Lambert’s spoilt for choice in the centre of defence... so which way will he go at Gillingham?
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town return to action away at Gillingham this weekend. ANDY WARREN looks at the talking points heading into the League One clash at Priestfield.
Praise the Lord
There was concern as leading scorer James Norwood limped off the field on Tuesday night.
It was later revealed the five-goal forward has been dealing with a similar groin injury for some time, dating back to his time at Tranmere, with Lambert not seeming overly concerned.
Norwood was still able to take part in a charity wrestling event on Wednesday night and declared his groin to be 'fine' in the aftermath, so the hope must be he will be good to go at Gillingham on Saturday.
Will Keane replaced him in Milton Keynes and is an able deputy, although the nature of Ipswich's attack certainly changed following the switch. The former Hull man is probably not yet ready to start games and compete 90 minutes, following hamstring surgery in the summer, so having Norwood fit enough to be involved is likely to be a real plus.
He's surely due a rest at some point, though, having started all eight League One games since his summer move.
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There has been a contrasting approach to the spine of the Ipswich Town side this season.
On the one hand Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes have started all eight league games for the Blues. On the other, central defenders Luke Chambers (six appearances), Luke Woolfenden (six) and James Wilson (four) have all been rested by Lambert as he's rotated his defence.
Woolfenden was on the sidelines in Milton Keynes despite enjoying an excellent start to the season, with the youngster watching on as Chambers and Wilson put in a top class display. The latter, in particular, was excellent and certainly doesn't deserve to drop out of the side this weekend.
If the rotation policy continues then Chambers is the next to be given a rest, but is Lambert really going to leave out his captain when he's been playing so well? Decisions, decisions. There's also Toto Nsiala to throw into the mix, now he's back from a hamstring injury.
The Town boss could, of course, go with three at the back as he did briefly at MK Dons, with Skuse starting between Chambers and Wilson.
In midfield, either or both of Skuse and Downes will surely dip out of the side at some point, though it should come as no surprise if they are named from the start once again this weekend.
Goalkeeper Tomas Holy and Norwood are the only other players to have started all eight league games.
As well as a formation shift, with the foray into the world of wing-backs ultimately lasting little more than 90 seconds, a portion of the pre-match intrigue at MK Dons related to the use of players on their way back from injury.
Emyr Huws was making his first league start in nearly two years, Jon Nolan his first of the season and Luke Garbutt was straight back into the starting XI after a month on the sidelines.
Neither Nolan nor Garbutt looked like they'd been away and, while it would be hasty to proclaim Huws as being fully back to his marauding best after so long out, the Welshman's display was extremely heartening.
Logic says he is unlikely to start again this weekend though, given the great care being taken during a phased return to action. Second starts are more likely for both Nolan and Garbutt, though, with the latter looking an upgrade at left-back after replacing Myles Kenlock.
As previously mentioned, Lambert's deployment of wing-backs was quickly morphed into a midfield diamond which worked well during the first half, before being pushed back and then adapted in the second period at Stadium MK.
Gillingham have also used the diamond midfield this season as well as operating a front three, so it will be interesting once again to see which way Lambert goes in terms of shape.
Cheering Ipswich on at Priestfield will be a travelling army of more than 2,000 fans.
The open-air away end has been sold out for weeks and tickets have been like gold dust, such is the demand to watch the Blues in action on the road.
A total of 3,360 Ipswich fans watched Ipswich at Milton Keynes on Tuesday night while more than 4,000 were at Peterborough. Those figures would certainly have been in reach at Gillingham had the allocation allowed.
The scenes at full-time on Tuesday night highlighted just how far the relationship between touchline and terrace have come since Lambert's appointment 10 months ago and, if the run of positive results continue, sights like that could well be the norm.
Happy hunting ground
History says those travelling fans should go into this game full of confidence.
The Blues have never lost away at Gillingham in any of their nine previous visits, with a record of three wins and six draws.
The last visit came back in March 2005, with the game ending in a 0-0 draw.
Of the 16 players in the matchday squad, only Lewis Price of Rotherham is still playing professionally.