North Stander: Back to basics wins the day – the time has come for Lambert to stop the rotation policy
- Credit: Archant
Some lessons have been learned in the last, quite challenging, week in Ipswich Town’s quest for an automatic return to Championship football, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
There has been a reality check for some of us who were getting just a little carried away and starting to dream of Town winning League One by a huge margin.
I, for one, still believe we will finish top of the pile, but it will be far from straightforward and there will inevitably be, as Paul Lambert puts it, some "bumps in the road" along the way.
Another lesson - more confirmation, really - is that we have a few key players whose absence really hurts us.
Two of those, James Norwood and Flynn Downes, returned to the starting line-up against Southend and what a difference they made.
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Downes, still a youngster, has made himself an absolutely crucial player for us. His industry, physicality and sheer presence are vital and leave a big hole when he's missing.
As I've said before, he looks like future captain material to me. The downside, of course, is that because of the way he plays he will pick up his share of yellow cards, and we will have to manage without him against Rochdale.
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Norwood is similar in many ways, albeit playing in a different position. His physical presence occupies and intimidates defenders. None of our other striker options give us that.
He also brings out the very best in Kayden Jackson, who needs a physical striker playing alongside him.
Of course, both of them give us goals as well. It's good to see them vying for the top goalscorer title - and already with more goals than our leading scorer last season!
I saw the line-up at Southend described as "back to basics." I would simply calling it picking the best team available.
I think the time has come for Lambert to stop the rotation policy. Obviously injuries and suspensions will force changes, but surely we don't want to continue to see four or five changes every game? Unless you have a squad like Man City, I can't believe that's a good idea long term.
One of the challenges Lambert faces is that he has three decent centre-backs and obviously can't play all of them in a traditional 4-4-2.
I was pleased to see Woolfenden get the nod on Saturday. For me, he is another player whose name should always be on the team-sheet. Not just for his current qualities, but with an eye to the future. We should do everything we can to hang on to him and Downes. The big boys will come looking at them, for sure.
I guess the three-into-two quandary at the back might be solved for a while, with what looks like a recurrence of Kane Vincent-Young's groin injury.
With his explosive style, KVY will always be susceptible to that kind of injury. While he recovers, either Woolfenden or Luke Chambers can fill in at right-back. Obviously that will restrict our attacking threat down the right, but it does get all three of Chambers, Woolfenden and Wilson into the team. Good to see James Wilson sign on the dotted line, by the way. He's been solidly impressive all season.
So, despite the two defeats, and despite still not playing at our best, we're back on top of the table, looking like the team all the others need to beat. There's now a sizeable points gap down to seventh place, if you want to err on the pessimistic side.
Another blank weekend coming up in this stop-start season. We were away on holiday for the Rotherham game (thank goodness!) and that means I won't see a Town home game for absolutely ages. Not ideal.
In a biggish squad, there will inevitably be players who disappoint. The one I'm concerned about is Andre Dozzell. He should be an absolute superstar of our promotion campaign, but instead he's just a peripheral figure.
I understood when he struggled as we were relegated, because we were always up and against it and that doesn't suit his game. But now, when we're in charge of games by and large, he should be bossing the midfield. One or two world-class passes in a game simply isn't enough. A frustrating enigma.
Finally, weren't we delighted when Jamie Vardy rammed home that last-minute penalty to give Leicester a 9-0 win over Southampton? For almost a quarter of a century, our 9-0 humiliation at Man Utd has stood embarrassingly alone in the record books. Now we can share the pain!