Sears had a chance to impress in a rare start at Villa... but his struggle for form goes on

Freddie Sears at Villa Park on Saturday Picture Pagepix

Freddie Sears at Villa Park on Saturday Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

When the Ipswich Town team to face Aston Villa was announced at 2pm on Saturday, much of the talk surrounded the inclusion of embattled striker Freddie Sears.

Now without a goal in 19 games - a run made up of 927 minutes and stretching back to the April victory over Newcastle - the 27-year-old has looked short of confidence, sharpness and ruthlessness as well as lacking an eye for goal.

His performance as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, although full of running and arguably brighter than his recent offerings, had put him firmly under the microscope of sections of the Ipswich Town support.

So being handed a start at Villa Park by manager Mick McCarthy offered something of a confidence boost, but his display in the 2-0 defeat will not have done enough to change many opinions.

MORE: McCarthy on ‘appalling’ defending, refereeing inconsistency and Bishop’s return

Freddie Sears has not scored for Ipswich Town since April. Picture PAGEPIX

Freddie Sears has not scored for Ipswich Town since April. Picture PAGEPIX - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Whatever you say against the former Colchester striker, you can not fault his fitness, energy and the fact he is a team player. That side of his game still exists, it’s just the more instinctive elements which are lacking.

McCarthy’s selection of Sears certainly had its logic, with his running and commitment offering a more defensive solution on the left flank away from home at an in-form side. There is also the school of thought where the only way for him to find form is to play meaningful minutes, rather than stealing five here and there as a throwaway substitute.

But that search for form will go on, after he once again toiled away in a wide left role not suited to his strengths.

MORE: ‘We were not good enough’: Knudsen admits Blues blinked first as mistakes prove costly at Villa

Freddie Sears tries to close down Alan Hutton at Aston Villa Picture Pagepix

Freddie Sears tries to close down Alan Hutton at Aston Villa Picture Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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His first half consisted of very little time on the ball, few chances to get involved but plenty of running as he scuttled up and down the pitch to help Jonas Knudsen out with the twin threat of Robert Snodgrass and marauding full-back Alan Hutton.

The opening 45 minutes is perhaps best summed up by an image of Sears battling Villa defensive giant Christopher Samba in the air on a few occasions, which was less than fruitful.

It was the same in the second, prior to his withdrawal just after the hour mark.

With David McGoldrick out for a month following surgery to a gash to his groin it is clear Sears will have a part to play.

MORE: Stu says: Six observations from Ipswich Town’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa

But the Town forward is no longer recognisable from the one who found the net 12 times in his first 29 appearances for the club in 2015.

His record is now nine goals in his last 100 outings, with his ability to find the back of the net again, by hook or by crook, something he needs to rediscover.

Would that be best served with time spent in the Town Under 23 side, where he could perhaps find the scoring touch again, play in his preferred position and rebuild his confidence away from the scrutiny of the first team? Or would time spent in the age group side kick a player when he’s down, making him feel out of place by donning his match kit only to run around a cold, wet training ground on a Monday lunchtime?

McCarthy clearly still has faith in a player who has served him well in the past, but will need to show all of his man-management skills to help him become effective again in the present.

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