Town are facing a striker shortage - so what could Lambert do?

Ipswich Town boss Paul Lambert is lacking strikers, with Freddie Sears (l) and Aaron Drinan (r) options he could turn to

Ipswich Town boss Paul Lambert is lacking strikers, with Freddie Sears (l) and Aaron Drinan (r) options he could turn to - Credit: Steve Waller/Pagepix

With Kayden Jackson banned for three games, Oli Hawkins out injured and James Norwood still struggling for fitness, Ipswich Town are facing a serious striker shortage ahead of their trip to Crewe on Saturday. Mark Heath takes a look at the options...

Aaron Drinan in action against Peterborough United.

Aaron Drinan works hard, links up play - but doesn't offer much of a goal threat...yet - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Aaron Drinan

Perhaps the most likely and obvious choice for Paul Lambert to make, if he sticks to his chosen 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation, is bustling young Irishman Drinan.

He started the season as the first choice striker on opening day, before suffering an injury which kept him out for two months. Since worked his way back to fitness, and has seen action in 11 games so far, starting six of those.

Drinan works incredibly hard, brings a physicality to the game, links play up really well and is always a threat to get flick-ons.

But, with all that said, he's yet to score, and doesn't seem to carry the sort of goal threat which worries defences - a bit of an issue for your lone striker.

Freddie Sears pictured during the Blues 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town Picture: Ross Halls

Freddie Sears is probably the most natural striker available to Lambert - Credit: Archant

Freddie Sears

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It's easy to forget, given we're so used to seeing Freddie out wide these days, but he actually is a striker - and a pretty decent one at that.

That was his role when Mick McCarthy first brought him to Portman Road from Colchester in January 2015, and he hit the ground running, scoring nine goals for the Blues in that play-off campaign.

Then, of course, he ended up getting shifted out wide, and that's pretty much where he's stayed.

But, of the limited options open to Lambert, Sears is the most natural striker - and teaming him with flying, crafty wingers Luke Thomas and Gwion Edwards is an interesting proposition, as Town seek ways to muster more of a goal threat.

Daryl Murphy celebrates his second goal at Craven Cottage on Saturday

Could a Drinan and Sears pairing replicate the success that Freddie had with Daryl Murphy, centre? - Credit: Pagepix

Drinan and Sears

Ok, ok, this is highly unlikely, given Lambert's love for the 4-3-3 and his assertion that Town are 'useless with two up top' from earlier this season.

But the Blues need to shake things up, and starting Drinan and Sears up front in a traditional 4-4-2 would certainly do that.

In theory, the idea of Sears feeding off the flicks, touches and chaos which Drinan can provide is a tasty one - Sears, of course, teamed with Daryl Murphy when he first came to Town, and Drinan's nickname is 'Murph' because of his similarities to the ex-Town striker.

But in reality, would any potential benefit of that be outweighed by mismatches elsewhere on the pitch, particularly in midfield? Only one way to find out...

A new signing 

Lambert has already admitted that he'd like to bring in another striker in the wake of Hawkins' injury and Jackson's reckless red card and subsequent suspension.

Of course, the salary cap is an issue here. Town are already at the limit of both squad size and wage bill, so any new signing would either have to see a senior face depart or sit on the sidelines.

That's unless Town can bring in a talented youngster, aged 21 or under, who wouldn't count against the salary cap - just as Luke Thomas doesn't.

It's unlikely that any new face will arrive before Crewe, but if they do decide to bring someone in before the window slams shut on Monday, it could well be a youngster from a higher level.

Tyreece Simpson made his debut in the Ipswich Town v Tottenham Hotspur U21 match. Picture: Steve

Young striker Tyreece Simpson has played three times for the first XI this season - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Give youth a chance

We've already seen some Town youngsters get starting spots in the first team this season - notably the likes of Brett McGavin and Liam Gibbs.

And, while there's zero chance that Lambert will decide to pluck someone from Kieron Dyer's thriving under 23 side and start them at Crewe, there are options for bench slots.

Tyreece Simpson, the former rugby player turned striker, is probably at the top of that list - he's played three times for the first XI already this season, including making his league debut off the bench in the 2-0 win over Accrington in October.

The 18-year-old certainly brings a physical, bustling presence if Town need to cause a bit of havoc late on.

Of the other youth options, Zak Brown, who made his senior debut off the bench in the EFL Trophy defeat to Crawley in November, looks next in line after Simpson.

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