Stern proves his worth

HE may not have scored at Cardiff, but Stern John still gave Ipswich Town something they had been seriously lacking - a physical presence up front.

Carl Marston

By Carl Marston

HE may not have scored at Cardiff, but Stern John still gave Ipswich Town something they had been seriously lacking - a physical presence up front.

And it wasn't just coincidence that fellow attackers Jon Walters and Jon Stead should come up with the goals in a welcome 2-1 victory.

Leading scorer Walters crashed home his fifth goal of the season, while Stead is second in the Town charts with three goals after his 86th minute winner at the new Cardiff City Stadium.

John had chances to crown his Town debut with a goal, especially during the first half when he went close on two occasions.

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But his no-nonsense style of front play had the effect of a battering ram on Cardiff's back-line. The 33-year-old might lack pace, but his willingness to get amongst defenders was key. He also offered a target for his team-mates to find.

Manager Roy Keane has experimented with so many different attacking combinations this season, and in truth he is probably still no nearer finding his No. 1 strike-force.

Trinidad & Tobago striker Stern, snapped up on loan from Crystal Palace on transfer deadline day last Thursday, is the seventh player to have operated as a striker already this term.

He followed in the footsteps of Walters, Stead, Tamas Priskin, Pablo Counago, Connor Wickham and Lee Martin, and during the course of his debut he partnered both Priskin and then Stead.

Priskin looked out-of-sorts at Cardiff, and so might not retain his place for this Saturday's trip to Bristol City. But John looks a sure starter.

Keane explained: “Stern was a handful, and he'll be disappointed that he didn't score.

“I wasn't going to play him for the full 90 minutes, but things didn't pan out that way. He's not the quickest and the way he plays meant that fitness wasn't that much of an issue. He came through okay.”

In the end it was skipper Walters, looking far more at home on the wing than as a striker, who obliged with the equaliser which turned the tide of Sunday's game.

Keane continued: “Jon Walters has been a good leader during what has been a difficult period. He missed several easier chances, but then scored with his hardest chance of the game! That was a superb equaliser.

“He keeps chipping away with some goals. It was a hard chance, but he ended up sticking it in the top corner!

“Jon Stead is also starting to make a habit of scoring some important goals for us.

“I always thought that this game was going to be decided by more than just the starting XI. I had a gut feeling that the substitutes would make an impact.”

Keane only selected one out-and-out striker for his bench at Cardiff - match-winner Stead - choosing to name two wingers (Jaime Peters and Lee Martin) and two midfielders (Alan Quinn and Jack Colback) instead.

But the Irishman might change his way of thinking for Bristol City, which could open the door for Counago and Wickham again.