Jewell in SOS to Seek Out Striker
THE statistics make pretty grim reading.
Not the one point accrued from the last three games as Paul Jewell’s improving Ipswich Town side continue to be a work in progress.
The bigger problem is even more glaring – scoring just one goal from a whopping 43 chances created in the last trio of games. It is a remarkable ratio, but a terrible return, with 19 shots on target in the matches against Hull, QPR and Portsmouth.
But it is perhaps none too surprising to the impressive 23,000-plus sat inside a wet Portman Road on Saturday afternoon for the visit of Pompey.
There is no doubt that the performances are vastly improving, with every Town player looking much more comfortable in possession and having the freedom to attack in numbers.
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With quality coming into the box from the likes of Jimmy Bullard and the once-maligned Lee Martin, the opportunities have been flooding in.
But here lies the problem. Ipswich created nine chances inside the first 20 minutes against a Portsmouth defence that was simply caught in the headlights.
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But a succession of good opportunities went begging before David Nugent scored with virtually their second opening of the match – to change the whole complexion.
Connor Wickham was a culprit, missing two decent headers either side of the interval, but he was far from alone.
Jewell has rightly come out and said he needs a new striker next season, but it is a problem that has blighted the club for the last five years.
Following the 53-goal partnership of strike duo Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi, backed up by midfield goal machine Tommy Miller, Ipswich fans have largely been starved of a prolific marksman.
Alan Lee’s 17-goal season apart, the club’s top goal scorer in recent years has barely hit ten goals, let alone the coveted 20. And Roy Keane suffered exactly the same problem with his last three games in charge, seeing 44 chances created, although four goals were scored in that time.
Problems facing Jewell in his desperate search include the fact that a mystical 20-goal-a-season figure will cost millions, is not readily available and will be wanted by many Premier League and Championship clubs when they do come on the market.
Come the summer, does Jewell gamble with a striker from the lower leagues and hope that he comes good straight away? This is often not the case with the likes of Nicky Maynard taking time to settle before shining.
Or does he look to take advantage of a deep Premier League squad where unsettled strikers are more likely to look at the newly-promoted sides rather than one in the Championship mid-table?
There is always the option of trying to attract someone from a rival Championship club and that is where Jewell will need to be at his best to sell his vision just as much as Marcus Evans and Simon Clegg’s persuasion behind closed doors.
Don’t also rule out the Town boss looking overseas in his search. Jewell notably signed largely unknown Antonio Valencia when he was manager of Wigan.
Whatever the route, a new striker is arguably as pressing as retaining the likes of Gareth McAuley and David Norris. After all, the stats don’t lie.
n What do you think? Is the search for a striker Jewell’s biggest priority? And should he be looking in the lower leagues, the Premier League or overseas? Let us know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org