Mark Heath: It's now or never for Lambert and Ipswich Town

Paul Lambert is looking to add to his squad during the January transfer window

Ipswich Town boss Paul Lambert is under pressure - and now has no excuses left - Credit: PA

Now or never. Sink or swim. Shape up or ship out.

However you want to phrase it, Paul Lambert HAS to get a tune out of his thus far tone-deaf Ipswich Town squad over the next few games.

Be in no doubt, Lambert’s record as Town boss is dreadful. His players, too, are seriously under-performing. For a club the size and pedigree of Ipswich Town, toiling in League One is unacceptable.

Mark McGuinness with his hands on his had at the final whistle.

Town's home defeat to struggling Swindon sparked many calls for Lambert's head - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The pressure on him, whether he admits to realising it or not, is there, weighing more heavily with every defeat and underwhelming display.

Understandably, many fans want him sacked, as the poor form of this season grimly echoes the collapse of last campaign.

Yet, remarkably, the Blues are still very much in the play-off mix.

James Norwood pictured during the 3-2 defeat against Portsmouth in the FA Cup. The striker is set to appear in court today...

First choice striker James Norwood is one of a number of Town's top players who are back from injury - Credit: Archant

Now, with the likes of Flynn Downes, James Norwood, Gwion Edwards and Teddy Bishop back in action, and exciting new loan signings Josh Harrop and Luke Thomas in harness, the time of reckoning is surely nigh.

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Look at Town's squad - it's deeper than Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. Town's second string should be able to mount a promotion push, let alone the first XI. Add the creativity of Harrop and the pace of Thomas into the mix, and Ipswich have more than enough to get out of this league.

Of course, to do that, Lambert has to do something he's so far proved incapable of doing, namely beating promotion rivals.

Ipswich Town have signed Josh Harrop on loan from Preston North End. Photo: ITFC

Preston loanee Josh Harrop will bring much-needed creativity to the side - Credit: ITFC

And thus, we arrive at the next step. Jump in, and let's find out if he'll sink or swim.

Town's next five games read: Peterborough (5th, h), Sunderland (9th, h), Crewe (7th, a), Blackpool (16th, h) and Posh again (a).

There will never be a better chance to turn this becalmed ship around and start to gather some wind in the Blues' billowing but empty sails.

Beat Peterborough and Sunderland - or even just show you can compete in draws - and you can start to change the narrative.

Perhaps Town can live with the League One big boys (a sentence no Ipswich fan ever thought they'd have to utter), the star players are back and we're in a strong position after all.

Luke Thomas has made eight starts and 14 substitute appearances for Barnsley this season. Photo: ITFC

Winger Luke Thomas has signed on loan from Barnsley for the rest of the season - Credit: ITFC

Remember, the Blues have games in hand on all the sides above them, bar Doncaster. Go on a winning run, and the table quickly starts to look a lot more like we'd all hoped it would.

Now, I know exactly what you're screaming as you read the above. He's never done it yet, we lost to Swindon at home, you're a fool Heath - actually, that last sentiment rings true whatever the argument...

But that's my point. No, Lambert hasn't done it yet. Now, he has to.

Because if the Blues fail to perform over the next few games, very quickly we'll have to drop the term 'beat promotion rivals' from the Town terminology. Mighty Ipswich, once champions of Europe, would no longer be serious promotion contenders in the third tier of English football. 

Simply put, that humiliation is untenable for everyone connected to Ipswich Town, in any way.

I wrote back in the summer, after Town's 11th place League One finish had been confirmed, that there was something wrong, somewhere in the bones of the club - a malaise which can neither be seen nor shaken. Sadly, that remains the case.

I also wrote that Lambert wouldn't be going anywhere. The next few games should determine whether that, too, will remain the case.

Now or never. Sink or swim.