overrun down the flanks.
Now, in Kane Vincent-Young and Luke Garbutt, he has two full-backs perfectly suited to getting up and down.
To be honest, you could put various numbers on this system given the constant interchange and fluidity.
At times, the full-backs are playing as wide forwards. On occasion 'No.10' Nolan drops into midfield, at other moments he's a third forward.
The result was that there always seemed two options for man in a blue shirt to pass to.
At half-time came the ultimate compliment as the Dons made a double sub and matched up systems.
BOYS ARE BACK
This was Huws' first league start since December 2017.
It was Nolan's first league start since March.
Luke Garbutt went straight into the starting XI following five-week with a knee injury.
Then, in the 35th minute, James Norwood limped off and was replaced by Will Keane. The latter had only made his competitive injury comeback at the weekend.
Any fears that their combined ring-rust would stop the Town cogs turning proved unfounded.
Garbutt picked up where he left off with plenty of running.
Huws may be lacking his box-to-box explosiveness at these early stages of his long-awaited comeback, but his ability on the ball is clear to see.
Nolan provides the midfield goal threat and link play which has sometimes been lacking.
The above was evident when Huws and Nolan combined for the opener.
First, Norwood's cross from the right flashed just beyond the head of Nolan. The midfield man stayed in the box and did superbly to convert Huws' subsequent bending delivery from deep left, opening up his body to side-foot the ball home on the volley.
As the game wore on though, those legs, understandably, began to collectively run out of juice as the adrenaline began to wear off.
Huws swung a tired leg at the ball inside his own box and was quickly replaced by Anthony Georgiou in the 67th minute.
Garbutt missed a far post header when Holy made a fine stop with his legs.
Nolan, encouragingly, seemed to get keep going. His run and cross created a late chance for sub Gwion Edwards which could have killed off the Dons fight back.
All will be better for these valuable minutes in the bank.
THE HOLY GOALIE
Tomas Holy made two smart stops to deny Doncaster in Saturday's goalless home draw.
The giant Czech keeper again came to the rescue when Town needed him here with three good saves in the second half.
First, on the hour, he kept out Conor McGrandles shot through a crowded box with his legs. Four minutes later, he palmed away Jordan Bowery's shot inside the box.
Then, in the 82nd minute, he did superbly to keep out Jordan Houghton's crisp low effort from the corner of the six-yard box - again with his legs.
Will Norris - the 'wolf from Wolves' as Holy has labelled him - will have to stay on the prowl for now.
The final word goes to James Wilson.
His arrival on a free transfer came with little fanfare. The former Lincoln man was seen as a stop-gap squad centre-back, given a contract until January simply to cover until Toto Nsiala was fit again.
Well he's proven himself to be more than that so far. Solid against Burton, AFC Wimbledon and Bolton, he was immense here.
The 30-year-old won countless headers as the pressure rose.
Luke Woolfenden, meanwhile, was rested and on a bench that contained an embarrassment of riches.
This squad is looking strong.