North Stander: Who thought this defence would produce clean sheet after clean sheet?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:02 28 September 2020
Three wins out of three and three clean sheets. North Stander, TERRY HUNT, is a happy man - and why not?
It’s all going rather well, isn’t it?
Three games, three wins, three clean sheets – and top of League One. There’s a lot for Town fans to smile about.
Of course, absolutely no-one is getting carried away by our very encouraging start. Quite right, too. But, at the same time, we should be enjoying the many positives which are emerging.
Let’s start with the defence. Before the season started, if we’d been told our back four would consist of two 35-year-old full-backs, plus Toto Nsiala and James Wilson, it would have produced some very worried looks.
But, in the main, they’ve looked solid. Toto’s distribution still worries me, but he tends to get himself out of self-inflicted problems with his brave, no-nonsense tackles and blocks.
James Wilson has been very calm and assured, and the veteran full-backs have been a revelation. Stephen Ward is such a good purchase. He gets up and down the wing like a 20-year-old! Don’t forget he was involved in both goals yesterday. Luke Chambers is doing well, too.
I suspect Paul Lambert would love to get Luke Woolfenden and new loan signing Mark McGuinness into the starting line-up. Last season, he would no doubt have tinkered with a winning team to do just that.
But, after hopefully learning a big lesson, I’m sure he will keep faith with Wilson and Nsiala until there is good reason to change it. You can’t ask much more from your centre-backs than three successive clean sheets.
Another big positive is that we are scoring goals from midfield. In recent years, we’ve really lacked a goalscoring midfielder. You have to go all the way back to Tommy Miller.
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So to see the likes of Teddy Bishop and Jon Nolan scoring goals is great news. It’s also good to see a wide player like Gwion Edwards getting his name on the scoresheet.
Talking of goals, who is our best striker? I’m not sure anyone knows. I was impressed with Aaron Drinan until he unluckily picked up an injury.
Oli Hawkins looked really impressive against Rochdale, not only acting as a target man, but also showing some nice touches. His turn and shot which hit the post was brilliant, and his neat lay-off for Bishop’s goal was superb. A bit like Peter Crouch, dare I suggest?
I’m not sure Lambert knows his best option as a central striker. None of them have scored yet, and we still have Kayden Jackson to come back, assuming he stays at the club. To identify a well-worn footballing cliche, it’s a nice problem for a football manager to have.
Of course, we have to admit that the three teams we’ve beaten aren’t likely to finish anywhere other than the bottom half. Much sterner tests are around the corner. We know that, and it will be crucial that we start beating our promotion rivals this season.
One little whinge I do have is about free-kicks around the box. The job has been given to Freddie Sears, and it just isn’t working. His efforts either float harmlessly over the bar, or hit the wall. Time for a rethink there, Mr Lambert.
It was a very strange experience, watching the game on my iPad, knowing that the action was taking place in an empty Portman Road just three miles down the road.
I’ll admit there were a couple of occasions when I looked outside, at the gale-force winds and lashing rain, and thought the sofa was quite a good option! But, really, it’s not the same. Love the cardboard cut-out fans, by the way...
I wonder how the players feel? There are suggestions that some footballers are enjoying playing without crowd pressure. But I’m sure the majority can’t wait to have the crowd atmosphere back.
There’s also the very serious side - loss of revenue. Marcus Evans said the lack of crowds would cost the club £10 million. He will have to make up that sizeable (even for him) shortfall, a big positive which we should recognise. Other lower league clubs will not have that option, and I fear for their future.
Anyway, let’s end on a positive. Fans of 23 other League One clubs are jealous of us today. Long may that happy situation last!
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