North Stander: Kenlock concern, Judge dilemma and a Town captain in the making
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town’s unbeaten start to life in League One continued with a goalless home draw against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday. TERRY HUNT gives his thoughts.
So, maybe League One isn't going to be a mere walk in the park. Maybe we're not going to win every game by three or four goals, and finish ten points clear at the top of the league.
But we all knew that really, didn't we?
There will be quite a few games like the entertaining but ultimately frustrating visit of Doncaster to Portman Road. Matches where half-decent teams work out how to play against us, nullify our threat, and create danger themselves.
When that happens, we'll have to get what we can from the game, and move on. Which is precisely what we did against Doncaster. Take the point, learn a few lessons, and on to MK Dons tomorrow evening.
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Make no mistake, Doncaster are decent, as their unbeaten league record would suggest. They have the best defence I've seen this season - with a couple of defenders who can actually play, instead of just hoofing the ball.
They also have the admirable James Coppinger, who is still a quality player at this level, even at his great age. I've always felt it was a shame we didn't sign him, which looked on the cards a couple of times.
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As we move into the second half of September, the evenings get darker, and the league placings become more meaningful, we are precisely where we need to be - a single point off top place, with a game in hand. Still unbeaten, having conceded only four goals in seven games.
There's also a stat which would have a former manager purring with delight. Three clean sheets in a row would have thrilled Mr. McCarthy!
Paul Lambert has also solved a problem which McCarthy, and other bosses, didn't. We have a proper right-back. Kane Vincent-Young looks really impressive, especially bursting forward, where he shows the skills he used as a winger in his youth days. He can defend as well.
On the other side of the pitch, Myles Kenlock still worries me. Against Doncaster, his passing was very poor. Mind you, the whole team seemed to struggle with their passing, giving the ball away far too often.
The central defensive partnership of Luke Chambers and Luke Woolfenden looks really solid. A mix of youth and experience which works very well.
In front of them, another partnership - Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes - is equally impressive. Skuse really talked up his young midfield mate last week, although I hope he's wrong when he says he doesn't think Downes will be at the club much longer. I see him as a future club captain.
The jury is still out on Judge (sorry - couldn't resist.) Not in terms of his ability. That's beyond doubt. The challenge is how to use him most effectively.
If we carry on playing with two strikers, and four in midfield, then it looks as though Judge will have to operate wide. We know he doesn't like that role, and it's clear that he plays best just behind a lone striker.
But the way we've been playing with Norwood and Jackson up front, I can't see that happening anytime soon, which is a bit frustrating. If only we were allowed to play with 11 outfield!
The Judge dilemma is one of a few decisions Paul Lambert is having to make at the moment. All of them good "problems" to have, I hasten to add. With players coming back from injury, we have a big squad with a good deal of quality.
In midfield, Jon Nolan will be pressing for a start, Andre Dozzell is warming the bench, and Emyr Huws didn't even make the match day squad on Saturday. Those three would definitely be regulars in the vast majority of League One sides.
So, while I'm not getting carried away, I think we should be really pleased with the first part of the season. We all hoped this was how it would pan out, but there was always that awful fear that, for whatever reason, we might struggle.
Paul Lambert is not far away from his first anniversary, and what an impact he's made. He inherited an absolute mess, and relegation was inevitable, but he's made a load of good decisions, got previously alienated fans back on board, and generally turned round our club.
He thoroughly deserved his Manager of the Month award - the first of many, hopefully.