Stuart Watson's Sunday Verdict: Get Judge and Huws in the groove and Ipswich will really be in business
PUBLISHED: 13:32 12 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:32 12 January 2020
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town are back up to third in the League One table following yesterday's impressive 4-1 home win against Accrington Stanley. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
Nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative… It gets the people going!
That line from Will Ferrell (we're still counting him as an Ipswich fan, right?) sprung to mind after Paul Lambert's surprisingly tetchy post-match press conference.
Who on earth is he referring to when he says that 'some people want us to fail'?
The truth is, we probably shouldn't spend too much time trying to unravel these latest set of Glaswegian riddles. Attempts to do so after Boxing Day certainly proved a waste of time.
If that's what he needs to do to fire himself up then so be it. Stick on Jay Z and Kanye and get angry if you must.
Yesterday was good. Really good. On the day owner Marcus Evans reiterated his desire for 'entertaining' and 'technical' football, Ipswich produced just that.
Three top quality first half goals and it could have easily been six. Fast, furious, focussed… Town were very much on this from the first whistle.
Kayden Jackson triggered the high press. His relentless running and aggressive edge proved the catalyst for Accrington's demise. Wide centre-backs Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden constantly bombed on to give an added dimension to the attack. Alan Judge excelled in his favoured No.10 role, while Emyr Huws produced by far and away his best display of a slow-burning comeback campaign.
Goodness me, if Ipswich can get those last two back anywhere near their best then exciting times are ahead. Slot Kane Vincent-Young in at right wing-back and they could really be in business.
For the first time in a while, Town's team looked like well-oiled machine. It's probably no coincidence that this performance came after Lambert named the same starting XI for consecutive league games for the first time this season. Comparisons with Sheffield United's style of play is another obvious talking point. Lambert doesn't want to be asked about team selection or systems though.
To say that's not what the public are talking about is naïve. Those are the two age old topics of conversation among football fans down the pub or on the internet.
I must admit, I do get infuriated when the minutiae of tactics get over picked at. Don't argue over whether a formation is 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 - it's all basically the same thing.
Paul's right. Ultimately, players win games. That's why the academy and recruitment are the two key areas of every football club. But playing a way that suits the strengths (and minimises the weaknesses) of the personnel at your disposal is important too, otherwise everyone would play the same way. Recently getting the best out of Judge through the middle is a prime example.
Have Ipswich finally found their identity at a crucial point in the campaign? Can chemistry and cohesion grow from here? Now, hopefully, it's a case of replacing like-for-like if individual form or fitness drops. Teddy Bishop can battle with Judge for the No.10 slot, Will Keane (also getting stronger by the week) and Freddie Sears are keeping Norwood and Jackson on their toes, while Cole Skuse, Jon Nolan and Andre Dozzell provide strong midfield competition. A centre-back suitable to this new way of playing is likely to arrive soon too.
Confidence and momentum is huge in sport, so backing up yesterday's display at Oxford on Tuesday night is important. A draw there followed by a win at Tranmere on Saturday? I'd take that.
I was so pleased to see James Norwood score. He'd be feeling a lot differently this morning had he not had that cool finish to counter-act a couple of miscues and the odd poor decision in the final third. As it is, he's been able to take to social media and poke a bit of fun at himself. That's an endearing quality in a person. It is, I think, a sign of true self-belief.
Town's big summer signing is on 10 goals. That's not too shabby for someone who is playing at this level for the first time at the age of 29, who is adapting to a different way of playing and who has undergone groin surgery this season. He gets chances regularly and that's always the sign of a good front man.
He's due another hot streak. I'm increasingly confident he'll hit the magic 20-goal mark.
A football season is much like a Test match in cricket.
Sometimes, the writing can long be on the wall. But in the most engaging encounters, when sport is at its best, momentum swings one way and then the other.
One minute you're on top, the next you're up against it. You make hay while the sun shines and then, when conditions are adverse, it's a case of digging in and hoping/believing a big moment will go your way.
Norwood's lobbed effort nestling in the net was akin to England taking the key wicket of Steve Smith. Finally, a breakthrough. Finally, a killer second.
Town are in a good position heading into the second innings. It could be better, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse. This has all the makings of a down to the wire, nerve-jangling classic. Enjoy it if you can.