North Stander: Imagine this team with a potent goal scorer
- Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com
What a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the sun at Portman Road.
We absolutely played Plymouth off the park, producing really entertaining, slick football. When we play at that level, no-one in this league can live with us.
So many times we cut through their defence and it just needed the final ball to be spot-on. But, as has been a running theme, we just couldn’t get that clinching second goal so we could all relax.
After the last-gasp heartbreak at Oxford, I bet I wasn’t the only fan with my heart in my mouth as the Plymouth keeper went forward for two late set-pieces. An equaliser would have been so undeserved. They hadn’t laid a glove on us. Christian Walton might as well have brought a deckchair to soak up the sun.
Our lack of goals is really our only problem at the moment. We keep clean sheets for fun, we have a good balance of muscle and creativity in midfield, and an attacking threat down the flanks. Plus, the way we play is very easy on the eye.
Anyone landing from Mars to watch that game would certainly have thought we were the team firmly inside the top six, and Plymouth the side scrambling for a play-off place. The chasm in quality was huge.
But, on the day we paid tribute to Paul Mariner, we once again struggled in front of goal. We are basically scoring one goal a game and, however watertight the defence, that’s always going to leave you vulnerable to a nightmare like the one at Oxford.
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Kieran McKenna keeps juggling his attacking options. Against Plymouth, James Norwood got the nod, which was a surprise because he seemed to have fallen down the pecking order.
Norwood did pretty well, especially twisting and turning to pull the ball back for Sam Morsy to simply roll the ball into the unguarded net.
But longer term, a new striker or two must surely be McKenna’s top priority in the summer. I don’t think we need anything else. Imagine this team with a potent goal scorer. Watch out, the rest of League One!
Talking about Morsy, what a leader we have in that man. He sets such high standards, and expects his team-mates to follow. Twice in the first half he absolutely tore into other players when he thought they weren’t doing their jobs. Great to see such passion.
Of course, McKenna has converted Morsy from an effective holding midfielder into a player who now produces an attacking threat, and scores goals.
That’s the genius of McKenna. He sees things in players which others have failed to spot. It’s not only Morsy.
Look at the form of Luke Woolfenden in a back three, and Kayden Jackson before his really unfortunate injury.
Despite our 11-game unbeaten run, the play-off places still look too far away. While we’ve been doing well, the same is true of too many of our rivals, unfortunately. It’s not impossible, but I do think we will have to win pretty much all of our remaining games.
Off the field, Kieron Dyer’s sudden departure as under-23s coach created a lot of headlines, especially when he gave his reasons for leaving.
It seems he had become frustrated that his promising young players haven’t been given opportunities in the first team, and he felt he would be a hypocrite if he stayed at the club.
I admire Kieron for his honesty, but is he right? Is the club ignoring promising youngsters? Well, Kieran McKenna has insisted that the academy pipeline is a key part of his plan for the development of the club.
It would be astonishing if that wasn’t the case. It will be very interesting to see how this situation develops, now that Dyer has put the issue into the spotlight.
Finally, I mentioned the tribute to Paul Mariner. I am one of the lucky generation who watched him play in an Ipswich shirt. He was a superb player in an extraordinary team. He simply oozed class, scored great goals, and could look after himself in the rough and tumble days of football in the 1970s football. He was also a really, really top bloke.
He is so sadly missed. Thanks for all those absolutely wonderful memories, PM.