Sunday Snap: Chambers’ message, Toto’s NFL move, and Sears passing two Town icons and a legend
PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:16 06 September 2020
Ipswich Town beat Bristol Rovers 3-0 yesterday. Andy Warren looks back at the events surrounding the game.
We all know that this is a case of ‘football, but not as we know it’ as the game re-emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
The empty stands were a stark reminder of the world we’re currently living in, with the win certainly nowhere near as sweet as it would have been had 20,000 fans been inside Portman Road to celebrate it.
But there was at least one little return to normality for the Ipswich Town players as they returned to their home dressing room for this game, having changed for the West Ham friendly in the spacious Sir Bobby Robson suite.
Freddie Sears admitted post-match that the return to their usual surroundings has been a welcome one, allowing the squad to prepare as normal for a game, though I must say I enjoyed the sound of studs clattering down the steps of the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand prior to kick-off in the game against the Hammers.
Age is but a number
Town’s two full-backs shared a combined age of 69, putting Luke Chambers (34) and Stephen Ward (35) firmly in the ‘veteran’ camp.
The pair defied their ages with excellent displays – Chambers with his goal and an excellent pass for Town’s third and Ward with some solid defensive work and a number of forays forward, as the duo reached a combined 1,201 career appearance mark.
But have Town ever had a full-back pairing with so many years under their belt?
Fabian Wilnis and David Unsworth were a combined 66 when they last turned out together, at Brighton in May 2005, while Carlos Edwards and Mark Kennedy were 68 when they played together at Millwall in October 2011.
But, to the best of our knowledge, no pairing surpasses the age of Chambers and Ward.
And they’re only going to get older – Chambers turns 35 at the end of this month.
Skipper’s fast start
On the subject of Chambers, hands up if you would have backed the skipper to be the first Ipswich player caught offside this season?
Or the first to get to re-take a throw-in after failing to get his initial effort onto the pitch? Or the first Ipswich player to be involved in a physical confrontation?
Well, all three of those things happened to Chambers inside the first 10 minutes, on an afternoon where it was clear the skipper was excited to be back in competitive action for the first time in six long months.
As we know, the rest of his day went quite well too, with a headed goal the highlight. He celebrated by putting his fingers in his ears, seemingly a signal to block out the background noise and focus on the football, which he backed up later on social media.
‘More love, less hate’, he wrote.
Toto Nsiala played an excellent ball to open things up for Town’s first goal of the afternoon but his role in the Blues’ second was arguably more vital.
Subtle is not a word often used to describe Nsiala but it’s the perfect one for his role in Chambers’ goal, as he checked in front of Max Ehmer, leaving the central defender on the deck as his man (Chambers) moved towards the near post to head home.
I could watch his part in this goal over and over again, it was that good.
It was the perfect move from Nsiala, a move that would have been equally at home in an NFL offensive line, blocking for a running back, or operating the pick and roll system in the NBA.
Nsiala is clearly a man of many talents.
Are we dreaming?
If we were to turn back the clock to March and I was to tell you that, in September of this year, we would be talking about Toto Nsiala playing a through-ball for Aaron Drinan to run onto and create a goal inside an empty Portman Road, you would surely assume I was talking about an Under 23 game.
Back then both men were out on loan – Nsiala at Bolton and Drinan in Scotland with Ayr – and seemingly a mile from the Town first-team. But both men took their chance in this game and, as Lambert has said, it’s their shirt to lose.
How things have changed.
Moving on up
Congratulations to Freddie Sears who, following his brace in this game, moves inside the top 50 goalscorers in the history of Ipswich Town.
He began the day tied for 51st but, now on 33 goals, has moved above Shefki Kuqi, Jon Walters, Derek Rees and the late, great Kevin Beattie to take 47th spot on his own.
Corrie Ndaba’s Ipswich Town debut has been 18 months in the making, with the young Irishman close to his professional bow in the weeks following Town’s relegation in April 2019.
His career stalled last season but, for the final 10 minutes of this game, he finally got his chance. He’ll be hoping for more in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night.
More importantly, though, he became the first player born on Christmas Day (that’s December 25) to play for Ipswich Town.
The draw for the second round will be made later today, at around 2pm.
At the end of a week in which Flynn Downes has handed in a transfer request and then been given time off amid interest from Crystal Palace, what odds Lambert’s men drawing the Eagles? I’ll answer my own question – it’s a one in 23 chance.
That’s my prediction... either that or yet another trip to Luton.
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