The goals may have dried up for Garner... but his contribution must not be understated
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Joe Garner has been somewhat overshadowed by his Ipswich Town attacking partners in recent weeks. ANDY WARREN gives his thoughts on the front man’s contribution to the team.
The summer signing from Rangers started with a bang as he struck three goals in his first four games, including the winner on his debut against Birmingham, but is now on a run of six games without a goal and has netted just once in his last 10 games.
In that time Martyn Waghorn has raced to the top of the Ipswich scoring charts on eight, Bersant Celina has become the new darling of Portman Road with three in three games and David McGoldrick has moved onto seven for the season.
Those three players have grabbed the headlines of late, but you get the impression the selfless Garner won’t mind passing on the limelight too much as long as his team is successful. He is that sort of player.
He is a permanent fixture in Mick McCarthy’s Championship starting XI when fit, only missing the defeat by Sheffield United with a knee injury, and his continued contribution must not be understated.
Of course the lack of goals will be a concern to him, it is a striker’s main job after all, but it is Garner’s offering to the Ipswich frontline which has created many of the opportunities his team-mates have been able to take advantage of in recent weeks.
He occupies defenders, makes them think, pulls them out of position and offers a physical threat well beyond what his 5ft 10in frame should. The way he puts himself about means it is in no way surprising to hear he continues to deal with a nagging shoulder problem.
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Celina said it best after Saturday’s win over Preston when he remarked: “Seeing someone as small as him fight with big defenders is amazing. That’s why he’s in the team every week.”
The players appreciate what he does for the team.
Saturday’s victory over Preston was the latest example of this. There was to be no goal against the team he supported as a boy, but his movement for McGoldrick’s headed second left the Preston defence in two minds as they first stepped out of defence to try and cover Garner’s run, before they struggled to get back into position when the ball ultimately arrived for McGoldrick.
He celebrated that goal as if he scored it himself, such is his enjoyment of that side of the game and team-first attitude.
He came deep to create the opportunity which allowed Jonas Knudsen to fire just over the top while, during Celina’s solo third, he had peeled off his man superbly to make himself available had the Kosovo international decided to pull the ball back.
But it’s not just in the opposition box where he comes into his own. Garner’s defensive ability when dealing with corners is impressive. Not a game goes by when he doesn’t rise above a player far taller than him, having positioned himself expertly, to clear.
But he will ultimately be judged on goals, with Garner still needing to prove he can find the net regularly in the second tier – his main body of work coming in two League One seasons at Preston, which saw him score 43 league goals and help fire his boyhood club to promotion.
His one Championship season at Deepdale yielded half as many goals (six) as it did yellow cards, with his campaign at Watford in 2011/12 bringing just one goal and his two seasons with Nottingham Forest providing nine.
But Garner has shown enough in blue already to make it very clear he offers far more than just hitting the back of the net.
McCarthy recently remarked that his striker’s approach to the game is a throwback to his own playing era, with his appreciation of the dark arts, his enjoyment of altercation and rugged look certainly proving that point. Garner knows that he is different and embraces it.
He said: “I have my own style and way of playing – it is what it is,” he said recently.
“Everyone would like defenders standing off you and giving you all the time in the world but that just doesn’t happen in our league. It’s a physical league and you have to give as good as you get.
“I’d like to be chipping in with a few more goals because as a striker you are always judged on that. I’ll just keep working hard and I’m sure they’ll come.”
That last line sums Garner up perfectly.