Town facing their ‘new normal’ as Lambert ponders his rotation game for Shrewsbury visit
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town take on Shrewsbury this weekend as they bid to keep their place at the top of the League One table. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game.
The new normal
The 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon was one of the most dramatic nights under the Portman Road lights in a long time, but it was also a glimpse into the not-too-distant future for the Blues.
Before James Norwood equalised and Kayden Jackson scored a 94th-minute winner, the Blues had been frustrated for 80 minutes by a visiting side happy to sit in, keep their shape and take their chances when they came. They scored with their one and only shot on target before the Blues turned things around.
Paul Lambert's men weren't at their best, that's for sure, as they struggled to break down their visitors and it took the introduction of Tottenham loanee Anthony Georgiou and then Alan Judge for the hosts to spark into life.
The reality of where Ipswich find themselves - top of the table and a big fish in the League One pond - is that this is perhaps the new normal.
Teams will come to Portman Road looking to frustrate and contain Ipswich and it's up to them to find a way to victory.
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Shrewsbury's start to the season suggests a similar approach will come from the Shropshire side.
They've only conceded three goals in the league this season and have kept three clean sheets, while failing to score themselves in three of their last four games.
They've been hit by a string of midfield injuries and will also be without leading striker Fejiri Okenabirhie. That means veteran battering ram Steve Morison will likely lead the line.
Manager Paul Lambert is preaching patience too, with he and his squad well aware there will be bumps in the road ahead, but that doesn't mean the Portman Road crowd won't arrive with expectation of another win.
That's why the Town boss has stressed the continued importance of the club's fans, who he's asked to stick with his side even if things don't come easily.
The Blues possess more talent and more fire power in their ranks, but this just might be an encounter where patience is required.
The rotation game
Lambert's rotation policy has been in full effect in recent weeks, with only four outfield players (James Norwood, Cole Skuse, Flynn Downes and Myles Kenlock) starting all five league games.
It seems unlikely any of those four will dip out this weekend, given Norwood leads the line, Skuse and Downes are forming a superb midfield base and Kenlock is the only real left-back option at present, but the Town boss could look to switch things up again.
The real areas up for debate seem to be the centre of defence and on the wing.
Luke Woolfenden started the first four games before dropping to the bench at Bolton, while James Wilson has looked solid and dependable in his three starts. Captain Luke Chambers was rested for the Wimbledon game so has fresh legs, so it's surely a question of who partners him?
Out wide Gwion Edwards and Alan Judge started at Bolton but had limited pre-seasons due to ongoing injuries, which could perhaps open the door for Danny Rowe to return and for Georgiou to make a first start.
There will come a time when Lambert will need to nail down his strongest XI but, at the moment, rotation looks to be here to stay.
A first start
The Portman Road crowd will almost certainly get a first look at Kane Vincent-Young this weekend.
The new signing from Colchester made his debut at Bolton and the 600 or so Ipswich fans in attendance that day will have enjoyed what they saw.
His best work came in the first half as his positive first touch helped him get forward and take on his man, regularly getting on the overlap outside Gwion Edwards and threatening the box.
He plays the game in a similar style to Fabian Wilnis - that comparison can only be a good thing.
While it's certainly too early to be proclaiming Vincent-Young the answer to the ever-spinning wheel of right-backs to have come and gone through Portman Road since the days of David Wright, the early signs are good.
What a difference a year makes
This game would have had a very different air to it had it been played 12 months ago.
Last summer saw Ipswich and Shrewsbury become intrinsically linked, with manager Paul Hurst moving to Portman Road just a few days after the Shrews were beaten at Wembley in the League One play-off final.
There was a war of words and accusations of tapping up, denied by Ipswich, as the process to bring him to Suffolk moved at lightning speed and left a sour taste in Shrewsbury fans' mouths after a stunning season.
Then there was a tug of war regarding Toto Nsiala and Jon Nolan which seemed to go on all summer and involved the pair handing in transfer requests in order to force moves.
But, 12 months on, Hurst is looking to move Scunthorpe away from the bottom of the EFL while Nsiala certainly won't be involved as he continues to rehab his hamstring injury.
There's a chance Nolan, who scored nine goals in his one and only Shrewsbury season, could make the Ipswich bench as he continues his own pursuit of fitness.
But, compared to what might have been, this will feel like any other game.