Injury and a frustrating loan has kept Morris out the first-team picture... but could the door now be ajar?
- Credit: Archant
It’s been a tough road for Ben Morris, but could opportunity be about to knock for the England Under 19 international?
Ipswich Town's striker shortage, which has seen James Norwood ruled out for a month following a groin operation and Kayden Jackson banned for three games following a red card last weekend, leaves Will Keane as the only fully fit senior option at present.
Freddie Sears is in the frame, of course, but he is yet to get back up to full speed following a serious knee injury.
One man who knows all about that is Morris, who himself has battled his way back from a knee ligament problem and has been scoring goals for Town's Under 23s since his return at the end of 2019.
Now 20, the striker made his breakthrough during Mick McCarthy's final season in charge of Ipswich, where he impressed as a young Town side pushed Crystal Palace all the way in the Carabao Cup in August 2017 before making two league appearances before his boss's departure the following April.
A first start followed at Nottingham Forest in the first game after McCarthy's departure, with Morris's progress only heightening when he impressed off the bench in Paul Hurst's first game in charge, as he looked the most likely Ipswich player to score during the final stages of a 2-2 draw with Blackburn. Tayo Edun was ultimately the man who found the net as his cross found its way into the net, but it was Morris who provided the spark and lifted the crowd.
But Hurst then opted to loan the academy graduate out to Forest Green Rovers, with the League Two club's manager, Mark Cooper, summing up the youngster's talents nicely when announcing his signing: "He's a real workhorse, he can get hold of the ball, he can run the channels and he can score goals, so I'm looking forward to working with him."
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Sadly the move didn't work out as Morris struggled for regular football before returning to Portman Road in January, at a time when Ipswich, now managed by Paul Lambert were in the thick of a relegation battle they ultimately lost.
This was no time for Morris to be thrown in but, given the fact he had already played for Town and Rovers, the 'three-club rule' meant he couldn't play elsewhere before the end of the season.
And that's when injury struck.
But now he's back, with three goals to his name already in 2020, including one in a behind-closed-doors game with Norwich recently, and he's looking to make an impact.
"I'm feeling good but it's been a long 10 months," he said recently.
"I want to keep on going, keep getting games under my belt, get match fit and then see what I can do after that."
Keane and Sears look the most likely to shoulder the striking burden in the absence of Norwood and Jackson, with Lambert also suggesting the likes of Teddy Bishop and Alan Judge could again operate in a withdrawn role in support of Keane.
But if a new piece is to be introduced to the board, it must surely be Morris.
Jordan Roberts (Gillingham), Aaron Drinan (Ayr United) and Ben Folami (Stevenage) are all out on loan and can't be recalled while Tyreece Simpson, who played in the EFL Trophy earlier this season, is surely too raw.
It's unlikely Morris would go straight into the starting line-up - Sears deserves his chance first - but in terms of having an option from the bench, Morris may just be in line to get his senior career going once again.