Stu says: Five observations following Ipswich Town's 2-0 home win against Blackpool
- Credit: Photo: Steve Wallerwww.stephenwaller.com
Alan Judge and Luke Woolfenden were on target as Ipswich Town got back to winning ways against Blackpool yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
THAT'S MORE LIKE IT!
This was an energetic, encouraging, enjoyable and, ultimately, emphatic win.
Had Blackpool converted one of three big set-piece chances between the 16th and 32nd minutes - Marvin Ekpiteta, James Husband and Jordan Thorniley all going close - then things may have been different.
They didn't though and Town ended up cruising to victory after scoring at two vital moments either side of the break.
Having seen a Freddie Sears finish unfairly ruled out for offside in the 39th minute, the Blues soon broke the deadlock when Alan Judge sent a skidding low finish inside Chris Maxwell's near post from the edge of the box. Great finish, but some question marks over the keeper.
It was the first time that Town had led at the break since the reverse fixture against Blackpool away, 21 games and almost four months earlier.
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The Blues started the second period on the front foot and they were rewarded with a goal, albeit one that came with a touch of good fortune.
Tangerines striker Jerry Yates appeared to forget which box he was in when flicking on Andre Dozzell's corner delivery at the near post. That left Luke Woolfenden with the simple task of forcing the ball home from close-range with his head.
And, with that, the Blues began to play with some swagger.
There was, for the first time in a long time, a set-piece threat as Mark McGuinness twice spurned good headed chances from corner and free-kick deliveries.
Good chances were created from open play too, with Gwion Edwards and Sears both denied by last-ditch saving tackles/blocks in the six-yard box.
CHANGES AND TWEAKS
With this the first of 13 games in just 43 days, boss Paul Lambert made the bold decision to drop captain Luke Chambers and topscorer Gwion Edwards. It was only the fourth time in eight-and-a-half years that the former had sat on the bench for a league game.
Teenage deadline day signings Luke Matheson and Troy Parrott both went straight into the starting XI at right-back and centre-forward respectively, with Freddie Sears moving to wide left.
There was also a slight tweak in midfield as Flynn Downes, handed the skipper's armband just four months on from handing in a transfer request, operated in the deeper role to allow Andre Dozzell to play further forwards.
That worked well. Downes is more alert to covering gaps and closing down the space, while Dozzell's sharp one-twos and forward passes came in areas that hurt the opposition.
Eight of the outfield players were aged between 18 and 24. And with the possible exception of Sears (who has probably become a left-winger now), you couldn't say anyone was playing out of position.
The result was that this looked like a far more energised and balanced Ipswich side.
An underlying factor behind some of Town's previous ponderous and predictable displays was the dip in form of veteran full-backs Chambers and Stephen Ward.
Myles Kenlock followed up his impressive showing at Crewe with another positive performance, the highlight of which was a fine forward pass that set-up Judge's opener.
And with Matheson full of running on the other side, the Blues now had two players capable of getting on the front foot and creating wide overloads.
Up top, Parrott produced a highly-encouraging debut. The Tottenham loanee has the deft first touch that sets the top players from the rest. Several times he killed the ball dead and showed neat footwork to get out of tight spots. The chest, turn and pass for Sears' disallowed goal was a real moment of class.
The young Irishman also has a real competitive edge about his play too. He pressed high, backed in and worked hard before being withdrawn in the 70th minute. Had there been fans inside Portman Road he'd have been heartily applauded from the field.
Then on came Josh Harrop for his delayed debut. The Preston loanee saw plenty of the ball and, like Parrott, looked to have that higher level aura about him.
It's clear that the squad has been upgraded.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Town's man of the match, for me, was Alan Judge.
Playing in his preferred central role, the Irishman produced his best display in a Town shirt for some time.
He took his goal well, buzzed about, picked up pockets of space, defended from the front, made runs in behind from deep and delivered some dangerous set-piece deliveries.
This is exactly the sort of impact we hoped a player of his pedigree would have at League One level. This is the exactly the sort of lead by example performance that was needed from the old head in a young side.
James Norwood came on and looked lively in the second half too. For the first time in a long time, Lambert has plenty of options.
NOW TO BACK IT UP
This game highlighted just how important momentum is within games. Now Ipswich need to get some momentum going in their season.
As encouraging as this performance was, it now needs to be backed up. It will take a lot more than victory over a mid-table outfit to convince fans that a real corner has been turned.
The Blues are set to take on fourth-place Peterborough on Tuesday night (if the poor London Road pitch stands up to the forecast 'Beast from the East 2').
Finally beating a so-called 'promotion rival' would go a long way to breathing some optimism back into a fed-up fan base and set things up nicely for very winnable games against Shrewsbury and Northampton.
Until that long overdue statement win comes, pessimism and cynicism will remain. But if/when it does come, belief could quickly grow.
The gap to the top-six remains at four points, but the gap to the top two has narrowed to nine thanks to Burton's shock win against Hull. And Town have at least one game in hand on seven of the teams above them.
This win has stopped the rot. Now let's see if some of those 'green shoots' owner Marcus Evans spoke of really start to show as spring approaches.