The Ipswich players who could emerge from the shadows and offer Lambert a vital boost
- Credit: Archant
Andy Warren looks at the Ipswich Town players who could emerge and offer Paul Lambert some much needed help.
It was all looking so good in pre-season, especially when the former Bristol Rovers man latched onto an Andre Dozzell through ball and found the back of the West Ham net during the Blues’ final warm-up game.
But Championship life has been tough for a young man previously mentored by Ipswich icon Marcus Stewart, prior to an ankle injury suffered in September which has stopped him in his tracks.
He’s played just 434 minutes in the league, without scoring, with those minutes all coming at a time when the lone Ipswich frontman was painfully isolated from the Blues’ midfield.
But he’s working his way back to fitness, potentially offering manager Paul Lambert a real boost at a time when striking options are thin on the ground.
Jordan Roberts was utilised as a makeshift centre forward against Preston on Saturday, with his performances offering real hope Harrison could thrive once he’s able to take the field.
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Roberts’ display consisted of aerial flick-ons, hold-up play and neat flicks to get others involved, and it must be said he was supported from deep more than the Ipswich strikers were during the early weeks of the campaign.
Harrison ticks all of the above boxes and more, given his close control and natural liking for the position.
Lambert is certain to add to his striking options in January but, once fit, Harrison has the potential to offer a real answer until the window opens and potentially beyond.
A clear favourite of former manager Paul Hurst, who signed him for more than £1million from former club Shrewsbury, Nolan featured in all 11 of the Blues’ games immediately after his summer arrival but has played just once in the last five.
He was the centrepiece of Hurst’s Shrewsbury side and the same was planned following his move to Ipswich but, despite showing flashes of his ability, he has yet to stamp his authority on Championship football.
He wasn’t in the matchday squad for Paul Lambert’s first game in charge and will miss out again with a dead leg but it’s clear the 26-year-old has something to offer.
He’s neat and tidy on the ball, has a tight turning circle, excellent control and a good first touch. He can spread play and pick a pass and, as his strike at Birmingham proved, can arrive late in the box and finish well.
The problem was, he wasn’t doing the latter with anywhere near enough regularity and would often find himself behind the play and leaving a gap between him and the central striker.
He sees himself playing in a deeper midfield role, rather than behind a striker as he did on many occasions under Hurst, while the high-tempo system deployed by Lambert may allow him to be more involved as long as he plays his part in the high press.
It’s clear we’ve not seen the best of Nolan yet so it will be interesting to see whether Lambert is able to unlock it.
Emyr Huws and Teddy Bishop
Oh how wonderful it would be to see these two young men back on the football pitch.
Bishop has played just 45 minutes of senior football this season, at Exeter in the Carabao Cup in August, while Huws has been out of action since undergoing knee surgery last December.
Both need careful management but if, and it’s a big if, sadly, they are able to get fit and remain so then they could change the complexion of the Ipswich Town midfield.
Huws is the up-and-down player the Blues midfield line has been missing, with his ability to drive forward, pick a pass and get on the end of attacking moves in the box all attributes which could help move the Blues up the table. His goal against Newcastle over Easter in 2017 is a prime example of what the Welshman can do, while his cross for Martyn Waghorn’s header in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday last November is a good example of what can happen when midfielders get into positions neyond their strikers.
He continues to struggle with ‘puffy’ knee after training sessions.
Bishop, who has had hamstring trouble, has the ability to be a creative force and made his most-recent comeback with a 45-minute display for the Under 23s on Monday.
He continues to train with the Ipswich first-team, with his ability on the ball, vision and quick feet an obvious asset.
Lambert has already noted just how highly he rates the pair, speaking particularly glowingly about Huws, but realises patience is needed. “With the position we’re in we need everybody to be bang at it. We can’t carry anybody if they are not 100%,” Lambert said.
He’s right, of course, but whether either Bishop or Huws can reach and maintain 100% fitness remains to be seen.
Since being signed from Macclesfield in January 2017 for a not insignificant £100,000, Rowe has played just 251 minutes of Championship football for Ipswich Town.
He’s been restricted by injuries, of course, most recently an ankle problem, but even when fit he has not been able to secure the run of games his largely positive cameo appearances have arguably deserved.
He was back on the bench for Lambert’s first game in charge and played the final 13 minutes of Saturday’s clash with Preston, with his self-set-up volley the only effort of note to test makeshift North End goalkeeper Paul Gallagher.
In theory he’s a player who fits Lambert’s intended style; a scuttling winger who punches above his weight physically and likes to take on his man. He’s looked good in front of goal for the Under 23s, too, scoring a hat-trick against Hull and a superb effort against Birmingham in September.
He has already had more league minutes on the field under Lambert than he did under Hurst (11 at Hull) but it remains to be seen if he can make a real impact.
The new Blues boss has already said he is a fan of Rowe but wants to see him take a stride or two in regard to fitness.
Lambert has already stated how impressed he’s been with Ipswich Town’s young players, insisting he is more than happy to throw them into the rough and tumble of the Championship as long as he believes they are up for the challenge.
Flynn Downes has earned particular praise, while Andre Dozzell and Jack Lankester were both on the bench against Preston.
While Dozzell’s ability is clear, Lankester has impressed during his two substitute appearances and fits the mould. But is he ready to start games in the second tier?
Barry Cotter has also returned to training with the first-team having been overlooked under Hurst. He impressed in his first start against Barnsley in April, in what proved to be Mick McCarthy’s final game in charge, but has become something of a forgotten man of late.
There is a clean slate for all at Ipswich Town now, though, and one thing’s for sure; if Lambert believes a young player can aid the Blues in their battle against the drop, he will have no qualms over throwing them into action.