Fuller Flavour: Walton is the best keeper we've had since Bialkowski

Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton makes a fingertip first half save.

Ipswich Town keeper Christian Walton makes a crucial fingertip save in Saturday's 2-1 home win against Accrington Stanley. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

My Football Saturday kicked-off with ITV4’s 'Big Match Revisited'. The second game screened was Ipswich v Tottenham, March 14, 1981.

After an energy-sapping three cup-ties in seven days, it was a physical game that really tested Town’s mettle. To recall the 10 days preceding this game, we had gone away to Saint-Etienne and won 4-1 in the UEFA Cup, drew 3-3 away at Nottingham Forest in a pulsating FA Cup tie and then, three days later, won the reply 1-0.

If you saw the highlights on Saturday morning, you would have seen Tottenham’s physical-approach to the encounter. Mick Mills had to leave the pitch with a dislocated shoulder after a heavy collision, Paul Mariner was on the end of a bad tackle that saw him win a penalty and Kevin O’Callaghan was injured after an off-the-ball incident. Town won the bruising encounter 3-0 thanks to goals from Eric Gates, a John Wark penalty and Alan Brazil.

It felt apt that after viewing 10 minutes of a physical approach from a visiting side, just a few hours later Accrington Stanley would be rolling up in town. We saw what their style of play is all about in the reverse fixture last October. With no fewer than seven of Accrington’s starting XI being 6ft 2in or taller, out-muscling the land of the giants was yet another physical battle for us to negotiate.

Luke Woolfenden and Colby Bishop battle for the ball.

Luke Woolfenden and Colby Bishop battle for the ball. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Back in 1981, we had the players who adapted to a whole array of tests thrown at them and, ultimately on Saturday, we had another that stood up to the test. It took a while though.

When Accrington scored, they were on top and we had to ride our luck a bit. Then came that game-changing moment when Christian Walton made that all-important finger-tip save onto the bar before we equalised.

On Walton, it was fantastic to see confirmation of his permanent signing last Wednesday. He is already, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper we have had since Bartosz Bialkowski and it is another statement of intent by our owners to secure his signing. We are not used to seeing good loan players signing permanently very often.

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Bersant Celina’s through-ball to Wes Burns was in the same class as Sone Aluko’s ball to Matt Penney at Gillingham and Burns finished with aplomb to get us back into the game. From there onwards, I thought we got better and we stifled Accrington’s attempts to ruin the game with their brute force.

Their manager, John Coleman, was unhappy with a couple of incidents after the game but, unsurprisingly, he failed to mention the constant ear-bashing words of his players to the referee. John O’Sullivan in particular avoided a yellow card for endless dissent. Yet Celina had a momentary outburst and saw a yellow card almost in an instant.

Kane Vincent-Young has his legs taken from under him by Harry Pell.

Kane Vincent-Young is wiped out by Accrington midfielder Harry Pell. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

So, all in all, a tremendous win as a result of some determined effort which showed character that was perhaps not as evident earlier in the season.

I have been very impressed with Kieran McKenna from day one as far as his interviews go. His post-match thoughts showed a calm, measured and level-headed persona. He recognised both the positives and negatives of Saturday’s game. He knows what needs to be worked on and there were no boring clichés once again. He is very likeable indeed.

With the fantastic news of Walton’s signing and news over the weekend that James Norwood is set to stay at the club, they are two moves that have gone down well with the majority of supporters. It was interesting to see Tyreece Simpson recalled from Swindon. There were murmurs that it could have been because Norwood might be set to leave. It will be interesting to see what happens next for the youngster who has been a hit in Wiltshire.

I am looking forward to tomorrow night’s trip to AFC Wimbledon for what will be my first look at their new Plough Lane ground. My last trip to The Wombles was when they played at Kingsmeadow Stadium. I literally only saw what was in front of me and that was one penalty area. Hopefully both the view and the result will be much better this time around.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna celebrates.

Ipswich Town have won three of their first four games under new boss Kieran McKenna. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com