Stuart Watson’s wish list for Ipswich Town heading into November’s stuttering schedule
Ipswich Town could play anywhere between five and eight games in November. STUART WATSON gives his wish list for the month ahead of a blank weekend.
BACK-UP SOUTHEND RESULT
Following an 11-game unbeaten start, successive defeats to Accrington and Rotherham saw a few doubts creep in among Blues fans. 'Is the strength in depth as good as we thought?' and 'Have the results been masking some deficiencies in the performances?' were two questions I kept reading and hearing.
The response at Southend was good. Town may not have been purring, but they were highly professional at Roots Halls. Now that 3-1 win could do with being backed up by some fireworks at Rochdale on November 5 to ensure those previous set-backs can confidently be put down to bad days at the office.
Yes, Rochdale took Manchester United to penalties, at Old Trafford, in the Carabao Cup, but Brian Barry-Murphy's team are mid-table for a reason. Their five league wins have come against Tranmere, Southend, Accrington, Bolton and MK Dons - all placed 18th or below. Their record against top half sides reads P8 W0 D3 L5 F3 A17.
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WIN AN FA CUP GAME!
It's been almost a decade since Ipswich Town have won an FA Cup game. A decade!
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The stats read P14 D4 L10. In four of the last five seasons, the Blues have fallen at the first hurdle against lower league opposition. That's an embarrassing record for a club that proudly has a star on their shirt to commemorate winning the world famous competition at Wembley back in 1978.
The Blues host League One rivals Lincoln City on November 9. There can be no excuses for not giving this match a real go given it's likely to be a fortnight until the next league game.
That infamous replay defeat at Sincil Bank back in January 2017 represented the true beginning of the end for Mick McCarthy. Avenging that night would add to the narrative that things are truly turning for Ipswich Town Football Club.
YOUNGSTER TO EMERGE
The EFL Trophy match at Colchester (Tues, Nov 12) represents chance for Paul Lambert to experiment.
Following wins against Tottenham U21s and Gillingham, Town's place in the knockout stages is assured. So as well as giving game time to fringe players and those working their way back to fitness following injuries, he might just reward one or two of the younger crop currently doing well for the U23s.
Left-sided specialist Tommy Hughes, centre-back Corrie Ndaba, powerful striker Tyreece Simpson and the fit-again Ben Folami are all possibilities. Who knows, someone could use it as a springboard and make a mid-season breakthrough just like Jack Lankester did.
SEARS TO RETURN
How good was it to see footage of Freddie Sears training with the first team again this week?
The 29-year-old forward suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury at Carrow Road back on February 10. To get back to this stage within less than eight months is testament to his powers of recovery and natural fitness.
It's a cliche, but he really could be like the proverbial 'new signing' for Town this season.
A victim of his own selfless hard work at times under McCarthy, the former Colchester man looked to be rediscovering his attacking instincts in the early weeks of Lambert's management. Whether used in a front two or wide left with the shackles off, he'll be licking his lips at the prospect of playing in this promotion-chasing side.
Don't rule out him coming on for a few minutes this month. There will be an almighty cheer if that happens.
JUDGE TO REDISCOVER MOJO
It's been sad to see Alan Judge decline from prospective star man the team was going to built around, to confidence-shot, not-quite-sure-where-to-play-him sub in the space of just three months.
To be fair, the Irishman has had a lot going on. First there was the strong QPR interest which, understandably, turned his head. His daughter also recently required a serious operation.
The 30-year-old needs to forget about not always playing in his favoured No.10 role, forget about the move that didn't happen and not over-think things on the football pitch. He did just that at Southend last weekend, producing a lively cameo on the right wing.
Form is temporary, class is permanent as they say. Hopefully, with his home life now more settled, he can prove that. It shouldn't be forgotten that an on song Judge has the potential to be the best player in this division.
SOME INJURY FORTUNE
After years of injury hell, is it too much to ask for a season of good fortune on that front?
Let's hope Kane Vincent-Young and Cole Skuse, both of who came off at Southend with groin problems, aren't out too long. Those two are key.
Lets hope there are no fresh set-backs for James Norwood and Flynn Downes following their recent absences. Those two are key.
And let's hope that Emyr Huws and Will Keane continue to get stronger and stronger following their long-term injuries. Those two, at 100%, could really make a difference.
CALL OXFORD GAME OFF
A few days ago I'd have been saying I'd quite like Paul Lambert to re-think his international weekend postponement policy and allow the Oxford United away game to go ahead on Saturday, November 16. Now I've changed my mind.
Town's two defeats so far coincided with Flynn Downes being injured and it's likely he'll be called up to the England U20 squad again.
Oxford are the form side at the moment (11 undefeated) and they could end up as serious promotion rivals. Let's take no risks.
If the game is called off, then a near three week wait for a league game (eight weeks without a Saturday home league game!) will come to an end when Blackpool visit on November 23.
We all know the stat - 21 games without a win off the back of international breaks. The Blues will need to prove that stuttering schedules don't mess up momentum.
The final item on my wish list (I have been a good boy) is for Ipswich Town to be involved in both the manager and player of the month nominees list for November.
Because that would mean, almost certainly, that the Blues are still very much in a good place heading towards the Christmas rush.
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TOWN'S NOVEMBER SCHEDULE
Tues 5: Rochdale (a)
Sat 9: Lincoln (h) - FA Cup first round
Tues 12: Colchester (a) - EFL Trophy
Sat 16: Oxford Utd (a) - (International weekend)
Tues 19: FA Cup replay?
Sat 23: Blackpool (h)
Tues 26: Wycombe (h)
Sat 30: FA Cup second round?