Dozzell's display, points to prove and youngsters impressing Hurst - observations as Ipswich U23s win again
PUBLISHED: 20:51 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 21:06 24 September 2018
Ipswich Town’s Under 23s remain top of the league following tonight’s 4-1 victory over Coventry City. Andy Warren gives his thoughts on the game.Do
Tale of the game
Paul Hurst and his entire first-team staff attended this game, as they have done regularly throughout their time in charge, and will have liked what they saw.
As was set out following his appointment, there is a desire for the club’s young sides to replicate the first-team’s playing style and that was in evidence once again as the young Blues lined up in a variant of the 4-1-4-1 system often deployed at senior level.
The youngsters moved the ball around superbly during a fast start, with the midfield line linking with lone striker Jordan Roberts well even before the former Crawley man headed the hosts in front on 11 minutes.
The likes of Idris El Mizouni, Andre Dozzell and Jack Lankester made Ipswich tick, playing with confidence against a strong Coventry side containing a number of players with considerable first-team experience.
It was soon 2-0 as Myles Kenlock sent Ben Folami away in the area for the Australian to fire home, but Jodi Jones grabbed one back for the visitors within a minute.
The contest became more even in the second period but the young Blues extended their lead when Lankester drove the ball home after a period of sustained pressure.
The win was secured as Folami fired home his second, made by the quick feet and thinking of Dozzell as he exchanged passes with El Mizouni on the edge of the box.
Games such as this bear little resemblance to first-team matches, with players afforded more time on the ball in contests played to much lower intensity, but the signs were good.
It’s of course promising to see just how the system could work, with this young Ipswich side sitting top of the Professional Development League South table, but any comparisons are simply unfair.
Ipswich Town U23s: Wright; Crowe, Smith, Ndaba, Kenlock; Downes, Dozzell, El Mizouni; Lankester (K Brown, 87), Folami, Roberts.
There has been much intrigue surrounding the England Under 19 international during the early weeks of the Hurst era.
He’s not in consideration for the first team at the moment and has spent spells training with the Under 23s as he continues his recovery from a knee ligament injury which ended his 2017/18 season before it had really began.
Hurst and his medical team have highlighted ‘physical deficiencies’ in his make-up which puts him at risk of injuring himself again, which is why the Ipswich manager says they are taking a measured approach with him.
That’s not stopped calls for his inclusion in the first team, though, while he has been a regular for the Under 23s of late despite those fitness concerns.
On this occasion he showed glimpses of the neat touches, excellent control, desire for the ball, vision and gliding runs we have come to expect from him, without ever truly taking the game by the scruff of the neck.
At times he makes the game look easy, while it’s also clear he had further gears to find. His exchange with El Mizouni for Folami’s second showed just what he is all about.
Hurst has stated he is a big fan of Dozzell and sees a bright future, but it’s clear we will have to wait some time before seeing the impact he could potentially have on the first-team.
Pushing their case
Roberts, Flynn Downes and Kenlock would all have seen this game as an opportunity to push for a place in Hurst’s starting XI.
Downes, deployed at the base of midfield, is a regular in matchday squads and came on to good effect against Brentford a week ago. He looked comfortable in this one, both with and without the ball, and allowed those in front of him time and space to attack. He was able to drive out of midfield on occasion while looking neat and tidy throughout. Lacked the bite in the tackle he has often shown, but that’s perhaps more to do with the environment in which he was playing.
Roberts was deployed as a central striker before switching to the left flank, but is seen as very much a wide man by Hurst. He opened the scoring with a good header and was a decent outlet, all while showing good touches and awareness. Hurst has previously stated he sees Roberts as something of a project (although he is not a fan of that particular expression) and this was another step for the 24-year-old.
Kenlock appears to be firmly behind Danish international Jonas Knudsen in the left back stakes but has never let the first team down when called upon. He was extremely comfortable in this one, both in his defending and stepping out from the back with the ball – which he showed as he created Folami’s first goal.
Beyond those senior players looking to push for first-team places, Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg’s side contains a group of players with seemingly bright futures.
Jack Lankester signed a professional deal earlier in the season and once again impressed. Hurst likes his character and he will have liked what he saw from the confident teenager again as he showed good touches, dribbling ability and positional sense from his wide right position. He likes to cut inside and shoot but is also capable of finding pass and tackling back. His goal was just reward for his performance.
A first-team inclusion can’t be too far away.
Young Frenchman El Mizouni is also a tidy player, looking to link midfield and attack. He’s comfortable on the ball, happy to lay the ball off first time and not afraid to look for a killer pass. It doesn’t always come off, but the vision is there.
Folami showed flashes of what he’s all about at the end of last season but has been a long way from the first-team picture this time around. He performed well, though, not giving his full-back a moment’s rest and finding the net with a well-placed shot before doubling his tally late on.
The men who weren’t here
The Under 23s has been a proving ground for players battling back from long-term injury but, Dozzell aside, none were involved in this one.
Emyr Huws has been dealing with a ‘puffy’ knee throughout his comeback and hasn’t appeared for the young Blues since playing 45 minutes in the 8-0 victory over Hull and then scoring at Crewe a few days later.
Teddy Bishop exited the U23 win at Watford with a hamstring injury last week but is not expected to be out for a prolonged period, while Danny Rowe was not involved again having impressed in the youth side in recent weeks.
There is no sign of a return of any sorts for Tom Adeyemi, who continues to struggle with an Achilles issue.
A place to find form?
Is there an argument that the likes of Freddie Sears could have benefited from being involved in this fixture?
The striker has not appeared under Hurst since the 2-1 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday in August. Indeed, he’s not made the bench since as he’s slipped down the pecking order.
There’s been no suggestion of an injury, with Hurst recently saying the striker would have to remain patient. If fit, then surely this would have been an environment for the former Colchester man to prove his point.
There are others you could put in this category. Could Ellis Harrison benefit from finding the net in such games? Could minutes help Jordan Graham get up to speed?
The other side of that argument is that confidence can take a hit if players are dropped to the 23s, while there may be more value in a high-energy first team training session than in an often low-tempo contest between two age-group sides.
Food for thought.