‘Norwood Fest’ is coming but Ipswich have plenty of others ready to take centre stage - notes for Town v Tranmere
- Credit: Archant
James Norwood faces his former club when Ipswich host Tranmere Rovers at Portman Road tomorrow afternoon. ANDY WARREN looks ahead to the game.
We've had 'Norwood Mania', that was last week when the striker made his wrestling debut in Harwich, so let's call this weekend 'Norwood Fest'.
So much of the build-up to this game, in both Ipswich and on The Wirral, has surrounded Norwood's first appearance against the side which put him on the football map.
He hit double figures in his first three Tranmere seasons, taking the Whites back to the Football League, but it's his 32-goal haul last season which brought him to the attention of the masses and convinced Town boss Paul Lambert to make the striker the centre-piece of his summer recruitment drive.
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As we've already seen here in Suffolk the 29-year-old is a fans' favourite and a central figure in the dressing room. He's been an instant hit at Ipswich so you can only begin to imagine the kind of relationship he built with a Tranmere fanbase he thrived in front of for so long.
He's still close to his 'band of brothers' in the Tranmere squad and even has Connor Jennings' and Chris Dagnall's initials tattooed on his leg following a celebratory trip to Magaluf in May.
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Norwood's already declared he won't celebrate if he does find the net but that's where sentiment will end.
He looks certain to return to the starting XI after dropping to the bench at Gillingham on Saturday as he dealt with his nagging groin problem and will be looking to get back on the goal trail after going three without netting.
While so much of the attention will be on Norwood, it's also a big game for another Ipswich Town striker.
Kayden Jackson has also gone three without a goal but has continued to contribute despite not finding the net himself. His cross for Kane Vincent-Young's winner at Priestfield was sublime and he's run defences into the ground with clever movement and non-stop effort.
If you ask the former Accrington man, he'll tell you this is as big a part of his game as scoring goals and he's right.
His pace and running have created space and opportunities for Norwood this season, with the Town No.10's tally of 32 shots at goal only bettered by the 33 of Peterborough's Ivan Toney. Jackson, meanwhile, has only had 12 efforts on goal but has still managed to net four times. An impressive ratio.
But could their roles be reversed this weekend?
If Tranmere double their efforts to keep their former star quiet, logic suggests Jackson could be the one to profit.
It's then up to him to take his chance.
Assuming Lambert sticks with the wing-backs system which earned Town the points at Gillingham, which is far from certain given the Scot's propensity to mix things up this season, the stage could well be set for Alan Judge to play in his favoured No.10 position.
We know the Irishman likes to play behind the strikers but he's spent much of his season operating in a wide role, while he started Saturday's win as a secondary striker.
Lambert this week insisted the playmaker is capable of playing in a variety of positions and backed the 30-year-old to return to his best.
Andre Dozzell filled the No.10 role against Steve Evans' men but the academy graduate could drop out of the side this weekend, giving Judge his chance.
Like Jackson, it's then up to him to take it.
Norwood, Jon Nolan, Emyr Huws and Luke Garbutt all dropped to the bench at Gillingham as Lambert opted to give them a rest due to past and ongoing injury concerns, but all four must surely be under serious consideration for a start.
Striker Norwood is almost certain to return while Garbutt looked like he had never been away when he started at left back against MK Dons. He played for the Under 23s on Monday night and, assuming he came through completely unscathed, is a logical starter tomorrow in a wing back role which looks made for him.
While Huws may again have to make do with a role on the bench as his phased return is carefully managed, Nolan's match-winning performance at Stadium MK and his extremely positive display from the bench against Gillingham point to the Shrewsbury man being a key player for Lambert.
He could drop into central midfield to give either Cole Skuse or Flynn Downes, who are both ever-presents in the league, a deserved rest or could play off the strikers as he did against the Dons.
Lambert has plenty of options, and that's before you even mention Anthony Georgiou, Toto Nsiala, Armando Dobra and Will Keane who will all be looking to make their first starts of the season as soon as possible.
Danny Rowe's ear infection has kept him out of Town's last three games but the winger is back training with the first team.
He has a battle on his hands for a starting spot, given Gwion Edwards and Garbutt are fit again, Georgiou has made a good impression and Dobra is knocking on the door. A wing back system doesn't play to his strengths, either.